By Margaret Ransom
Maybe it’s the $1 million purse or maybe it’s the race’s reputation as a solid Triple Crown prep, but the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park has fast become one of the more anticipated Kentucky Derby preps of the year.
The Rebel is the second leg of the Oaklawn 3-year-old stakes program, the first being the Southwest won by the Bob Baffert-trained Newgrange three weeks ago. The third is Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 2.
In addition to American Pharoah, some Rebel winners since it was first run in 1961 include Smarty Jones, Lookin at Lucky, Curlin, Victory Gallop, Pine Bluff, Sunny’s Halo and Temperence Hill. Other notables include Bold Ego, Vanlandingham, Demons Begone, Lawyer Ron, The Factor, Will Take Charge, and Omaha Beach/Long Range Toddy in two divisions in 2019, and Nadal/Charlatan in two divisions in 2020.
Sunny’s Halo, Smarty Jones and American Pharoah each won the Rebel and the Kentucky Derby. Rebel winners Temperence Hill (1980) and Victory Gallop (1998) went on to win the Belmont Stakes (G1), while Pine Bluff (1992) and Curlin (2007) won the Preakness (G1).
Originally run as Rebel Handicap, the 1961 Louisiana Derby winner Bass Clef took home the inaugural running before going on to finish third in the Kentucky Derby behind Carry Back. The race was changed to be contested under stakes conditions in 1984 and has been held at 1 1/16 miles since. It has been at least a Grade 3 since 2003.
Southern California-based and two-time Triple Crown-winning Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who sends out Newgrange on Saturday as the 9-5 favorite, virtually owns the Rebel. He’s won it eight times in the past 12 years.
Once again, the Rebel offers Derby qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 basis to the first four finishers. Should Newgrange win, the winner’s points would go unclaimed since Baffert is suspended by Churchill Downs.
The Saturday weather is expected to be cold in Hot Springs with a slight chance of rain and highs hovering around 40.
Post time is 6:22 p.m. ET.
The field for the Rebel, with riders, trainers and morning- line odds:
- Kavod (Francisco Arrieta, Chris Hartman), 12-1
Lea-Weekend Connection, by Pulpit
Violence-Bella Chianti, by Empire Maker
- Cairama (Geovanni Franco, Steve Asmussen), 15-1
Cairo Prince-Sadie Be Good, by Big Drama
- Un Ojo (Ramon Vazquez, Ricky Courville), 12-1
Laoban-Risk a Chance, by A.P. Indy
- Texas Red Hot (Ricard Santana, Jr., Randy Morse), 12-1
Texas Red-Ainsley, by Officer
- Stellar Tap (Christian Torres, Steve Asmussen), 10-1
Tapit-Gioia Stella, by Medaglia d’Oro
- Ben Diesel (Jon Court, Dallas Stewart), 6-1
Will Take Charge-Girls Secret, by Giant’s Causeway
- Chasing Time (Tyler Gaffalione, Steve Asmussen), 8-1
Not This Time-Race Hunter, by Dixie Union
- Barber Road (Reylu Gutierrez, John Ortiz), 9-2
Race Day-Encounter, by Southern Image
- Ethereal Road (Luis Contreras, D. Wayne Lukas), 12-1
Quality Road-Sustained, by War Front
- Dash Attack (David Cohen, Kenny McPeek), 8-1
Munnings-Cerce Cay, by Hard Spun
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.