HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – It would hardly feel like a Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park without the presence of a horse trained by Bob Baffert, who has won the Kentucky Derby prep race five times dating back to 2010, most notably last year with eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah
Cupid carries the hopes of Baffert in the Grade 2, $900,000 renewal of the Rebel on Saturday. He was one of 14 horses entered Wednesday in the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds. Oaklawn has a maximum gate of 14, while its tote board manages 12 interests, and as such, Creator and Madtap will be coupled for trainer Steve Asmussen, as will Z Royal and Gray Sky for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
The Rebel will share a card with the Grade 2, $350,000 Azeri, led by the champion mare Untapable, and the Grade 3, $350,000 Razorback Handicap, led by Upstart. The three races are worth a total of $1.6 million and make for the second-most-significant program of the meet behind Arkansas Derby Day on April 16.
Cupid will break from post 3 in the Rebel under Martin Garcia. He enters off a 5 1/4-length maiden special weight win last month at Santa Anita. Cupid was making his two-turn debut in his third career start. He is a $900,000 son of Tapit who races for Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith.
Cupid arrived Tuesday aboard a flight from Southern California that also brought Hopeful Stakes winner Ralis for the Rebel. Sudeenbreakingnews the winner of last month’s Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest Stakes, is also part of the Rebel lineup and will break from post 14. The first four finishers Saturday will earn eligibility points for the Kentucky Derby on a sliding scale of 50-20-10-5.
The complete field for the Rebel from the rail, with riders, is Creator, Ricardo Santana Jr.; Ralis, Mario Gutierrez; Cupid, Garcia; Discreetness, Jon Court; Siding Springs, Joe Rocco Jr.; Spikes Shirl, Jesus Castanon; Madtap, Corey Nakatani; American Dubai, Chris Landeros; Z Royal, Ramon Vazquez; Gray Sky, Florent Geroux; Cutacorner, Alex Birzer; Whitmore, Irad Ortiz Jr.; Cherry Wine, Corey Lanerie; and Suddenbreakingnews, Luis Quinonez.
In an equipment change, Z Royal will remove blinkers on Saturday.
The Rebel is scheduled as the 10th race on an 11-race program at 6:06 p.m. Central. Forecasts call for a high of 58 degrees and a 20 percent chance of precipitation, according to The Weather Channel. Oaklawn will open its infield, weather permitting, according to track representative Jennifer Hoyt.
In the Azeri, Untapable will launch her 5-year-old season from post 7 in a field of eight fillies and mares that includes Kyriaki, Sarah Sis, and Call Pat. Geroux has the mount on Untapable.
Upstart will begin his 4-year-old season in the Razorback as the 120-pound highweight against nine others, including Idolo Porteno, the 2014 Horse of the Year in Argentina, and Far Right, Smack Smack, and Shotgun Kowboy. Upstart will break from post 8 under Joe Bravo.