Head to Head: Handicapping the 2020 Rebel Stakes

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2020 Rebel Stakes
Photo: Coady Photography

Saturday's Rebel Stakes (G2), the third of four 2020 Kentucky Derby prep races this season at Oaklawn Park, features a field of eight 3-year-old colts going 1 1/16 miles, possibly over a muddy or sloppy track, given the forecast. The race pays out Derby qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to its top-four finishers.

Pay attention to the Triple Crown prospects of the Rebel winner. Alumni include American Pharoah, Smarty Jones, Curlin, Afleet Alex, and Lookin at Lucky, to name a few.

Laurie Ross and Ashley Tamulonis of Horse Racing Nation's Coast To Coast blog waded through the past performances and pedigrees to identify their top contenders:




Nadal was tenacious in the San Vicente (G2), fighting with Ginobili to leave that rival 3/4 of a length back. However, Ginobili lost to Nucky by five lengths in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), then was a beaten favorite by a length in the Speakeasy Stakes. It's not a ringing endorsement for Nadal. Put Nadal in the category of lightly raced/who did he beat. But as Ashley will note, we're talking about a Bob Baffert runner, and they always look lively in this race. Win contender.

Baffert ships in yet another highly regarded 3-year old to Hot Springs. By Blame, Nadal has won both career starts; however, this will be his two-turn debut off one start in January and another in February. His dam Ascending Angel, is a 3/4 sister to Soul Search, who was Grade 1-placed while routing. So the potential is there for this distance, and the blinkers come off to help Nadal relax. Baffert has won the Rebel a record six times. Win contender.


Excession is the Rebel’s “why” horse -- as in, why is he in here? The Steve Asmussen trainee’s speed figures are average. Pass.

Owned by Calumet Farm, Excession did not fare well whatsoever down in Louisiana, so Asmussen has decided a change of venue may help. Tyler Baze hops back aboard after having last paired with this colt in September. As Laurie said, his numbers are average at best. Pass.


Asmussen picked a tough spot for Basin’s comeback. A brilliant 2-year-old, Basin had “a minor setback” after his runaway victory in the Hopeful Stakes (G1). Basin does show stamina-building breezes ahead of his two-turn debut. He has a miler pedigree, so he should handle the distance, yet Basin will have to prove he’s special to win the Rebel. Exotics.

The Hopeful hero is back in action off a 5 1/2-month layoff. Basin posted consecutive bullet works prior to his most-recent leisurely stroll around the Oaklawn oval, a race week tradition for Asmussen runners. As with Nadal, he's going long for the first time. And as a half-brother to Rise Up, Basin may be limited in scope. Exotics only.


Silver Prospector is bred for classic distances and should improve with more racing. Note that he’s 2-for-2 over the main track at Saturday's distance. The connections figured out that Silver Prospector does his best work as a pace presser, so I expect to see improvement in the Rebel. Going back to last season, this colt also proved that he could handle the slop at Churchill. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. will have to keep his mount close to the early leaders to have an impact. Win/exotics contender.


Southwest (G3) hero Silver Prospector laid closer to the pace last out, a tactic that paid off. He notched a win that day and tied for the best last out speed figure in this field. Since moving from turf to dirt, though, he has established a win-lose-win pattern, putting him on the losing side this time if you buy into such trends. He'll definitely be on my tickets in the top position and underneath.


The speedy state-bred stakes winner No Parole gets a shot at the big boys in the Rebel. Just because he’s dominated suspect fields doesn’t mean there’s no class here. His dam is a stakes-winning half-sister to multiple graded veteran License Fee, and another half-sister bore Illinois Derby (G2) hero Greeley’s Galaxy. No Parole has a sprinter/miler pedigree and was uncontested on the lead in his trio of starts. He has :21 and change early speed but might be eyeballed by Nadal early. I’m on the fence about this guy. If they leave him alone up front, he has a serious chance of opening up over a sloppy track, or he may just be a superior state-bred type. If you’re looking for a longshot win contender, he’s your horse.  

Undefeated No Parole steps out of state-bred company and on to the Derby Trail. The son of Violence has never been threatened in any of his three career starts, but the Rebel represents a dive into the deep end. We saw King Guillermo upset the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) last week at 49-1, so certainly a victory here is possible. Joe Talamo hops aboard after James Graham rode this one in his first three starts. Maybe underneath?


Three Technique caught a sloppy track in his 3-year-old debut and couldn’t catch a lose-on-the-lead Gold Street over a track playing to speed. But he did make up ground, which offers hope Saturday with the extra distance. The Jeremiah Englehart trainee has talent, and his second-to-last bullet breeze should set him up nicely.  He’s another who could upset. Win/exotics contender.

This son of Mr. Speaker could only manage second as the favorite in the Smarty Jones and has not raced since. The speed figure he earned that day does fit with the best of the field, however, and he’s never missed the exacta. He'll have to show improvement off a layoff. Use underneath.


Well, we know Coach Bahe likes to get his hooves dirty after two good showings in the mud. He’s out of an unraced half-sister to Grade 1 winner Persistently, and Coach Bahe’s half-sister placed in the Hut Hut, so there’s class. He’ll get first-time Lasix, but the bad news is Coach Bahe has zero early speed. While he may pass a horse or two, I don’t see him winning. Maybe he can earn an underneath spot.

Trainer Philip Bauer had this one pegged as a turf runner, but due to two of his races coming off the lawn, Coach Bahe ended up breaking his maiden in the mud at Fair Grounds. The final time for the mile event was atrocious, and as Laurie mentioned, the colt does get Lasix for the first time for the Rebel. Still, pass.


American Theorem showed class in his second start, finishing second to the more experienced Eight Rings in the American Pharoah (G1), incidentally named for this colt's sire. American Theorem is bred to improve with maturity, and the Rebel is a good starting point. The George Papaprodromou trainee is bred to relish the mud; however, I don’t think he has the speed to run with No Parole or Nadal. Exotics.

Last seen during the afternoon in September, he was simply second-best in the American Pharoah. Eight Rings, the winner, came back to run flat as one of the favorites in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Third-place finisher Storm the Court upset the race at huge odds but has not done anything of note this year. That leaves me feeling suspect about this colt. Exotics.

Final Thoughts

Oaklawn has a slight speed bias when the track is wet, usually favoring posts two through seven. Good news for No Parole, although Three Technique, Nadal, Basin, and American Theorem like to sit close, too. Silver Prospector also has off-track experience, and that’s a huge plus. Coach Bahe shows good speed figures for a wet surface and could blow up the lower exotics. I like No Parole, but I don’t know how well he’ll handle the distance, so I’m leaving him out of my top four. He's a tough longshot to dismiss, however.

Ashley: This looks like an average field. The likely favorite has never raced at a route distance, and those that have exit suspect fields or simply were not overly impressive. None of these have me super excited, so I’m going with a proven commodity on top.


 Laurie Ashley
 #1 Nadal #4 Silver Prospector
 #4 Silver Prospector#3 Basin 
#6 Three Technique #1 Nadal 
#8 American Theorem #8 American Theorem 

Meet Laurie Ross

 HRN Pedigree Analyst 


 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 Pedigree Analyst – Bruno With The Works 

 ThoroFan Advisory Board Member

 Member – NTWAB

Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
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