Derby Prep Primer: Rebel Stakes

By Margaret Ransom

Omaha Beach – Photo courtesy of Oaklawn Park

The talented and undefeated Nadal, who shipped in from California for his first start around two turns, faces off against seven other 3-year-odls in the 60th year of the Rebel Stakes, Oaklawn Park’s traditional prep for the meet’s signature event – the Arkansas Derby (G1).

The talented son of Blame, who won the San Vicente (G3) will lead the field to post in his first start away from his home base of Santa Anita after two victories.

A year ago, as racing in Southern California reached crisis level thanks to a staggering number of horses injured and euthanized at Santa Anita, the ripple effects were being felt throughout the thoroughbred industry. Not only was all training and racing suspended for weeks at the West Coast track, the San Felipe (G2) – a major Kentucky Derby (G1) prep race – also was canceled, derailing the plans for the connections of a number of main contenders on the road to the Derby.

Without missing a beat, though, Oaklawn Park officials stepped up and decided they would help and offered a solution – split the Rebel, up the $1 million purse so each division was worth $800,000 and worked with Churchill Downs to keep Derby qualifying points competitive.  And they were rewarded with a pair of nice winners in Omaha Beach, who ended up winning the Arkansas Derby (G1) before being scratched as the Derby favorite two days out; and Long Range Toddy, who while not as famous or successful carries some solid connections and is back in training for a 2020 debut.

Maybe it’s the rich purse, or the race’s reputation as a solid Triple Crown prep (after all, American Pharoah won the Rebel before his Triple Crown run in 2015) or that many of the top contenders are separated by only a handful of points. But there’s little doubt that the Rebel has fast become one of the most anticipated Derby preps.

This year, back to normal, the 1 1/16-mile event offers qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to the first four finishers.

In addition to American Pharoah and Omaha Beach, some really good horses have taken home the Rebel trophy. Since it was first contested in 1961, we’ve seen classic winners and/or champions Smarty Jones, Lookin At Lucky, Curlin, Victory Gallop, Pine Bluff, Sunny’s Halo and Temperence Hill win, just to name a few. Other notables include Bold Ego, Vanlandingham, Demons Begone, Lawyer Ron, The Factor and Will Take Charge.

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert has owned the Rebel this decade, saddling the winner six times in the past 10 years (Lookin At Lucky, 2010; The Factor, 2011; Secret Circle, 2012; Hoppertunity, 2014; American Pharoah, 2015; and Cupid, 2016). Hall of Famer Mike Smith has ridden five winners to lead all jockeys (Rare Brick, 1986; Dalhart, 1993; Etbauer, 1999; Hoppertunity, 1994; and Omaha Beach, 2019).

The Saturday weather is expected to be wet and cool in Hot Springs, with rain and thunderstorms probable and a high near 60. A wet track can be counted on all day.

The field for the Rebel, with jockey, trainers and odds:

Derby Prep Primer: Rebel Stakes

Horse Odds Jockey Trainer Breeding
1. Nadal 9/2 J. Rosario B. Baffert Blame—Ascending Angel, by Pulpit
2. Excession 30/1 T. Baze S. Asmussen Union Rags—Draw It, by Tapit
3. Basin 3/1 J. Castellano S. Asmussen Liam’s Map—Appenzell, by Johannesburg
4. Silver Prospector 9/2 R. Santana S. Asmussen Declaration of War—Tap Softly, by Tapit
5. No Parole 8/1 J. Talamo T. Amoss Violence—Plus One, by Bluegrass Cat
6. Three Technique 7/2 L. Saez J. Englehart Mr Speaker—Nite in Rome, by Harlan’s Holiday
7. Coach Bahe 30/1 S. Sanjur P. Bauer Take Charge Indy—Bauble, by Tale of the Cat
8. American Theorem 6/1 T. Pereira G. Papaprodromou American Pharoah—Mighty Renee, by Maria’s Mon

The Rebel has a 5:23 p.m. CT post time.

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters, Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager. She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several race horse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull as her favorite horse of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, three Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.