Rebel Stakes Carries a Rich Derby History for Arkansas

Maybe it’s the rich $1 million purse or maybe it’s the race’s reputation as a solid Triple Crown prep (after all, American Pharoah won the Rebel before his legendary run in 2015) but the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park has fast become one of the most anticipated Kentucky Derby preps all year.

Smarty Jones – Photo courtesy of Coady photography

The Rebel is the second leg of the Oaklawn 3-year-old stakes program, the first being the Southwest Stakes won by Mystik Dan three weeks ago, followed by the Arkansas Derby, set for March 30 this year.

Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah won the Rebel in 2015

In addition to American Pharoah, some really good horses have taken home the Rebel trophy over the years. Since it was first contested in 1961, we’ve seen classic winners and/or champions Smarty Jones, Lookin at Lucky, Curlin, Victory Gallop, Pine Bluff, Sunny’s Halo and Temperance Hill win, just to name a few. 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, Nadal in 2020, the one-eyed Un Ojo in 2022 and Confidence Game a year ago.

Sunny’s Halo, Smarty Jones and American Pharoah all won both the Rebel and the Kentucky Derby. Rebel winners Temperence Hill (1980) and Victory Gallop (1998) went on to win the Belmont Stakes (G1) in 1990, while Pine Bluff (1992) and Curlin (2007) both won the Preakness Stakes (G1).

Highlights from the Rebel’s Storied Past to Today’s Derby Path

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 virtually owns the Rebel, saddling the winner eight times in the past 12 years (Lookin at Lucky, 2010; The Factor, 2011; Secret Circle, 2012; Hoppertunity, 2014; American Pharoah, 2015; Cupid, 2016; Nadal, 2020; and Concert Tour, 2021). He did not send one East to Arkansas this year. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has ridden five winners to lead all jockeys (Rare Brick, 1986; Dalhart, 1993; Etbauer, 1999; Hoppertunity, 1994; and Omaha Beach, 2019).

Once again this year the Rebel offers Road to the Derby points on a 50-25-10-15-5 basis to the first five finishers under the wire.

The Saturday weather is expected to very warm in Hot Springs with zero chance of rain and highs in the mid-70s.

The Rebel has been carded as the day’s 11th race with a post time of 5:23 p.m. CT.


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