Rebel Stakes Betting Odds: Derby Prep Preview
His imposing physique and blueblood pedigree stamped him with star potential, and he’s named for a champion.
The four-legged Nadal made an immediate impression on Bob Baffert, who considered him one of his best 2-year-olds. That was before Nadal’s career almost ended before it began.
The dark bay colt was lucky to avoid a serious injury in a trailer on the way from Los Alamitos last spring.
“I don’t know how he did it, but he got his hind leg over the divider, and he could have broken it,” Baffert said. “We had to stop on him and give him time to recover, and that’s why he didn’t run last year. But the time off did him good.”
Rebel Stakes Betting Odds: Nadal Is Favorite
Nadal justified his $700,000 purchase price in eye-catching wins at 6½ furlongs in a maiden special and at 7 furlongs in the San Vicente Stakes (G2), both at Santa Anita. The son of Blame and the Pulpit mare Ascending Angel will step up in class and distance Saturday at Oaklawn Park in 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes (G2). He drew the rail in a field of eight and will race without blinkers for the first time.
“We’re pretty excited about him. We know he’s really good,” Baffert said, “but he’ll have to prove it to me.”
The field for the $1 million Rebel, from the rail out:
- Silver Prospector
- No Parole
- Three Technique
- Coach Bahe
- American Theorem
Besides Nadal, only Silver Prospector and Basin, both trained by Steve Asmussen, have a graded-stakes win. Silver Prospector has two, including the 1 1/16-mile Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn, and shapes up as Nadal’s main competition.
Three Technique, owned by two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells, and undefeated Louisiana-bred No Parole look like the best of the others.
Nadal is very fast but doesn’t need the lead, and he proved he could win a fight in the San Vicente. Baffert was grinning that day as he spoke to jockey Joel Rosario in the winner’s circle. So was co-owner George Bolton.
“I’m extremely happy with what happened,” Bolton said. “I hope Rafael Nadal is just as proud of him as I am today.”
Rebel Stakes Betting Odds: Qualifying Points
The San Vicente awarded no Kentucky Derby qualifying points, so Nadal needs to win (50 points) or run second (20) in Arkansas to get into good position on the list. He’s part of Baffert’s six-horse cavalry troop on the Triple Crown trail. The others are points leader Authentic (60), Thousand Words (25), Azul Coast (14), Eight Rings (10) and Charlatan (0).
Baffert owns the Rebel, in which he’s 6-for-12 with three seconds the past 10 years. In 2015, he used it to launch American Pharoah’s Triple Crown sweep.
Like Baffert, Southern California-based handicapper Jeff Siegel has an uncanny ability to assess young horses. Siegel was on board from the start with Baffert’s 2018 Triple Crown hero, Justify, and he’s been a Nadal fan since his Jan. 19 debut. His reaction: “This colt could be any kind.”
Here’s Siegel’s take on Nadal on his xbtv.com blog:
“Won his debut with a stakes-quality speed figure; returned three weeks later in the San Vicente, overcoming severe pressure and torrid early fractions to find the necessary energy to win; bred to stay the Derby trip; strong, powerful colt can handle hard training if that’s what it takes.”
Baffert doesn’t baby his horses, especially when trying to make up for lost time. Rushing Justify paid off as he became the first Derby winner since Apollo in 1882 that didn’t race at 2.
Nadal tuned up for the Rebel with a sharp 5 furlongs in 59.60 seconds Sunday at Santa Anita. He left his workmate far behind on the gallop out, so he should be wired to run inspired.
“We’re laying foundation,” Baffert said. “We’re basically running him into shape like I did with Justify. He could easily be that kind of horse. I don’t know about that, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”