The $1 million, Grade 2 Rebel Stakes Saturday at Oaklawn Park attracted 11 horses vying to earn qualifying points for the 2023 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. The Rebel offers 50 points to the winner, and 20-15-10-5 to the next four finishers, and it is also Oaklawn’s prep for the all-important Arkansas Derby on April 1.
Leading the field in Kentucky Derby points to date is Red Route One, who finished second in his first race of the year last month in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, bringing his total to 13 points. Frosted Departure finished two lengths behind Red Route One when third in the Southwest to earn six points. Another recent top performer in a stakes race is Reincarnate, who has been transferred from trainer Bob Baffert to Tim Yakteen after the colt won the Grade 3 Sham Stakes. Reincarnate did not earn any points because of Churchill Downs’ current suspension of Baffert. Similarly, Giant Mischief rallied from last of nine to gain second in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes when last seen in December, but he didn’t garner any points because he raced on Lasix. Recent Lecomte Stakes third-place finisher Confidence Game hopes to improve and add to his total to date of seven points. Verifying finished second in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes last October in only the second start of his career (to earn four points) before mustering a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance; the colt then returned for an easy win last month. Powerful won the Ed Brown Stakes, a sprint race, when last seen near the end of September and is trying two turns for the first time Saturday. Gun Pilot, who just won an allowance level race three weeks ago at Oaklawn, is one of three horses trained by Steve Asmussen (Powerful and Red Route One are the others). Asmussen recently became the first trainer in history to reach the milestone of 10,000 career wins in North America. Bourbon Bash was second in the race won by Gun Pilot and third in the Renaissance Stakes (won by Frosted Departure) prior to that. Two horses – Event Detail and Talladega – recently earned their first wins and step up into graded stakes for the first time for the Rebel, but both have exceptional breeding and should be considered contenders in this very deep and talented field.
Main win contenders:
Although he has just a maiden win to his credit, Event Detail has a lot of factors on his side coming into this year’s Rebel Stakes. He is sired by 2018 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light, who has his first crop of 3-year-olds racing this year and who has produced 13 different winning horses from just 45 to hit the track to date, including three stakes winners. Perhaps better than that, the colt’s dam is a daughter of tremendous sire Into Mischief out of a mare by Seattle Dancer, a half-brother to Hall of Famer Seattle Slew who sired 37 stakes winners. Of course pedigree is meaningless until a horse proves itself on the track, which this colt has done. Entered in nothing more than a sprint prep in his debut, Event Detail finished sixth, but when sent two turns for the first time on Turfway Park’s synthetic main track he rallied impressively from 11th of 12 in the early stages to finish second. The 98 Equibase Speed Figure earned at the time (on Jan. 1) was strong, compared to the same figure Red Route One earned when second in the Southwest Stakes four weeks later and the 103 figure Sham Stakes winner Reincarnate earned one week later. Event Detail showed physical and mental improvement four weeks after that when he won easily by 2 ¾ lengths at Turfway, improving to a 99 figure which could have been higher. Having saved something for this race, and in the hands of trainer Paulo Lobo, who won nearly 25% of his races in 2022, Event Detail could show a new dimension and post the upset win at morning-line odds of 30-1 as he will be fairly ignored by many bettors given he is moving from a maiden race into this Grade 2 stakes.
Verifying showed he belongs with the best in his division last fall when in only the second start of his career he rallied to lead late in the Champagne Stakes before settling for second. That effort earned a 92 figure which was pretty strong for a 2-year-old at that time of year. Five weeks later, the colt didn’t run nearly as well when sixth of 10 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he apparently matured both physically and mentally over the early winter because his return to the races last month was notable. In that two-turn race at Oaklawn – serving as a tune-up for the Rebel – Verifying stalked the pacesetter for the first three-quarters of a mile and then took over with ease, kicking clear by 5 ¼ lengths. The 102 figure earned stacks up nicely with the field-high 103 last-race figure earned by Reincarnate when winning the Sham Stakes six days earlier, and it is likely to be bettered given Verifying is making his second start of the year. Also notable is his pedigree, as Verifying is by Triple Crown winner Justify, out of the mare Diva Delite, making him a half-brother to champion Midnight Bisou. That champion earned $7.4 million and had a fantastic campaign as a 3-year-old in 2018, winning the Santa Anita Oaks and finishing third in the Longines Kentucky Oaks.
Reincarnate broke his maiden on Nov. 25 in his second two-turn race on dirt, earning a 95 figure, and he bettered that number significantly winning the Sham Stakes on Jan. 8, earning a 103 figure. This colt also has tremendous breeding to be on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, as he is from the first 3-year-old crop of Good Magic, who won the 2018 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes before a runner-up effort in the Derby that year. Good Magic also won the Betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes that summer and so far, among his eight foals to race in stakes, four have won including Reincarnate. Looking at the pattern of improving figures, from 87 to 90 to 92 to 95 to 103, it is logical to conclude Reincarnate can continue to improve and may be a strong factor in this year’s Rebel Stakes.
Giant Mischief has to get honorable mention in my opinion. He has two wins and one runner-up effort in three races to date and he’s a son of tremendous sire Into Mischief. His trainer is Brad Cox, who also trains Verifying and who saddled Angel of Empire to win the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Lincoln and Lamarque Crescent City Ford last week. In only the second start of his career last November, Giant Mischief earned a field-high 105 figure when winning a seven furlong race in tenacious fashion. Following that, he rallied mid-race from ninth to get within a neck of the lead in the two-turn Springboard Mile, running fairly evenly thereafter but still second at the end in a fine effort (with a 98 figure) which portends good things in his 3-year-old campaign.
Another horse which could be a contender is Red Route One, who rallied strongly from last of eight to finish second to a horse in Arabian Knight who could not be caught in the late stages of the Southwest Stakes last month. In doing so, the colt earned a career best 98 figure and he could improve off that effort in his second start as a 3-year-old.
The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is Bourbon Bash (90), Confidence Game (97), Frosted Departure (94), Gun Pilot (93), Powerful (83) and Talladega (89).
John R. Velazquez
SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Masterson, Robert E., Stonestreet Stables LLC, Schoenfarber, Jay A., Waves Edge Capital LLC and Donovan, Catherine
Woods Edge Farm, LLC