Trainer Brad Cox boasts a barn full of Kentucky Derby 2023 hopefuls. He sends out the two shortest prices on the morning line Saturday with a Derby berth at stake.
Verifying is the 2-1 favorite for the Grade 2, $1 million Rebel Stakes and fellow Cox charge Giant Mischief is the 5-2 second choice. Post time from Oaklawn is 6:23 p.m. EST, with FanDuel TV showing the 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-olds.
The Rebel awards points toward the Kentucky Derby starting gates on a 50-20-15-10-5 scale. Since Churchill Downs instituted its points system before the 2013 Derby, 50 points have been enough to make the field each year.
The Risen Star Stakes (G2) last Saturday at Fair Grounds began the series of races that are effectively win-and-you’re-in Kentucky Derby preps. Cox won that event when his Angel of Empire closed late and edged past Sun Thunder in the final yards.
Angel of Empire with 54 points leads three Cox trainees in the top seven of the Kentucky Derby points standings. Lecomte Stakes (G3) and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) victor Instant Coffee (32 points) is third, four spots ahead of Withers Stakes (G2) victor Hit Show (20).
Verifying and Giant Mischief aim to keep things rolling along the Derby trail Saturday for the trainer who grew up minutes from Churchill Downs.
The Justify colt Verifying debuted a winner last August at Saratoga, ran second in October’s Champagne Stakes (G1) at Aqueduct, then settled for sixth in November’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. In his 3-year-old debut, he won a local one-mile allowance by 5 1/4 lengths over fellow Rebel entrant Gun Pilot (8-1).
Jockey Florent Geroux takes over the mount on Verifying, who had Martin Garcia aboard for his last-out allowance win. Coolmore connections campaign the favorite.
Giant Mischief raced on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile undercard, finishing 3/4 of a length clear of runner-up Arabian Lion, who was 17 1/2 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher. In his only start since that race, he crossed second Dec. 17 in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes as a 4-5 favorite after struggling at the break.
Reincarnate (7-2) won the Sham Stakes (G3) on Jan. 8 at Santa Anita but did not accrue Kentucky Derby points because his trainer at the time, Bob Baffert, is suspended from saddling runners in the 2023 Derby. He is now eligible for points after his transfer to trainer Tim Yakteen.
Steve Asmussen on Monday became North America’s first trainer to reach 10,000 wins. He has three Rebel entries in Gun Pilot, Powerful (20-1) and Red Route One (10-1), the latter of whom was runner-up Jan. 28 in the local Southwest Stakes (G3).
Three horses have swept both the Rebel Stakes and that year’s Kentucky Derby: American Pharoah (2015), Smarty Jones (2004) and Sunny’s Halo (1983). American Pharoah is one of eight Rebel winners since 2010 for Baffert, who does not have an entry in this edition.
Here is a look at the field for the 2023 Rebel Stakes (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:
1. Verifying (Brad Cox, Florent Geroux), 2-1
2. Powerful (Steve Asmussen, Isaac Castillo), 20-1
3. Red Route One (Steve Asmussen, Cristian Torres), 10-1
4. Gun Pilot (Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana Jr.), 8-1
5. Giant Mischief (Brad Cox, Irad Ortiz Jr.), 5-2
6. Reincarnate (Tim Yakteen, John Velazquez), 7-2
7. Confidence Game (Keith Desormeaux, James Graham), 15-1
8. Talladega (Rodolphe Brisset, Flavien Prat), 30-1
9. Event Detail (Paulo Lobo, Gerardo Corrales), 30-1
10. Bourbon Bash (D. Wayne Lukas, Mickaelle Michel), 20-1
11. Frosted Departure (Kenny McPeek, Francisco Arrieta), 20-1
TimeformUS pace projections show three long shots – Powerful, Confidence Game and Frosted Departure – vying for the early lead. Favorite Verifying is expected to sit among a second group of three through a hot early pace.
Visit Horse Racing Nation’s free past performances page for more information on the Rebel Stakes and the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3), also at Oaklawn.
Kentucky Derby trail links
Matt Shifman offers Rebel Stakes odds and analysis, landing on one of trainer Brad Cox’s two entries as the top choice.
Reinier Macatangay explains why Confidence Game and Red Route One are viable Rebel Stakes long shots who can outrun their odds.
Laurie Ross and Ashley Tamulonis go head to head handicapping the Rebel. Each lands on a different Steve Asmussen trainee atop their tickets.
Cox says Giant Mischief has pointed toward the Rebel Stakes as a 3-year-old bow for months. “We’re looking forward to giving him another run around two turns,” Cox said of the Springboard Mile runner-up.
Ed DeRosa provides Rebel Stakes fair odds, saying he is against morning-line favorite Verifying due to the combination of his rail draw and running style.
Frontrunners and stalkers have dominated the Rebel Stakes prior to Un Ojo’s 75-1 upset score last winter.
This week on HorseCenter, hosts Brian Zipse and Shifman handicap 11 Kentucky Derby hopefuls in the Rebel Stakes and take a look at the top Americans in the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) at Riyadh. Christina Blacker of FanDuel TV joins the Ron Flatter Racing Pod to preview the Rebel.
Eclipse Award winner Forte leads a group of 11 probable runners in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) next Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Five of the 21 nominations for next Saturday’s $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) were listed under Bob Baffert by Santa Anita’s racing office Friday, but they still may be switched to other trainers before entries for the Kentucky Derby 2023 prep are drawn Sunday.
Looking back at last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby prep, Macatangay writes about how a pace collapse set up Angel of Empire’s Risen Star Stakes (G2) score.
Cox took Aqueduct’s most recent Kentucky Derby prep race when Hit Show won the Withers Stakes (G3). Cox has Eyeing Clover pointed to the Gotham Stakes (G3), Aqueduct’s next Derby prep.
