Handicapping the Rebel Stakes

Handicapping the Rebel Stakes
Photo: Justin Manning/Eclipse Sportswire

The Rebel Stakes (G2) has been the strongest prep race for the Triple Crown events in the last fifteen years, especially for the Preakness Stakes. The 1 1/16 mile contest at Oaklawn Park has a roll call of elite competitors. American Pharoah, Smarty Jones, Curlin, Afleet Alex, Lookin at Lucky, and Oxbow all won one or more Triple Crown Races. Steppenwolfer and Ride on Curlin, placed in the Rebel, plus the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, respectively.

Someone must have mentioned that the Rebel Stakes is a springboard to greatness. A full field of fourteen 2016 Kentucky Derby contenders are primed to contest the Rebel Stakes. Half of the field faced each other in the Southwest Stakes last time out. With that in mind, Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and I sort through both the familiar faces and the new shooters looking for yet another winner.



Creator (Tapit - Morena (PER), by Privately Held) is one of four sons of leading sire Tapit in the Rebel Stakes. Creator discovered the winner’s circle after three consecutive second place finishes as a maiden. The pretty gray Creator is the first foal for a two-time Peruvian Champ. The last colt to win the Rebel after winning their maiden was Curlin…for Steve Asmussen. I don’t see the same talent at work here, at least on Creator’s part. His late pace speed figures are good, so perhaps he can make a late run and spoil the bottom of the exotics. Otherwise, Pass.

Creator—I am not a big fan of the obvious case of seconditis Creator has shown throughout his career. He did post a career best 96 speed figure when finally breaking his maiden last out, a win that incidentally came right here at Oaklawn. The Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana Jr. combination is a dangerous one, but I'm not sure if its potency is deadly enough to get the job done.

Ralis (Square Eddie - Silar Rules, by Ten Most Wanted) was finally found by the search party after getting lost in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His last two efforts resulted in a 15-length drubbing. Ralis’ best races were at sprint distances. I don’t see this colt as a classic contender. Pass.

Ralis—At this point, I'm writing his G1 Hopeful win off as a fluke. As Laurie pointed out, his best races have been at sprint distances, but even some of those races have been suspect. Definitely a pass for me.

CUPID (Tapit - Pretty 'n Smart, by Beau Genius) was scratched from the short field of the San Felipe. The $900K Keeneland Sales graduate has improved in each of his 3 starts, culminating in a 5 ¼ length victory as a last out maiden. The effort earned him the highest late pace speed figure in the field. Cupid is a half to the multiple stakes winning sprinter/milers Ashley’s Kitty, Heart Ashley, and to San Pedro winner Indianapolis. Bob Baffert has trained half of the last ten winners of the Rebel Stakes. I’m not a fan of tossing last out maiden winners into graded stakes company in large fields, but I figure Baffert knows what he’s doing. Contender.

Cupid—Tossing last out maidens into a large field might not be our favorite thing, Laurie, but you have to admit that the competition in the Rebel is a good bit softer than what Cupid would have faced if he had stayed in the San Felipe field. Cupid may be a half to stakes winning sprinter/miler types, but I think he himself will be a bit more long-winded as he finally got the job done when stretching out for the first time. He posted a 6 furlong bullet in his last work on March 11 and looks ready to run. Contender.

Discreetness (Discreet Cat - Fondness, by Elusive Quality) was stuck in post 14 in the Southwest Stakes, ensuring a wide trip. No surprise that he was going the wrong way when the real running started. He’ll get a chance to save some ground in the Rebel, but I’m not convinced that he wants to go past a mile. Discreet Cat has a few winners at 1 1/16 miles, but the majority of his babies are sprinter/milers. Discreetness’ dam is a half to Jim Dandy winner and sire Strong Hope and Group 1 turf sprinter Bahamian Pirate. I’ll toss Discreetness’ Southwest result. If Jon Court can get an easy inside trip, perhaps the colt can hold on for a piece. Exotics play.

Discreetness—As Laurie pointed out, Discreetness certainly got the worst of it in the Southwest. Parked 7 wide into the first turn, he continued to be stuck to the outside throughout the entirety of the race. A more ground-saving will help, but I'm not sure that I want to completely toss the Southwest since this field is just as large. Pass.

Siding Spring (Warrior's Reward - Legendary Peace, by Peace Rules) made the early pace in the Southwest Stakes and faded like a summer tan down the stretch. Note that his only in the money finishes were on turf. His dam is a half to Apple Blossom heroine Ermine and her full sister, stakes winner White Clover. Pass.

