2015 Rebel Stakes Picks with Expert Betting Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 3/11/2015
We have been spoiled by some very good Kentucky Derby prep races so far this year, and the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on Saturday promises to be another. Unfortunately, it isn't going to be the epic, historical race that it was promising to be. For the first time since 1975, we were on track to see a showdown between the two-year-old champion filly and colt. Take Charge Brandi was injured on Tuesday morning, though, and will not only miss this race but also the Kentucky Oaks - or maybe the Derby if she had done really well here. American Pharoah is still here, though, so it is still a race to look forward to.
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Winning this race has led to a lot of success later in the spring. Since 1980 Temperence Hill, Sunny's Halo, Pine Bluff, Victory Gallop, Smarty Jones, Curlin and Lookin at Lucky have won this race and then gone on to win at least one Triple Crown race. Lawyer Ron and Will Take Charge also won both the Rebel and an Eclipse Award.
American Pharoah: Make no mistake, this race is all about the favorite. If he wins it will be what was expected. If he doesn't win we'll be forced to ask some serious questions. This is a huge race for the horse. Right now he is seen as one of the top horses in the Derby chase, but he won't still be if he doesn't win.
Even though he was the two-year-old champion, we haven't seen him run since the end of September, and we have only seen him run three times in total. He won twice. He was set to be the strong favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but an injury put him on the shelf until now. Those two wins were just incredibly impressive, though, so if he hasn't lost that early form he will be almost impossible to beat here.
Bob Baffert trains this horse - along with last weekend's very impressive Dortmund. When it comes to the Rebel Stakes, that is a very good thing. Baffert has won four of the last five editions of the race - though Lookin at Lucky in 2010 is the only one to go on to win a Triple Crown race. He knows how to get ready for this race. In this case he has been doing that by putting some very aggressive training into his horse. American Pharoah has been putting up absolutely ridiculous times on the track - like six furlongs in just 1:10 ⅖ seconds last time out. Speed isn't going to be a concern here.
Victor Espinoza has the ride here. His Triple Crown mount last year was none other than California Chrome, so he has the lucky touch.
The price is going to be just terrible for this race. There is nothing you can do about that. You can look elsewhere, but I don't want to - not with this much talent here. This isn't a race for a big payday for bettors, but not betting on this horse isn't an option in my eyes.
Madefromlucky: This is the most intriguing challenger to the favorite. He's a son of Lookin at Lucky, and he's trained by Todd Pletcher, so there are two good reasons Baffert won't want to be beaten by this one. He's making his stakes debut but has improved significantly since moving to Pletcher, and he had a nice win last time out. It's a real positive that John Velazquez, who can ride wherever he wants at this point in his career, and has his pick of the Pletcher stable, is flying in to ride the horse.
The Truth Or Else: This horse was second in the Southwest Stakes, which is the first of the three major prep races Oaklawn has, followed by the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby. He came from way behind in that race, closing 14 lengths and before just getting beat at the wire by a horse that snuck up the rail. He obviously has talent, but this is a much tougher race than the Southwest - at least at the top end - and I am not convinced he is ready to take the step forward. He'll get a bit more attention than he deserves from casual bettors because Calvin Borel is on board. He has had a magic touch in the Derby in recent years but is riding really poorly these days and isn't an asset.
Bold Conquest: If I was in the market for a longer shot, this son of Curlin would be the one. He was fourth in the Southwest, but it was a troubled trip and he didn't like the conditions that day. He has raced in some tough spots in his career and has looked solid doing so. This is a step up for him, but he could be capable of some big things as he grows into himself.
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