When the gates start loading for the 54th running of The Rebel stakes (gr.2) there will be an 80% chance of rain and thunderstorms. Although we all know the weather can quickly change; the current forecast for Hot Springs Arkansas is slated for a very wet and humid weekend! Alas, weather can surely influence the outcome of a race and a sloppy- muddy track could definitely result in surprising results. With a much smaller field than originally anticipated, 8 sophomores will be taking a plunge in stretching out to 2-turns (some for the first time). With the end in mind; trainers/owners hope their young colts will thrive the added distance when stretching out to 2-turns. A victory will guarantee the winner a spot in the Kentucky Derby since only the top twenty 3-year olds will make it to the gate on the first Saturday in May.
|1||Jet Cat (TX)||30-1||J. McKee||C||115||E. Frederick|
|2||Ride On Curlin (KY)||12-1||K. Desormeaux||C||115||W. Gowan|
|3||Tapiture (KY)||9-5||R. Santana Jr.||C||122||S. Asmussen|
|4||Strong Mandate (KY)||2-1||J. Rosario||C||117||W. Lukas|
|5||Hoppertunity (KY)||10-1||M. Smith||C||115||B. Baffert|
|6||Sheltowee’s Boy (KY)||15-1||J. Navarro||G||115||C. Cox|
|7||Street Strategy (KY)||8-1||C. Borel||C||115||R. Morse|
|8||Kobe’s Back (KY)||7-2||J. Lezcano||C||115||J. Sadler|
Saturday, R10 Rebel Stakes (gr.2) Oaklawn Park $600,000 1/16Mile Dirt Post Time: 7:04 ET
The big question is who will be able handle an off track…especially if these young colts have not been asked before. The conventional wisdom is that early-speed horses have the advantage in the mud since they get out in front and discourage latecomers by kicking up a storm of mud in their faces. We just won’t know until they are put in the situation and we will find out who relishes the mud, and who just dislikes the surface. What I can tell you by looking at past performance is that there are 5 colts in this race that have experienced an off-track and a couple who have been victorious on a muddy-sealed and a sloppy-sealed track.
Back in September, Strong Mandate dominated in the Hopeful Stakes (gr.1) on a muddy-sealed track, winning by 9 ¾ lengths for Hall of Fame Trainer D. Wayne Lukas who won last year’s Rebel Stakes with Will Takes Charge. Top jockey Joel Rosorio will be on-board and has an impressive Tomlinson Wet-Rating of 417. In February in the Southwest Stakes (gr.3) at Oaklawn Park, Strong Mandate finished 4 ¼ lengths to Tapiture after a very troubled trip and hung wide nearly all the way around. In contrast, Tapiture had an ideal rail-skimming trip and easily won the race. A smaller field and breaking from post 4 we should be able to see what Strong Mandate is all about.
As stated by D. Wayne Lukas in an article with Bloodhorse.com :
“He’s the spitting image of his sire, actually,” Lukas said in reference to Tiznow. “I was around and watched his sire train all the time in California, and I think he looks exactly like him.”
Hopportunity’s morning line is an attractive 10/1 with a trainer angle that you can’t deny. Bob Baffert has won this race 3 straight years in a row (2010, 2011, 2012) and Hopportunity gets Jockey Mike Smith who has won this race in 1986, 1993, and 1999. He is 23% for jockey with route races, 25% for jockey/trainer combo, and 31% trainer: shipper. Since racing, Hopportunity will carry his lightest weight of 115. 7 pounds less than Tapiture. He finished 4th in the Risen Stakes but, had a very troubled trip. He hung very wide for most of the race and finally down the stretch his jockey snuck into an opening and started passing horses rallying for a strong 4th. With Mike Smith now onboard; this is a horse I wouldn’t leave out in my picks. Although he’s never run on an off-track, he has a Tomlinson wet-rating of 360.
Graded Stakes winner Tapiture has never ran a bad race. In his 2014 debut in the Southwest Stakes (gr.3), he beat Strong Mandate by 4 ¼ length. He has been improving in each of his race, and has the highest last race speed rating amongst his peers. He has won at this track, and has won twice at this distance. He will be carrying the highest weight at 122, and has a Tomlinson wet-rate of 413. Other things to consider: Hot % trainer, Hot % jockey, Hot Jockey/Trainer combo in the last 14 days ,and 21 % – 2nd off the layoff. Really hard to bet against.
Other colts worth mentioning is Ride on Curlin who was 3rd in the Southwest Stakes. He has won on a good track in the past and will be running 3rd off the layoff in The Rebel; which is an angle that I really like. Ride on Curlin’s last work on March 6th was at 7 furlongs. He has won at this track, and has a really good Tomlinson wet-rating of 408. He may be one of the colts that head straight to the front along side Street Strategy to set the pace; as others press closely behind them. Unfortunately he loses “Mr. Churchill Downs” jockey Calvin Borel who has chosen to ride Street Strategy:
NOTE** Beware of Calvin Borel aboard this Street Sense colt! Remember what happened back in Kentucky Derby 2007 with Calvin Borel aboard Street Sense? Check it out for yourself on YouTube .
One last horse that I’d like to mention is Sheltowee’s Boy. This will definitely be a long shot with a morning line of 15-1. I love the angle of running 3rd off the layoff. His Trainer gets 28% dirt Starts, 28% with winners last race, 27% routes . He’s also won at Oaklawn Park. Negative is he moves up in class from last race. His speed figures are not as good as others in the race, but he has won/place over a sloppy sealed track. His Tomlinson wet rate is 355.
California horse Kobe’s Back still has to prove he can stretch out to 2 turns. He has the pedigree that suggests that he’ll handle the added distance with no difficulty. He won the San Vicente very handily back in February. On his first attempt going 2-turns he finished 10th, but with good reason. He broke the widest of all that day, had clipped heels on the back side, and he almost went down. So I believe you can forgive him for that race. He had a very sharp bullet work at 6 furlongs on March 7th and I don’t believe he was shipped across country for nothing. I hate to see that he loses jockey Joel Rosario (who will be riding Strong Mandate), but gets Jose Lezcano. An angle I also like is a horse that stretches out from 7 furlongs to 1 1/16. He runs particularly well in turns, and has a Tomlinson’s wet-rating of 399. With the widest post and a closing style of running Jose Lezcano will have to get him more forwardly placed, and find a spot to settle in. A trip from the outside post as we have seen from other horses will not be easy. I’m also wondering is Kobe’s Back a dirt or synthetic horse? We shall see!
If the weather forecast does not change I will stick with my choice of Strong Mandate. He’s a long and lean horse and doesn’t seem to be bothered by an off-track as his high Tomlinson number suggests. My choices are a bit chalky but I will key him with Tapiture and Hoppertunity.
Cream will eventually rise to the top with these talented 3-year olds. Good Luck!
**Statistical information courtesy of Brisnet forms