Head to Head: Handicapping the 2021 Rebel Stakes

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2021 Rebel Stakes
Photo: Robert Yates

The Grade 2, $1 million Rebel Stakes is the third of four prep races held at Oaklawn Park for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. A field of eight 3-year-old colts will race Saturday, and graded stakes winners Get Her Number and Keepmeinmind will try to continue their winning ways against Caddo River, who won his last two starts by open lengths.

The 1 1/16-mile contest awards a points scale of 50-20-10-5.

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 of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast discuss the field.



1. Caddo River

Speedy Caddo River has been untouchable at a mile, breaking his maiden and then taking the Smarty Jones by a total of 19½ lengths. His speed figures have improved with each start. In the Smarty Jones, jockey Florent Geroux rode the colt through the stretch, keeping him on task without ever really asking him for more run. I look forward to seeing this one put on a show.

Caddo River has speed from the rail, a fast/slow work pattern, and in the last week, trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux have teamed up with seven mounts, hitting the board with five of them. This son of Hard Spun fits the pacesetting profile of the last two Rebel winners. What more is there to say?


2. Big Lake

Big Lake is an interesting one for me. In moving from Churchill Downs to Fair Grounds, stretching out from seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, and adding Lasix, this son of American Pharoah became a winner after losing his first two career starts. Additionally, this all came after being given some time off and being brought back as a 3-year old. So, let us play a game of which variable did the trick. The colt’s speed figures are average, and he will need to take a step forward to run down Caddo River.

Big Lake’s speed figures show the story of a maturing colt. He added Lasix to get the job done in his 3-year-old debut, something he will not have here. Did he really need it, or was it just business as usual? I liked what I saw in his first race. The Asmussen trainee had to go wide, raced in traffic, had nowhere to go at the top of the stretch, and had to alter course. He gained ground and battled in the final furlong to win by a neck. He had every right to regress next time out, but the big flashy son of  American Pharoah pressed the pace and took over with little urging. Big Lake is bred top and bottom for distance, and while I agree with Ashley about his overall speed figures, Big Lake hit a 91 late pace figure in January. He could make an impact on the exotics. 

3. Hozier

In a classic Bob Baffert move, the leading SoCal trainer has sent one of his "B" team to Hot Springs, Ark., in the attempt to earn some Derby points. In his debut, Hozier was a well-beaten fourth behind winner Concert Tour. He graduated at second asking when stretching out from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. His speed figure took a significant leap, and he enters off a bullet five-panel work on March 6. I fully expect to see the 12-1 morning line odds drop on race day.

Hozier has a stamina over speed pedigree, and his dam is a multiple graded winning sprinter. I am not impressed with Hozier’s last race. The second and third place runners had more experience than Hozier, and both finished off the board next out. Oddly, videos of the Baffert trainee’s bullet works are not available, but other videos show that he was pushed a bit in the mornings and that he was not keen on passing his workmates. Like Ashley, I expect his odds to drop just because …Baffert.

4. Get Her Number

Trained by Peter Miller, Get Her Number successfully made the turf-to-dirt transition when mildly upsetting the American Pharoah (G1). That was back in September, though, resulting in an almost six-month layoff. I do greatly appreciate the pattern of five- and six-furlong works Miller has given the colt. He may not be 100 percent racing fit, but I suspect that Get Her Number will make his presence known.

Get Her Number showed promise in the American Pharoah (G1), but I need to see more before I jump on his bandwagon. Who did he beat? Future El Camino Real Derby hero Rombauer, plus Spielberg, who won a weak edition of the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and who has watched a fading view of the backsides of Medina Spirit and Essential Quality. Unless he shows a new dimension, Get Her Number will vie for the lead with Caddo River. I predict a speed/fade scenario.

5. Twilight Blue

Twilight Blue is one of the more experienced runners in the field, but that has so far equated to just two victories out of six starts. Last out, he was a very game winner in the slop, snatching the lead in deep stretch. Consider using if it rains in Hot Springs.

I am not convinced that Twilight Blue wants to be a dirt horse. Sure he won on dirt early in his career and was unplaced on turf – in his debut. Often turf horses do well over mud, but no rain is expected for Saturday. I’ll take a pass.

