The Road to the Kentucky Derby makes a stop in Hot Springs, Arkansas on Saturday for the $600,000 Rebel (G2), the lone Derby points race of the weekend.
A field of eight will line up including the top three finishers of the Southwest (G3), a race that has produced six of the last 10 Rebel winners. The Rebel will offer up 50-20-10-5 points toward entry into the Run for the Roses, which is now just 49 days away.
The Steve Asmussen trained Tapiture won the Southwest by 4 ¼ lengths and is the 9-5 morning line favorite for the Rebel. The colt is currently listed at 18-1 in Kentucky Derby future wagering.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will saddle the 2-1 second choice Strong Mandate, who was the beaten favorite in the Southwest. Lukas saddled last year’s Rebel winner Will Take Charge. Strong Mandate is currently listed at 20-1 in Derby future wagering.
Fellow Hall of Famer Bob Baffert will send out Risen Star (G2) fourth place finisher Hoppertunity, who is 10-1 on the morning line. Baffert won the Rebel three years in a row from 2010 to 2012 with Lookin At Lucky, The Factor and Secret Circle.
The Rebel serves as a prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) which will be contested on April 12.
There are two supporting graded stakes on the Saturday afternoon card at Oaklawn Park, the $200,000 Azeri (G2) and the $200,000 Razorback Handicap (G3).
The Azeri drew a field of seven fillies and mares that will go 1 1/16 miles. The morning line favorite at 7-5 is Close Hatches, who makes her first start since running second to Beholder in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) last November at Santa Anita. Her main rival will be On Fire Baby, who has won two of her three starts over the Oaklawn Park main track including last year’s Apple Blossom (G1).
The Razorback Handicap drew a field of seven, with the Asmussen trainee Called to Serve the 5-2 morning line favorite. The gelding is making his first start since running third in last year’s Santa Anita Handicap (G1).
Baffert will saddle Govenor Charlie (3-1) who was second in the Strub (G2) in his first start off an eight-month layoff. Taptowne (3-1) is coming off a win in the Swatara, and the Todd Pletcher trained Golden Lad (9-2) comes into the race off a three straight wins at Gulfstream Park against optional claimers and makes his stakes debut.
All of the stakes action for Oaklawn Park will be included in Saturday’s Best Plays Report.
Let’s head out to Hot Springs for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Oaklawn Park Race 10 The Rebel G2 Post time 6:04 CT
4 Strong Mandate 2-1
5 Hoppertunity 10-1
3 Tapiture 9-5
8 Kobe’s Back 7-2
Analysis: Strong Mandate was sent off at even money in the Southwest (G3) which was his first start since running third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last November. The colt broke from the outside and was in some traffic on the first turn, made a good middle move and was five wide on the far turn and was no match for Tapiture in the late stages while six lengths clear of the rest of the field. Jockey Joel Rosario should be able to work out a better trip from his post today and the colt should be fitter for his second start off a 3 1/2 month break.
As a juvenile, the colt won the Hopeful (G1) in the mud at Saratoga going seven furlongs and then was not a factor in the Champagne (G1). The colt has a nice pedigree, out of the multiple stakes winner Clear Mandate ($1.08 million) who has dropped a few nice runners including stakes winner Newfoundland ($677,534) and Full Mandate ($192,923). Trainer D. Wayne Lukas won this race last year with Will Take Charge, who was sixth in the Southwest as his prep.
Hoppertunity ships in from the west coast for the Bob Baffert barn that won this race three years in a row from 2010 to 2012 with Lookin At Lucky, The Factor and Secret Circle. This colt broke his maiden in his second career start and then shipped to Fir Grounds for the Risen Star (G2) but the colt was caught out wide the entire trip in a fourth place finish. He was out about six wide and drifted a few paths in the stretch.
The colt draws a better spot and should be closer to the front in this spot. The colt is a half to stakes winner Executiveprivilege ($999,000). The $300,000 Keeneland purchase figures to get a better trip today and the 10-1 morning line looks generous.
Tapiture capped off his juvenile campaign by winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) over the Churchill Downs main track and came back off a 2 1/2 month break with a sharp win in the Southwest, winning by 4 1/4 lengths. The colt earned a career top speed fig in the effort but did get a very good trip that day.
The winner of this race has exited the Southwest in six of the last 10 runnings, but is this guy really offering much value if he goes off near his 9-5 morning line? We’ll try to beat him for the top spot here.
Kobe’s Back ships in from Southern California for the John Sadler barn. The colt bounced back from his drubbing in the CashCall Futurity (G1) with a sharp win in the San Vicente (G2) going seven furlongs, which was his first start on conventional dirt. He did not beat a real tough group that day but drew off to win rather easily and won by 5 1/4 lengths.
Rosario is sticking with our top pick, but this colt certainly looks capable of moving forward as he stretches back out to two turns. The 2011 Rebel winner The Factor exited the San Vicente. Sadler is 19% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners form sprint to route. The colt is a half to sprint stakes winner Well Spelled ($357,260).
WIN: #4 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 4,5 / 3,4,5,8
TRI: 4,5 / 3,4,5,8 / 3,4,5,7,8
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