Friday, March 18, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Rebel Stakes (G2)

Can Baffert Strike Again in the Rebel?

By Paul Mazur of Picks & Ponderings at ChicagoNow

This year's edition of the Rebel Stakes offers a purse of $900,000 (an increase of $150,000 over last year's edition), as well as Road to the Kentucky Derby points (50-20-10-5) to the horses placed first through fourth.  The Rebel is the third of Oaklawn's four Kentucky Derby prep races.  The listed Smarty Jones Stakes and the Southwest Stakes (GIII) come before it, with the Arkansas Derby (GI) still to come.  The Rebel Stakes has been remarkably consistent through its history, as races go: since being instituted in 1961 it has always been restricted to three-year-olds, and has always been run at 1 1/16 miles.

Three winners of the Rebel Stakes have eventually won the Kentucky Derby.  American Pharoah (2015) kicked off his three-year-old campaign last year with a facile victory in the Rebel, and won the Arkansas Derby even more easily.  The rest of the story goes almost without saying: he won the first Triple Crown in 37 years, the Haskell, the Breeders' Cup Classic, and the title of Horse of the Year.  Sunny's Halo (1983) made his three-year-old debut in the Rebel Stakes, won it, then annexed both the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby.  2004 Champion Three Year Old Male Smarty Jones (2004) swept the Southwest, the Rebel, and the Arkansas Derby before winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.  Beyond American Pharoah, one other Rebel winner has finished his season as Horse of the Year: Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Curlin (2007).  Other than those two and Smarty Jones, three other Rebel Stakes winners have also ended their year as Champion Three Year Old Male: Belmont winner Temperence Hill (1980), Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky (2010), and late-season dynamo Will Take Charge (2013).

Race 10: Rebel Stakes (G2), three-year-olds, one and one sixteenth miles on the dirt, post time 6:06 CDT

Death, taxes, and Bob Baffert winning the Rebel Stakes.  Since 2010, Baffert has won five of the last six renewals of the Rebel and has a chance to become this race's leading trainer outright at six victories with a win.  CUPID is Baffert's hope, and CUPID scratched out of the San Felipe Stakes that Danzing Candy took control of and asserted himself as a top three-year-old.  So CUPID ships to Oaklawn with hopes at grabbing his fair share of the nine hundred grand in the Rebel.  

What CUPID will get is a pace to chase into - someone in the fourteen horse field will go to the front and it projects to be AMERICAN DUBAI or SIDING SPRING.  If you find those names familiar, they were the pace controllers in the Southwest - the lead-in to this race.  Given that there could be an overreaction of pace and the race could have dawdling fractions, CUPID did close into :48 4/5 and 1:13 interior fraction when graduating - a full one to two seconds slower than the Southwest.  Even though it's not the same surface, the is that if CUPID is fine if an honest pace materializes or if it doesn't.  Martin Garcia comes east to ride. 

 SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS turned in a nifty rally to that solid pace last time in the Rebel and returns in this spot.  He certainly makes sense in this field, and stands to be favored off solid humans and that Southwest score.  In a prep season that has seen more chalk than a calculus lecture, SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS has the figures, form, and performance to be the wagering favorite and that - if you believe trends hold - makes him worth playing.  So does winning a similar race a month ago.  A double digit post is no picnic, but he did come from the parking lot in the Southwest and a carbon copy of his effort can defeat this bunch.  Quite usable for the multi-race wagers but that post makes this space a bit less bullish.  

 MADTAP might just get the coziest trip of all in the Rebel Stakes.  He locked horns in the early stages of his allowance race last time out and despite a wide trip, still coasted home to an easy score.  The Rebel will be the first time in stakes company for MADTAP, who is brought to you by the Winchell/Asmussen owner/trainer team that have had success here before with Untappable (2015 Apple Blossom) and Tapiture (2014 Southwest).  Why not another one, who - like the prior stakes winner - has Tapit as a sire.  There is an upward progression of speed figures with MADTAP and another step forward makes him a player.





Longshot:  #11 CUTACORNER was 23-1 in the Southwest Stakes and stands to be in that neighborhood again.  His Southwest was a nightmare of a trip where he was five wide into the first turn and affected by Z ROYAL taking up.  CUTACORNER gets a rider switch to Alex Birzer in the Rebel Stakes, and this Jack Van Berg trainee has brought his wide rallies each time in his late two-year-old and early three-year-old starts.  Sometimes it works (two back in an N2L), sometimes it doesn't.  The team hits at 50% in the money in the last two months.  This space is giving a second chance, and the odds will make a flutter on a "trip notes horse" worthwhile.


$7 Trifecta 3, 7, 14 / 3, 7, 14 / 3, 7, 11, 14 ($84)

$1 Exacta 3, 7, 14 / 3, 7, 11, 14  ($9)

$7 Win #3 ($7)

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