Carmel Road is also targeting the Gotham after turning in a five-furlong work in 59 seconds at Santa Anita. “Last week’s work made everyone pay attention,” Tom Ryan of co-owner SF Racing said.
Loggins, last seen finishing second in the Breeders' Futurity (G1), is no longer on the road to Kentucky Derby 2023. Cox told Thoroughbred Daily News that the colt is "in light training."
Prospective Kentucky Derby field
The top 18 points earners nominated for the Kentucky Derby will earn a spot in the starting gates for the Grade 1, $3 million race May 6. One spot is reserved for the top points earners on the European and Japanese Derby trails. However, no invitation on the European trail will be extended beyond the top four points earners. None of the top four in those standings are Triple Crown nominated, so that opens a 19th spot for a U.S. Derby trail runner. Here is a look at who would make up the current field.
1. Angel of Empire, 54
2. Forte, 40
3. Instant Coffee, 32
4. Sun Thunder, 24
5. Two Phil’s, 23
6. Rocket Can, 20
7. Hit Show, 20
8. Litigate, 20
9. Curly Jack, 17
10. Blazing Sevens, 16
11. Arctic Arrogance, 16
12. Jace’s Road, 15
13. Red Route One, 13
14. Victory Formation, 10
15. Dubyuhnell, 10
16. Practical Move, 10
17. Lugan Knight, 10
18. Tapit’s Conquest, 10
19. General Banker, 9
Kentucky Oaks trail
Another stop on the road to the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) awards points toward that race Saturday on a 50-20-15-10-5 basis to its top five finishers. Here is a look at the race for 3-year-old fillies.
5:43 p.m. – $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3), 1 1/16 miles, Oaklawn, FanDuel TV
Grand Love (3-1) returns to the starting gates for trainer Steve Asmussen, racing for the first time since finishing sixth Nov. 4 at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Jockey Joel Rosario will be up on the Gun Runner filly. Brad Cox trains Wet Paint (7-2), who prepped for the Honeybee by winning the local Martha Washington Stakes on Jan. 28. The Kenny McPeek-trained Defining Purpose (9-2) took Oaklawn’s Year’s End Stakes in December before coming home third in the Martha Washington, 2 3/4 lengths behind Wet Paint.
Prospective Kentucky Oaks field
The top 14 points earners nominated for the Kentucky Oaks will earn a spot in the starting gates for the $1.25 million race May 5. Here is a look at who would make up the current field.
1. Pretty Mischievous, 63
2. Mimi Kakushi, 50
3. Wonder Wheel, 48
4. Hoosier Philly, 25
5. The Alys Look, 24
6. Red Carpet Ready, 20
7. Wet Paint, 20
8. Dreaming of Snow, 20
9. Ami Please, 20
10. Miracle, 20
11. Occult, 20
12. Chop Chop, 17
13. Julia Shining, 16
14. Leave No Trace, 15
Other Saturday stakes
Here is a look at some of the other stakes races taking place Saturday across the U.S. All post times are EST.
4:06 p.m. – $150,000 Carousel Stakes, 4-and-up fillies and mares, six furlongs, Oaklawn, FanDuel TV
Yuugiri (2-1) has won two of her three career starts at Oaklawn, including the Fantasy Stakes (G3) last April and a last-out allowance race Dec. 30. Trainer Rodolphe Brisset and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. team up with the 4-year-old Shackleford filly. Norm Casse trains Pretty Birdie (5-2), a Grade 3 victor who took the local Poinsettia Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs Dec. 17. Mercy Warren (8-1) makes her stakes bow for trainer Cherie DeVaux off an allowance win New Year's Day at Fair Grounds.
4:08 p.m. – $125,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes, 4-and-up, six furlongs, Gulfstream Park, FanDuel TV
Candy Man Rocket (9-5) returned from a layoff of more than 11 months to win a local allowance race at this sprint distance Jan. 21 for trainer Bill Mott. Jockey Junior Alvarado will climb aboard the Grade 3 winner, a 5-year-old son of Candy Ride. John Servis trains Uncle Ernie (3-1), a Parx allowance victor who was fourth New Year’s Eve in Gulfstream’s Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3). Super Ocho (4-1), a Group 2 winner in Chile, won an allowance race Jan. 27 at Delta Downs for trainer Amador Sanchez.
4:26 p.m. – $125,000 Stymie Stakes, 4-and-up, one mile, Aqueduct, FS2
Repo Rocks (6-5) rides a three-race winning streak for trainer Jamie Ness and made the grade last out by winning the Toboggan Stakes (G3) on Jan. 28 at Aqueduct. Jockey Andrew Wolfsont earned his first graded win in the Toboggan and will again pilot the 5-year-old Tapiture gelding. Chad Brown trains Aqueduct stakes winner Miles D (3-1), who finished seventh Jan. 28 at Gulfstream in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3). 2021 Wood Memorial (G2) hero Bourbonic (7-2) took a local allowance race at this one-mile distance Feb. 5 for trainer Todd Pletcher.
7:55 p.m. – $125,000 Wintergreen Stakes, 4-and-up fillies and mares, one mile (all-weather track), Turfway Park
Opening Buzz (5-2) enters off back-to-back local victories, the most recent of which came in the Wishing Well Stakes on Jan. 28. Jockey Walter Rodriguez gets the call on the 4-year-old Stanford filly for trainer Jonathan Wong. Michael Stidham trains Purrfect (5-1), a Turfway allowance winner at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 19. Grade 3 winner Kate’s Kingdom (6-1) finished sixth Jan. 14 in the local Likely Exchange Stakes for trainer William Walden.