Head to Head: Handicapping the Rebel Stakes' first division

Head to Head: Handicapping the Rebel Stakes' first division
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Due to the temporary halt of racing at Santa Anita Park, the Rebel Stakes (G2) attracted 19 entrants, many of them from the West Coast, and subsequently split into two divisions worth $750,000 apiece and offering 75 percent of the original $1 million Rebel's Kentucky Derby 2019 qualifying points.

The two big names were separated, with Improbable running in the first flight and Game Winner running in the second. Here, I'll handicap Improbable's race alongside of Laurie Ross, author of Horse Racing Nation's Pedigree Power. For more on the Rebel Stakes, Reiner Macatangay covered Game Winner's division.

Before diving in, note that over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a transformation of the Rebel Stakes into a display of California speed, with Bob Baffert's charges winning six of the last eight editions. Pace pressers have won four of the last 10 Rebels, while pace-setters won three. Late running closers have hit the board in the last three editions.



Extra Hope — It’s nice to see an old timer like Richard Mandella with a potential Derby horse. Extra Hope wasn’t in the same class as Improbable and Mucho Gusto last year, but this is a new season They could be drag racing on the front end early, which would benefit Extra Hope.  A finish in the Top 3 wouldn’t surprise me.  Contender.

Extra Hope — With Flavien Prat opting to stay aboard Galilean, Extra Hope gets veteran Mike Smith. While this colt did win his only start of the year, he will be moving back up in class. In his previous graded starts, he ran well but could not match others in the division, including Improbable. I like the post, however, and think he has a shot of at least hitting the board. Exotics.

Long Range Toddy — Richard Eramia did a nice job of getting Long Range Toddy over to the rail from post 10 in the Southwest Stakes.  The problem is that they got stuck behind a wall of horses around the turn and Long Range Toddy was stopped momentarily behind a tired Gray Attempt. Eramia sent Long Range Toddy between horses, and the colt responded, lengthening stride and grabbing the third spot. Jock switch to Jon Court, from Long Range Toddy’s regular jock Eramia, who jumps on Easy Shot. A good trip puts him right there. Contender.

Long Range Toddy — While dual stakes winner Long Range Toddy has dropped his last two races, he was close to the winner both times. Those recent starts also came at Oaklawn and could certainly translate to another nice effort here. Could be a winner, but definitely use underneath.

Corruze — Chis Hartman shakes things up, switching from turf sprints to dirt routes with this son of Into Mischief. No reason it won’t work. Corruze’s half-sister,   Rugula, placed in the Fantasy and Honey Bee Stakes at Oaklawn. Most of his other half-siblings were best on dirt. Over the last five years, Hartman is 21% with the turf to dirt switch, but speed figures aren’t the best. Lower exotics longshot, at best.

Corruze — This colt is definitely the “why here?” runner in this field. Both career wins have been on the turf, and he was beaten by weaker in his last race, which was also on the turf. Laurie thinks he could make the lower exotics, but I think that’s being too kind. Pass.

Easy Shot — The Keith Desormeaux charge didn’t embarrass himself in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3). He just wasn’t going to catch Mucho Gusto, and and only missed second to Gunmetal Gray by 3/4 of a length. A better start could see him in with a shot. Exotics.

Easy Shot — This son of Trappe Shot strikes me as a “best of rest” type. He picked up a check in both the Sham (G3) and the Robert B. Lewis, but I believe's he's running for a minor placing here at best. Pass.

Proud Nation — Rumor has it they had to hold up the start of the next race in order to let Proud Nation find the finish line in his 3-year-old-debut. The full brother to Golden Rod (G2) winner West Coast Belle is still a maiden and belongs in either Race 1, 3 5 or 11. Owned by Gary and Mary West, same as Game Winner, he's likely in to help this race fill. Pass.


Proud Nation — This Tapit colt is another question mark in this field. He’s still a maiden and was trounced in his only start this year while being sent off at low odds. The Wests already have a Derby contender, and Proud Nation is not it. Pass.

Ninth Street — Big horse in a small pond at Delta Downs.  They had to send out a search party to find him after the Southwest (G3). Blinkers off might help him find the finish line faster, but he’s gonna need a lot more than that. Pass.

Ninth Street — Though he is a minor stakes winner, I don’t think Ninth Street has the class to keep up with the best in this field. He pretty well proved that in the Southwest, finishing ninth at odds of 104-1. Hard pass.

Classy John — Here’s an interesting colt. Never out of the money beating up on state-breds,   and he’ll be winging it on the front end. That last race at Delta Downs wasn’t bad, but -- there’s always a but -- his pedigree and running style screams speed. He’ll liven things up early and likely fold like a lawn chair in the stretch. Maybe he can hang on for a minor award.

Classy John — This colt is one of two that I am intrigued by. He’s never been worse than second and has a couple of stakes wins. However, those victories came against state-breds in Louisiana. This is definitely a class test for the trainee of Dallas Stewart. A good exotics play.

Galilean — Vote him most likely to steal the race if Improbable stubs a hoof. Hollendorfer’s charge has been terrorizing the California state-bred class and has the speed figures to handle this. Beware California speed on the front end. Contender.


Galilean — This son of Uncle Mo is the other colt that intrigues me. Like Classy John, Galilean has never been worse than second, but he has also raced nearly exclusively in state-bred company. Jerry Hollendorfer must think he is ready to take it to the next level, otherwise I doubt he’d be in this field. Use underneath.

Improbable — There have been comparisons made between this colt and Justify. Both are huge Chestnuts with lots of chrome, and both have been unstoppable. As a juvenile, Improbable looked like a much older horse in the Street Sense on Breeders’ Cup Friday, both physically and in his demeanor. If he runs like he did last year, you’re looking at the Rebel winner. Contender.

Improbable — Undefeated and a Grade 1 winner, Improbable is the obvious favorite here. He’s been favored in every start and has thus far answered every question asked. He may need this start, but I think he has the class to beat this field despite the layoff.

Laurie’s final thoughts:
  I’m not going to get creative this time looking for a longshot winner. Baffert owns this race, and Improbable’s outside post is to his benefit. He can get a clean trip settling off the pace. The distance is well within his scope, so going wide shouldn’t bother him, and there’s not much in here to challenge him. I think just 80 percent of his top fitness would still get him the victory. Galilean, to Improbable’s inside, can go to the lead or sit off what could be a contentious pace. He’s Improbable’s biggest threat.

Ashley’s Final Thoughts: I have to agree with Laurie here. There’s no reason to get cute with this field. Improbable is by far the class and will need things to seriously go against him to lose.

 Laurie's Selections Ashley's Selections
 #9 Improbable #9 Improbable
 #8 Galilean #2 Long Range Toddy
 #1 Extra Hope #1 Extra Hope
 #2 Long Range Toddy #8 Galilean

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 racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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