Siding Spring—Sometimes the move from turf to dirt is no big deal or even helps, but such has not been the case for Siding Spring. He will obviously be part of the pace scenario if he runs the same race he ran in the Southwest, but he will likely fade down the lane again. Pass.

Spikes Shirl (Speightstown - Shirl's Soul, by Perfect Soul (IRE)) can’t beat optional claimers on dirt. Stop trying to make him something he’s not already and stick him on the lawn. His dam is an unraced full sister to BC F&M Turf heroine Perfect Shirl. Half siblings Shakespeare, Lady Shakespeare and Fantastic Shirl were all top notch turf routers. Second dam Lady Shirl was one of the best of her generation on the lawn…. you can see where I’m going here. Pass.

Spikes Shirl—I can definitely see where you're going, Laurie, but unfortunately you cannot always reason with people that have caught Derby fever. His last two efforts on dirt are probably what made his connections take a chance here, but I'm not buying what they're trying to sell either. Pass.

Madtap (Tapit - Point Chanel, by Point Given) is slowly developing and Asmussen has been patient with the pretty gray colt. Madtap put it all together in his last start to beat allowance winners by 6 lengths in a sharp 1:43.85. Not much blacktype in his first two generations, but multiple G1 winner Got Koko is a half to Madtap’s second dam. No world beaters in this race and Madtap is a developing colt. His speed figures aren’t all that great, but he has the potential to improve. Exotics.

Madtap—Anyone that knows me well knows that I have a bit of a soft spot for those Winchell owned Tapit babies. If his last race is any indication, and I think it is, Madtap likes being up close to the pace. That 104 speed figure he posted in his last outing is one of the highest in the field and a similar effort will put him firmly in the mix. Contender.

American Dubai (E Dubai - Smash Review, by Bates Motel) was grinding it out on the front end late in the Southwest and just didn’t have enough to get the job done. Post 8 will put the colt on the outside and I don’t see him suddenly improving here. His pedigree and race record suggest that he’d be more competitive as a sprinter/miler. Pass.

American Dubai—Has one of those odd patterns where his speed figures have improved with each start but his placing has actually gone backwards, from first in his debut to second in his next start followed by a third in the Southwest last out. Riddle me that. I thought his effort last out was admirable, and as this is a similar group going the same distance, I think he could run back to that effort. Exotics.

Z Royal (Eskendereya - Joanne Jubilation, by Monarchos) got stuck in rush hour traffic for much of the Southwest Stakes. He had to check hard in the early stages, costing him almost five lengths. Z Royal was going nowhere fast after that. The colt has a later maturing pedigree and should run all day without taking a deep breath. Note that I didn’t say that he could do it quickly. Lukas takes the blinkers off but The Coach is 0-10 with that maneuver. Pass.

Z Royal—So he had an excuse in the Southwest, but what about the LeComte? No answer? That's what I thought. Z Royal's breeding is quite nice but I don't see an angle in here that I like. Pass.

Gray Sky (Tapit – Trickski, by Peteski) Made the pace and tired in his first 3YO start around two turns. It was a good effort and he has room to improve. An outside post guarantees that he’ll have to go wide and Gray Sky’s pedigree indicates that 1 1/16 miles is at the top of scope. He’s a half to Florida 3YO Champion filly, the sprinter Dearest Trickski. Gray Sky is the stablemate to Z Royal. I still have nightmares about the 2013 Rebel when Lukas finished 1-2 and paid $275 for the exacta. Please don’t let it happen again. Pass.

Gray Sky—This one actually intrigues me. He broke his maiden in the slop at Churchill and actually ran a bang up second behind undefeated Dazzling Gem in his last effort after setting the pace. He gets the piloting expertise of Florent Geroux, who has paired with Lukas to gets 33% winners. A chance of showers would make me like him better, but it looks like the weather will finally be clearing in Hot Springs come the weekend. Maybe...maybe not. I'm still making up my mind.

Cutacorner (Even the Score - Pathologist, by Gone West) was part of the traffic jam in the Southwest and didn’t get to do much running. The pretty gray colt came back with two sharp 5F works and should be prepared for a better effort. Cutacorner has a solid distaff family filled with minor blacktype earners. She’s a half to the dam of multiple stakes veteran Gotcha Gold. Cutacorner doesn’t have spectacular speed figures and his wide post doesn’t help. The HOF trainer Jack Van Burg has probably forgotten more about conditioning a horse than many of the trainers in here have ever learned. Sadly, his graded stakes stats are 0-7 this year. Pass.

