Saturday’s 10th race at Oaklawn Park will be the $900,000 Rebel Stakes. A field of 11 3yr olds will run 1-1/16 miles around 3 turns with the winner accumulating 50 Derby points. Bob Baffert has won 6 of the last 8 Rebels including American Pharoah’s 2015 triumph.
Oaklawn Park’s dirt course has seen 34% wire to wire winners at this distance with the inside post positions being advantageous.
The pace of this race will be tough to gauge. Several of the classy hopefuls have shown speed but as we progress toward the classic distance of 1-1/4 mile, many of them will be schooled to sit just off the pace. Baffert’s morning line favorite Solomini and D. Wayne Lukas’ Sporting Chance have shown the best pace figures but I don’t foresee either one actually on the lead. I see the longer odds types like 30-1 Pryor or 8-1 Title Ready being on the engine.
Solomini is making his 2018 debut after a crossing the wire first in the Los Alamitos Futurity and being DQ’d to 3rd. His last 2 efforts have both earned speed figures superior to the rest of the field and he has finished in front of the likes of Bolt D’oro and McKinzie. With a 3-2 morning line Solomini is the one to beat but I will hope he needs a tightener.
Steve Asmussen trained Title Ready will be making his graded stake debut coming off of an impressive allowance victory where he made a definitive step forward, posting a career best speed figure. Todd Pletcher’s Magnum Moon will try to keep his perfect 2-2 lifetime record intact with Luis Saez aboard. It is noteworthy that Pletcher’s go-to money rider, John Velazquez, will not be on Magnum Moon, but will be riding for D. Wayne Lukas on 5-1 morning line Sporting Chance.
In my quest for long shots I landed on 12-1 morning line High North. Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Gary Stevens, he was 5th in his 2018 bow, the G2 Risen Star which should serve as a nice prep for this outing. But the key is his 4th place finish 2 starts back in the 2017 Kentucky Jockey Club where he had a troubled trip and still finished 4th, beaten only 5 lengths after being shuffled to the back of the pack. What makes this race special is how so many of the combatants moved forward coming out of it. Enticed came back to win the Gotham, Promises Fulfilled won The Fountain of Youth, Reride won The Mine That Bird Derby, Quip won the Tampa Bay Derby, and Bravazo won the Risen Star.
I will take a chance that High North will make the necessary move forward and earn the 50 Derby points. Let’s hope for the 12-1 morning line and play High North for the win.