Derby Trail Preview: Rebel (G2)

Today at Oaklawn, they run the Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel Stakes and it drew a strong field of 11, including several that come out of the strangely run Southwest Stakes.

Last month’s Southwest was run on a gold rail, which strongly aided the winner, My Boy Jack, and hurt several others.

Meanwhile, Solomini ships in from California for Bob Baffert in his first start after being DQ’d in the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity.

Let’s go through the field.

#1 Title Ready (8-1) – He steps up from an allowance win for Steve Asmussen. The 89 Beyer earned that day is not that far off what he’ll need here and that race was off a nine-week layoff. The speed horse he dueled with (and defeated) last time came back to run 2nd with the same 82 Beyer he earned that day. It’s also noteworthy that his return race, by far his best race, was the first time he wore blinkers. This is an interesting, improving runner that should be a good price.

#2 Curlin’s Honor (12-1) – He’s 2-2 for Mark Casse but both wins have come sprinting and he has to get a lot faster. He is by Curlin and there is some route quality in the pedigree (including four-time dirt route winner Swinger’s Honor), but he’ll have to take a big step forward on figures.

#3 Solimini (3-2) – He ran a good race in the Breeders Cup while forging a fast pace on the dead rail. His DQ in the Los Alamitos Futurity was a little suspect, and Bob Baffert seemingly wins with everything he sends to Oaklawn. The deserving favorite starts from Gate 3, but he’s not unbeatable and the Baffert-factor means he’s probably a bit overbet in a race that features some interesting alternatives.

#4 Magnum Moon (7-2) – One of the interesting alternatives is Magnum Moon, who won on debut and then an allowance for Todd Pletcher. He overwhelmed a field at Tampa at 1-10 without being asked while stretching out to two-turns for the first time. But again, in an open race, here’s a horse that is going to take a lot of money and is facing a very good field. We’d use him in a Pick-4 but prefer others.

#5 Higher Power (20-1) – He comes out of a January allowance win for Donnie K Von Hemel and will have to improve by about eight lengths to contend here. His best hope is for a pace collapse.

#6 Pryor (30-1) – He looks like a pace factor but is unlikely as fast early as either Solomini or Sporting Chance.

#7 Sporting Chance (5-1) – He is a very interesting entrant for D. Wayne Lukas. The Hopeful winner, he came back in the Southwest last month off a near seven-month layoff and was part of a pretty fast pace. While he was on the good rail for most of the race, he came off the rail late, and considering the layoff, ran a huge race. Can he take another step forward today? We say yes and prefer him to some of the other favorites, though he won’t be our top selection.

#8 High North (12-1) – He comes up from New Orleans where he ran in the Risen Star, a very slow-paced race that featured virtually no passing. High North did not do much running in that race on paper, but it was better than it looked because he was compromised by the lack of pace. His previous races aren’t much, but he was impacted by a fallen horse two back, was against a gold rail in his debut and wasn’t beating Avery Island who set a slowish pace on a wet track in the September 30th race. He will need a lot to happen to win the race, but we’ll use him underneath.

#9 Zing Zang (20-1) – You can put a line through his Southwest where he was wide against the gold rail. He didn’t run that poorly in the Lecomte but was fairly well beaten and we view his ceiling here as 3rd/4th.

#10 Combatant (8-1) – We’ve liked Combatant’s last two races. He was hurt by a very slow pace set by the late Mourinho two-back in the Smarty Jones and then last time had no chance against the gold rail, trying to make a big sweeping 5-wide move before flattening out late. He did save ground for some of the early running, but that wide move was not going to work on that track. His last two races are both much better than they look and we’ll take him today at hopefully around 5-1.

#11 Bode’s Maker (50-1) – He’s a major longshot that seems badly overmatched.

Pace – The one concern we have with Combatant is that the pace might not be that fast, which could lead him to lose some ground from the outside. That said, it should be solid enough with Sporting Chance and Solomini going and Magnum Moon and Curlin’s Honor pressing them along.

The Play – We’ll play Combatant to win and try some longshot exacta combinations using Combatant with Title Ready, High North, and Sporting Chance.

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