There's certainly a big-picture element to Saturday's Rebel Stakes (G2) given its status as a penultimate 2020 Kentucky Derby prep awarding 50 qualifying points to the winner. But let's not dismiss the fact that this is also a $1 million race.
To add, given the mass cancellations across other sports to ward off spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, there won't be patrons on site at Oaklawn Park. But all the off-track betting dollars will be pouring in on Race 10 in Hot Springs, Ark.
Related: Looking to play today's Derby preps? Check out TVG's $200 Risk Free Bet available to new members.
The Rebel, with post time listed as 6:23 p.m. ET, attracted a field of eight led by its rail horse, the unbeaten Bob Baffert trainee Nadal. The Blame colt enters 2-for-2 with a last out victory out west in Santa Anita's San Vicente Stakes (G2).
Three other stakes winners are in the field, two of them from the Steve Asmussen barn. Silver Prospector is a last out winner of the local Southwest (G3), while Basin hasn't been seen in the afternoon since taking the Hopeful (G1) last summer on closing day at Saratoga.
No Parole, a speedy Louisiana-bred, enters 3-for-3 with only open-length wins to his name. He'll add to an anticipated fast pace as they go 1 1/16 miles.
|Rank||Silks||Horse / Sire||Rating||Trainer / Jockey||Last Start||Odds|
Declaration of War
R. Santana, Jr.
Take Charge Indy
TimeformUS' Pace Projector anticipates swift fractions, but consider the context: Blinkers come off Nadal, who will look to break sharply but may ultimately look to relax. No Parole has looked like a need-the-lead type so far in his career, and the ability to rate will benefit Nadal.
Silver Prospector may sit closer, too, than the Pace Projector estimates. Stalking the pace as opposed to fully closing into it benefitted him greatly last time.
And, finally, consider that Three Technique, who has never finished outside of the exacta, lagged behind what wound up slow fractions and a leader under no pressure when he last ran in the Smarty Jones Stakes earlier in the meet. That day, there was no catching Gold Street in a short stretch to the first finish line; Saturday, the setup should give Three Technique a better chance.
Rebel Stakes on TV
Fox Sports 2 will televise "America's Day at the Races" from 3-7 p.m. ET Saturday including the Rebel and undercard stakes at Oaklawn. Additionally, wagering and a live stream are available via TVG, which offers enhanced coverage.
Rebel Stakes handicapping
Oaklawn Park's stakes lineup
• Race 9: Grade 2 Azeri Stakes (5:50 p.m. ET)
• Race 10: Grade 2 Rebel Stakes (6:23 p.m. ET)
Rebel Stakes preview
Via Oaklawn Park publicity...
By Bob Baffert’s lofty standards, he’s been in a slump recently at Oaklawn Par,
Sure, the Hall of Fame trainer won Thursday’s fifth race, but Morning Snow was racing for a $40,000 claiming price and taken out of that sprint victory. Baffert’s wheelhouse at Oaklawn, of course, is its lucrative series of Kentucky Derby points races.
Baffert has a combined 13 victories in those races (all since 2010), but only one coming in the last four years. The drought includes two photo-finish losses (neck and a nose) in last year’s split Rebel, with Grade 1 winner Improbable and juvenile champion and previously unbeaten Game Winner, respectively.
“That’s a problem,” Baffert, jokingly, said Wednesday afternoon. “What’s going on there?”
Baffert said he hopes a horse named for tennis great Rafael Nadal will set things straight. Unbeaten Nadal is the 5-2 program favorite for Saturday’s $1 million Rebel, the final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby April 11.
Nadal, a speedy son of 2010 champion older dirt male Blame, will be making his two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel. Nadal broke his maiden by 3 ¾ lengths Jan. 19 and won the San Vicente Stakes (G2) by three-quarters of a length Feb. 9. Both races, 6 ½ furlongs and 7 furlongs, respectively, were at Santa Anita, Nadal’s home before being flown Wednesday to Arkansas.
“He shipped really well,” said Baffert, who has won the Rebel a record six times. “He’s a big, strong horse. Hope we don’t get too much bad weather. Would like to see what he does on a dry track, but it’s all out of my hands.”
There is an 80 percent chance of rain Saturday in Hot Springs, according to weather.com.
Nadal, a $700,000 2-year-old purchase, will remove blinkers after wearing the equipment in his first two starts.
Baffert won the Rebel in 2010 (Lookin At Lucky), 2011 (The Factor), 2012 (Secret Circle), 2014 (Hoppertunity), 2015 (American Pharoah) and 2016 (Cupid). American Pharoah, who went on to sweep the Triple Crown, is the sire of American Theorem. Overall, Baffert has won 39 percent of his Oaklawn starts (25 of 64) and has 23 stakes victories. In addition to the Rebel, he’s won the Smarty Jones once, Southwest four times and Arkansas Derby twice.
“You know why I did? I sent really good horses,” Baffert said.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has three entrants, including Silver Prospector and Basin, in search of his fifth Rebel victory. Silver Prospector was a one-length winner of the Southwest and “has done very well” since the 1 1/16-mile race, Asmussen said.
Basin, owing to a minor leg injury, will be making his first start since winning the Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 2 at Saratoga. From the first crop of Grade 1 winner Liam’s Map, Basin has had 10 published workouts since mid-January in advance of his two-turn debut, including a 5-furlong bullet (:59.20) Feb. 25 at Fair Grounds and a 6-furlong bullet (1:12) March 2 at Fair Grounds.
Basin, Asmussen said, “is training like a Grade 1 winner.”
Three Technique hasn’t started since a runner-up finish in the Smarty Jones Jan. 24 for trainer Jeremiah Englehart and owner Bill Parcells, a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Englehart opted to skip the Southwest and train up the Rebel.
“We’re getting to game time now,” Englehart said. “I thought we had a pretty good draw. The horse has to run his race now. I’m glad that we got Luis up. He’s very familiar with my barn. It gives me a lot of confidence in having the right rider in the afternoon, too.”
American Theorem hasn’t started since finishing second in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) Sept. 27 at Santa Anita. No Parole is unbeaten and untested in three career starts against Louisiana-bred competition for trainer Tom Amoss.