The Road to the Kentucky Derby make another stop in Hot Springs on Saturday with a field of 11 three-year-olds lining up in the $900,000 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park, and we are hoping for an uncontested early lead.
The race offers a huge purse and 50-20-10-5 points toward entry into the Run for the Roses.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has dominated the race, winning it in six of the last seven years including the past three editions. He won it last year with Cupid, who was coming off a maiden win.
This year he sends out the 2-1 morning line favorite American Anthem, who makes just his third career start for the Hall of Fame conditioner. The colt missed by just a head in the slop in the Sham (G3) in his stakes debut last out at Santa Anita, edged by Gormley. That runner came back to finish a disappointing fourth in the San Felipe (G2) in his next outing.
American Anthem is currently listed at odds of 4-1 in early Kentucky Derby wagering at US Racing.
Uncontested is looking to bounce back off a disappointing effort in a sixth-place finish in the Southwest (G3) in his last outing as the 6-5 chalk. Two back the Wayne Catalano trainee took the field gate to wire to win the Smarty Jones in the slop in his three-year-old debut.
There are five runners in the field that have early zip, and a contested early pace does not bode well for Uncontested.
However, with this being a prep for both the Arkansas Derby (G1) and the Kentucky Derby, connections are looking at the big picture, and being the pacesetter on the first Saturday of May seldom works out. Maybe we don’t see the fast pace everyone expects.
The pace should still be sharp, but I am coming back with Uncontested, who is better than he showed last out and has been working up a storm.
The Rebel is supported on Saturday’s 11-race card at Oaklawn Park by the $250,000 Essex Handicap and the $350,000 Azeri (G2).
Let’s head out to Hot Springs for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Oaklawn Park Race 10 The Rebel (G2) Post time 6:06 CT
2 Uncontested 10-1
7 American Anthem 2-1
4 Petrov 9-2
10 Royal Mo 9-2
There is plenty of early zip signed up in this race but it’s Derby prep and I am expecting the connections of several of the speedy types to try to get them to sit off the pace. If that happens look for Uncontested to bounce back with a much better effort than his Southwest (G3) effort where he set the early fractions and faded to finish sixth. Two back in the slop he wired the field in the Smarty Jones earning a solid speed figure. He makes his third start of the year and sports a couple of sharp drills in the morning. The 10-1 morning line looks fair enough. He was my top pick in the Southwest and at least today we will get a more generous price.
American Anthem caught slop last out in his stakes debut in the Sham (G3) which was just his second career start and he battled on gamely with Gormley, coming up a head short. Gormley came back and whiffed in his next start but our second choice is sent out by Bob Baffert, who has won six of the last seven editions of this race including the last three. He won last year with Cupid who was coming in off a maiden score. He rated off the pace in his debut going six furlongs and I expect a similar strategy here. The price may end up on the short side.
Petrov is coming off runner up finishes in the Smarty Jones and Southwest (G3) where he pressed the pace in both of those trips. He has improved his numbers with each outing and Ortiz is likely going to get a good trip sitting in fourth or fifth here. The last to exit the Southwest and win the Rebel was Will Take Charge in ’13 for D. Wayne Lukas.
WIN: Uncontested to win at 5-1 or better.
EXACTA: 2,7 / 2,4,7,10
TRIFECTA: 2,7 / 2,4,7,10 / 2,4,6,7,10
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