American Pharoah Returns Off Bench as Chalk in Rebel Stakes

Seven Derby hopefuls will head to the gate in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. (photo credit: Oaklawn Park)

The Bob Baffert trained American Pharoah, who spent the entire winter until last week as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby makes his much-anticipated three-year-old debut on Saturday in the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

The colt won a pair of Grade 1 races last year, taking the Del Mar Futurity and Frontrunner and won the Eclipse Award for top juvenile, but a foot issue knocked him out of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) where he would have been the betting favorite.

His stablemate Dortmund overtook him as the Derby favorite briefly and now they are the co-favorites at 8-1 at Bovada for the Run for the Roses.

With just 10 Derby points, the Baffert trainee is playing catch up and makes his first start off a 5 ½ month layoff, and was installed as the 1-2 morning line favorite over six foes.

Baffert is no stranger to Hot Springs, winning the Rebel in four of the last five years including last year with Hoppertunity. The Rebel serves as a prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and offers up 50-20-10-5 points to the top four finishers.

The Rebel is one of three graded stakes on an outstanding betting card. The supporting stakes are the $250,000 Razorback Handicap (G2) and the $300,000 Azeri (G2).

The Azeri drew another champion, as Untapable makes her first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) on Oct.31. The Steve Asmussen trainee won six of seven starts last year, her lone loss coming when she took on the boys, checking in fifth in the Haskell Invitational (G1).

The Razorback drew a solid field of older runners including Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) runner up Tapiture and Preakness (G1) runner up Ride On Curlin.

My Best Plays Report for Saturday will include my strongest plays from Aqueduct and Oaklawn Park including all of the stakes action.

Let’s head out to Oaklawn Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:

Oaklawn Park Race 10 The Rebel (G2) Post time 6:06 CT

1 The Truth Or Else   4-1

4 American Pharoah   1-2

5 Bold Conquest   8-1

2 Madefromlucky   6-1

The Truth Or Else looks like the best option other than playing the Eclipse Award winning champ who is going to be a very light price. Our top pick exits the Southwest (G3) in the slop where the colt was forced every wide into the first turn and came with a  good five wide run around the second turn and had the lead late but was run down by the ground saving Far Right.

The colt draws the rail today and jockey Calvin Borel certainly will work out a better trip than he had last out on this colt. He looks capable of moving forward and will need to if he is going to beat the chalk. In addition to the recently edge over the chalk he has experience over wet tracks which we might see today.

American Pharoah is making his first start off a 5 ½ month layoff. The colt won back to back Grade 1 races last year, taking the Del Mar Futurity and Frontrunner. In the latter, he beat Calculator, who won the Sham (G3) in his next start, Texas Red, who was the upset winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Lord Nelson, who won the San Vicente (G2) in his next outing.

The colt has two solid works on the morning tab, bullets at seven and six furlongs and he looks as if he is going to be tight and ready to go off the bench. The Baffert barn is 20% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff and has won this race in four of the last five years. Only real knock is going to be the puny price.

Bold Conquest figures to move forward in his second start off a 4 ½ month break. He made his three-year-old debut in the Southwest where he was outrun early and made a mild late run while wide to finish fourth. He ran a decent third in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) last fall and just missed in the Iroquois (G3) in his stakes debut, beaten just a neck.

The Steve Asmussen trainee has come back with a couple of solid looking works and he is bred to like a wet track.


WIN: The Truth Or Else to win at 7-2 or better.

EXACTA: 1,4 / 1,2,4,5

TRIFECTA: 1,4 / 1,2,4,5 / 1,2,4,5,6


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