6. Keepmeinmind

Like his sire Laoban, Keepmeinmind broken his maiden in a graded stakes race. Out of the Victory Gallop mare Inclination, Keepmeinmind was dual Grade 1-placed before breaking through in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). This is one that does not always win, but he certainly always shows up and runs his race. Use to fill out your tickets.

Last year, Keepmeinmind was no match for Essential Quality. Yes, he won the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). No, it was not a strong field. Nobody has come close to the winner’s circle, except for Ultimate Badger, who finished second in the Hutcheson Stakes. I do not see him winning this, but Keepmeinmind could hit the lower exotics. 

7. Concert Tour

Undefeated Concert Tour also hails from the Bob Baffert barn, giving him a 1-2 punch at besting Caddo River. The son of Street Sense won the San Vicente (G2) in just his second start, but he had to work really hard to get that win as Freedom Fighter was tough as nails in defeat. Though he has never tried a route race, Baffert gave him a solid six-panel work March 6, a move that was the best of eleven that morning. Regular rider Joel Rosario stays aboard.

Lookie here. A lightly raced, undefeated Baffert baby. Where have we seen that before? Last year, Nadal took the same path to Rebel victory. Concert Tour hails from the same female family as 2008 champion 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound, and he should handle two turns with ease. 

8.  Super Stock

Super Stock’s best race was arguably the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), where he checked in third behind runner-up and fellow Rebel entrant Keepmeinmind. Most recently, he was second in the Street Sense, meaning he was beaten by weaker more than four months ago. Though he has not raced since October, Asmussen has kept him steadily working throughout the winter. Super Stock has never been out of the trifecta while on dirt, but he will need to be on his toes to compete with some of the rest in this field.

Super Stock had no excuse in the Street Sense Stakes or the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). He had a perfect trip both times. This colt doesn’t relax. He is eager early, and later in the race, will back off if eyeballed, yet he has hit the board in five of six starts. I am not using him here (and may kick myself later), but suggest using him if you are keying or spreading the cash around.


Final Thoughts

Laurie: So do we go with speed on the inside (Caddo River) or speed on the outside (Concert Tour)? Unless someone like Get Her Number or Hozier keeps Caddo River honest on the front end, he could simply open up. Perhaps last-out maiden winner Hozier was shipped to keep Caddo River busy so his stablemate Concert Tour can take over in the stretch. Caddo River’s speed figures are fast early, slow late. Granted, he has not had to work in his last two starts, but the fast early/slow late scenario holds true for his first two starts. I will go with Concert Tour on top, then Caddo River. Get Her Number might need a race, especially if he tries to mix it up early. He could hold on for a piece. Big Lake has tactical speed and could grab a lower exotic award, as can Keepmeinmind. I am leaving Super Stock off my top four, but think he could grab third or fourth place

Ashley:  This is quite the intriguing field. Going into taking a closer look at the PPs, I felt confident that this was Caddo River’s race to lose. However, upon further examination, while I still feel like he’s the one to beat, I do not think he will win as easily as he has in his last two starts. Bob Baffert’s "B" team cannot be discounted in Arkansas. Miller sends out a grade two winner, and Keepmeinmind could mow them all down if the pace is honest enough. Additionally, Keepmeinmind faced champion Essential Quality twice last year, giving him a heap of back class. Let me just admit, I keep circling back to Keepmeinmind. 




#6 Keepmeinmind (4-1)

#7 Concert Tour (2-1) 

#1 Caddo River (9-5)

#1 Caddo River (9-5)

#7 Concert Tour (2-1)

#2 Big Lake (12-1)

#4 Get Her Number (8-1) 

#6 Keepmeinmind (4-1)

Meet Laurie Ross

 HRN Pedigree Analyst 


 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 ThoroFan 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
Facebook: IMTBreds
LinkedIn: Laurie Ross

Top Stories

With the Kentucky Derby less than two weeks away,...
Proving that “wise-guy” options sometimes offer a...
Hot Springs, Ark. The Apple Blossom Handicap was s...
Hot Springs, Ark. Five wins in a row are certainly...
On an action-packed Saturday morning beneath the T...