Cutacorner—Owns a win at Oaklawn over American Dubai, who I like, but I just can't get past the Southwest for Cutacorner. I understand that he was caught wide and had to steady in traffic, but he had plenty of time between the first turn and the wire to make something happen. With post 10, he will likely get caught wide again. I'm with Laurie...Pass.

Whitmore (Pleasantly Perfect - Melody's Spirit, by Scat Daddy) didn’t have the best trip in the Southwest, but made a strong move from the back of the pack. He looked like a tiring winner until Suddenbreakingnews streaked by. Whitmore has been out of the money only once. He owns the only blacktype in three generations of his family, and this gelding tries hard every time. With a better trip, we could be looking at the winner. Contender.

Whitmore—I'm not sure how much of a better trip Whitmore will get here. In the Southwest, he broke from Post 2 in a large field; here he gets the opposite draw in that he will be breaking from Post 12 in a field of 14. If he runs like he did in the Southwest, coming from behind, then that post won't be bothersome; however, Whitmore was closer to the pace in his first 3 starts. In getting essentially the same trip as winner Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore was outfinished big time. Contender? Sure. Winner? Meh, probably not.

Cherry Wine (Paddy O'Prado - C. S. Royce, by Unbridled's Song) has won his last two starts by over 15 lengths. In his first start as a 3YO, he was trailed the short field early. Corey Lanerie guided the gray colt up the rail around the turn and then threaded his way to the outside, sweeping four 4 wide. Cherry Wine was never asked as he widened his advantage down the stretch. Cherry Wine’s second dam Sweeping Story was third in the KY Oaks. Dale Romans ships in from Florida. Contender.

Cherry Wine—Based on what I'm seeing in his PP's, Cherry Wine needed a little time and some dirt to get things figured out. His last two wins have been impressive, but asking him to step into graded stakes company for the first time in such a large field is a tall order. Throw in the outside post, and I'm made even more leery. Romans is only saddling 11% winners in stakes races and 5% winners in off a 61-180 day layoff. I have to pass.

Suddenbreakingnews (Mineshaft - Uchitel, by Afleet Alex) has won or placed in every start. His Southwest victory was breathtaking. Note that he wins every other race. Perhaps he can break that cycle in the Rebel Stakes. His pedigree profile says that he screams for more distance. Contender.

Suddenbreakingnews—Despite his Zenyatta-like run style, Suddenbreakingnews has not been out of the exacta during his career. After just missing in the Springboard Mile, he found the extra sixteenth in the Southwest to his liking as he blew past his rivals in the stretch en route to a 2 3/4-length victory. The far outside post won't be a hindrance as this gelding will trail early. Contender.

Final Thoughts

Four of the last ten Rebel Stakes winners prepped in the Southwest. Three of the four won/placed. All Rebel Stakes winners except Hoppertunity (4th, Risen Star) and Will Take Charge (6th Southwest) won/placed in their previous start, and all but two prepped at Oaklawn or in California.

Laurie: Race Set Up - eight of the fourteen colts like to run on or near the pace. With another full field, we could see a traffic jam similar to the bumper car beginning of the Southwest. The pace setters and late pace runners would benefit from this. Cupid could motor directly behind the pace on the rail and take a short cut at the top of the lane, getting the jump on the late-movers who will likely go wide or have to weave through traffic. Suddenbreakingnews will be flying late along with Cherry Wine. With a better trip, the hard-knocking Whitmore could surprise. Creator will also be running late and could take a piece of it. Let’s go with a price on top.

Ashley: Despite how many colts in this field like to run on or near the lead, I do not foresee a contentious pace. That's good news for those on the front end and not so good news for the closers; however, an average pace did not stop Suddenbreakingnews last time, so I don't expect it to this time. In a field this large, I like proven commodities over those that are either lightly raced or have not faced a field this big, so nothing too fancy from me this time.


Laurie                                                           Ashley

#11 Cherry Wine (12-1)                           #12 Suddenbreakingnews (3-1)

#12 Suddenbreakingnews (3-1)              #1A Madtap (6-1)

#4 Cupid (7-2)                                           #4 Cupid (7-2)

#1A Madtap (6-1)                                      #8 American Dubai (12-1)


Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racings stars, equine and human alike.

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