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Odds-on Favorite Timberlake Topples Foes in Rebel

Maybe he was dancing, not drifting in the stretch.

That would be Timberlake, who made a triumphant 3-year-old debut with an impressive victory over Common Defense in Saturday’s $1.25 million Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

Timberlake is now a serious Derby contender after his Rebel win

“Kind of” named for singer Justin Timberlake, the 4-5 favorite was guided five-wide by jockey Cristian Torres rounding the far turn, took charge in the stretch and, after drifting out, was quickly corrected and cruised home by two lengths.

The win in Timberlake’s first race since finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on Nov. 3 was worth 50 Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying points and moved him to the top of the leaderboard with 66 points – all but clinching a spot in the Derby field limited to 20 horses.

The winning time for the 1 1/16 miles over a fast track was 1:44.00

McPeek’s Horses Excel: Northern Flame and Common Defense Secure Key Derby Points

It was also a big day for trainer Ken McPeek, who sent out the runner-up and third-place finisher Northern Flame. Common Defense lame picked up 25 Derby points (up to 27 total for 5th place) and Nothern Flame added 15 (up to 18 total for 14th place).

Woodcourt was fourth (10 points), followed by Dimatic (5 points), Carbone, Just Steel, Next Level, Lagynos, Magic Grant, Mena, and Tejon Pass.

Timberlake’s Sprint to Success: Final Preparations for the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass

A final prep remains for Timberlake ($3.60 for a $2 win bet), either the Arkansas Derby (G1) on March 30 or the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland on April 6, according to Elliott Walden of Timberlake owner WinStar.

“He’s matured. He was a bit nervous and keen in a couple of his races, but today he just settled in behind the speed and when Cristian called on him …’’ Walden said. “We love to see that progression.”

Asked if the horse is named for the singer, Walden replied: “Kind of. We saw the name and loved the name and thought if he were a good horse, it would just really be a great story.”

Timberlake, a son of Into Mischief, was purchased for $350,000 at the 2022 Keeneland sale, and is trained by Brad Cox, who has multiple Derby contenders.

Cox called Timberlake a “big time” horse in the days leading up to the race, and the bay colt delivered to improve to 6-3-1-0 and earnings of $1,094,350. He broke his maiden at second asking by 9 ¼ lengths, followed by a second in the Hopeful (G1) and a victory in the Champagne (G1). He posted five solid workouts at the Fair Grounds since Jan. 20.

The Derby picture should become more focused next week when four preps are on tap: the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park; the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct; the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita – each with qualifying points of 50-25-15-10-5; and the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park (G3), with a sliding scale of 20-10-6-4-2 to the first five finishers.


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