Road to the Kentucky Derby: Rebel Stakes
The Road to the Kentucky Derby stops at Oaklawn Park this week for the Rebel Stakes and a hefty $1 million purse.
The Rebel, which drew a field of 11, is a 100-point race, with 50 awarded to the winner, enough to earn entry into the Kentucky Derby field. The points distribution is 20-15-10-5 for second through fifth place.
The Rebel is the third of four Derby points races at the Hot Springs, Ark., track, culminating with the Arkansas Derby on April 1.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who has won the Rebel eight times, is technically without a horse in the field this year. His Sham Stakes winner Reincarnate was recently transferred to the barn of Tim Yakteen because Baffert horses are ineligible to collect Derby points because of his suspension from Churchill Downs.
Four-time Rebel-winning trainer Steve Asmussen — who on Feb. 20 became the first trainer in North American horse racing history to win 10,000 races — has three entries in the Rebel. Powerful, Red Route One and Gun Pilot will start next to each other in posts 2 through 4.
Trainer Brad Cox, who is dominating the Derby prep scene in the Midwest, has two horses in the Rebel, including morning-line favorite Verifying and Giant Mischief.
The road to the Derby began in September 2022 and continues through April 15. The top 20 point qualifiers earn automatic entry into the 149th Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs.
The Rebel is the lone Derby points prep race this week. The action picks up significantly next week with four Derby points races on the schedule.
Date: Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023
Track: Oaklawn Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Distance: 1 1/16 mile
Purse: $1 million
Rebel Stakes Field
Rebel Stakes Analysis
The 11-horse Rebel field includes the second and third-place finishers (Red Route One, Frosted Departure) from the Southwest Stakes, the prep for this race, yet both are double-digit long shots on the morning line.
Instead, trainer Brad Cox, whose horses have already won five Derby points races in the past two months, will likely have the betting favorite in Verifying and another solid contender in lightly-raced Giant Mischief.
Eight of the 11 horses in the field are stakes placed, making this a competitive and attractive betting race.
The last Rebel winner to win the Kentucky Derby was American Pharoah in 2015, who went on to win the Triple Crown. Last year’s Rebel was shockingly won by 75-1 long shot Un Ojo, the biggest price on the board. Un Ojo would miss the Kentucky Derby with a foot injury.
Rebel Stakes Selections
1. Giant Mischief spotted the field five lengths after blowing the start in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park last time out on Dec. 17, but still rallied to finish second, the first loss of his three-race career. Solid speed figures and trainer Brad Cox brings in top East Coast jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride. Will be rallying from mid-pack in a race that appears to have an ample amount of early speed.
2. Frosted Departure is typically sent off at long odds and usually overachieves. His third in the Southwest (at 46-1) last month was better than it looked. He engaged winner Arabian Knight (considered perhaps the leading Derby prospect) most of the way around before fading late. The outside post doesn’t help and the 1 1/16-mile distance is as far as he wants to run, but he’s worth a look at his 20-1 morning-line odds.
3. A fast early pace would benefit Red Route One, a late-running colt who rallied from last to finish second, two lengths ahead of Frosted Departure, in the Southwest. He’s interesting at double-digit odds. The issue is just one win in six career races, and his closing style can lead to traffic problems.
Of the rest, the well-bred Verifying ran a career-high speed figure last time out on Lasix. He’ll need to repeat that performance without Lasix this time and may be worth taking a shot against at low odds. Reincarnate, recently transferred to trainer Tim Yakteen from Bob Baffert, will be part of the early mix and could be dangerous if left alone on the lead.
Rebel Stakes Betting Strategy
Win bets on Giant Mischief and Frosted Departure. Box those two in the exacta and on top of Red Route One. For trifectas, key Giant Mischief on top and Red Route One second and third with Frosted Departure, Verifying, Reincarnate and Gun Pilot filling the remaining spots.
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