Horse Racing: Preview of the 2014 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park

Once again there are several stakes races being run around the country this weekend in the sport of Horse Racing but, in sticking with the three year old theme, we will be focusing in on the 2014 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas where Tapiture has been installed as the 9/5 favorite on the morning line.

The Rebel, which is run at a mile and a sixteenth for $600,000, drew a field of eight.

In fact, OaklawnPark is the place to be this weekend as their entire card on Saturday is huge.

Aside from the Rebel, they will also be running the Azeri Stakes, which is an 8 ½ furlong test for four year olds and up fillies and mares for $200,000. Multiple stakes winner Close Hatches who carries a 8 starts, 5 wins and 2 seconds record, will be making her first start of 2014 after running a big second in the Breeders Cup Distaff last November.

Close Hatches will face a six others but it looks as though her main opponents will be Don’t Tell Sophie, who is 9 for 19 in her career and 2 for 2 in 2014, and the gray filly On Fire Baby, who is 5 for 12 in her career and will also be making her first start since finishing up the track in the Spinster Stakes last October

The very next race is the $200,000 Razorback Stakes, which is also run at 8 ½ furlongs for four year old and up, drew a field of seven. The stand out looks to be Govenor Charlie. The Bob Baffert trained colt, who will be ridden by Mike Smith, shows two wins, and two seconds from five lifetime starts. I see several others who might run well as well inducing Right to Vote, who is 2 for 2 in 2014 with both wins coming over this very surface, Golden Lad who has won four of seven starts with two seconds but will be stepping up in class big time and the six year old Taptowne, who has finished on the board in 17 of 29 lifetime starts with seven wins and had a strong work for this race the other day.



Race: 9

The Rebel Stakes

Purse $600,000

One And One Sixteenth Miles.

Three Year Olds











1 1 Jet Cat 3/C L J McKee 115 E H Frederick


2 2 Ride On Curlin 3/C L K J Desormeaux 115 W G Gowan


3 3 Tapiture 3/C L R Santana, Jr. 122 S M Asmussen


4 4 Strong Mandate 3/C L J Rosario 117 D W Lukas


5 5 Hoppertunity 3/C L M E Smith 115 B Baffert


6 6 Sheltowee’s Boy 3/G L J Navarro 115 B H Cox


7 7 Street Strategy 3/C L C H Borel 115 R L Morse


8 8 Kobe’s Back 3/C L J Lezcano 117 J W Sadler





1) Tapiture– has never been off the board in now five lifetime starts and is developing quite nicely based on his last two races.

Going back to his Nov 30 race (in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs) where he took over at the half mile pole by a head, increased his lead to 2 1/2 at the head of the stretch before opening up 4 1/2 at the wire. He then took 2 1/2 months off and came back in the Southwest Stakes on Feb 17 and ran a very similar race than that in the Jockey Club Stakes.

He rated slightly off the early pace before assuming command at the half mile pole, opened up three on the field at the quarter pole and then “kicked clear” in deep stretch to win by 4 1/2.

This chestnut colt by Tapit from the Steve Asmussen barn fired a strong 5 furlong work on March 2 (1:00.2), followed up by a easy half mile work (:50.2) on March 10 which should set him up very well for this race….clearly the one to beat here.



2) Strong Mandate– is a bit of an enigma if you closely at his past performances.

He broke his maiden by 4 at Saratoga in August and came back just 16 days later to win the Grade: 1 Hopeful by almost 10 over a muddy surface. But from there, he gets a little sketchy.

He went off at 2-1 in the Champagne Stakes (at BelmontPark, Oct 5) but was never in contention and finished a very disappointing 7th, beaten 10 3/4 lengths. Next, he went off at about 7 1/2 to 1 in the Nov 2 Breeders Cup Juvenile, where new jockey Joel Rosario rode him very aggressively. Rosario put him on the lead while running four deep (wide) thru blistering fractions (:22.3, :45.1 and 1:09.3) but, even after a wide trip thru quick early splits, I thought he held very well to only get beat two lengths for all the money (to the since injured and retired, New Years Day).

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas then gives him the next 3 1/2 months off before bringing his back in the aforementioned Southwest Stakes. He didn’t have the best of trips (he got into some traffic issues, forcing Rosario to have to make a 5 wide middle move) and had to settle for second to Tapiture.

There is no doubt in my mind that he was “short” that day and, combined with the bad trip, for him to finish second, I thought was a solid race. This well bred bay colt (By Tiznow- Clear Mandate by Deputy Minister) shows a :48 half mile work (Feb 25) and a 1:03.3 five furlong work (March 2), so he should be much tighter for this race….If he is indeed tighter and gets a clean trip, he should be among the vanguard at the wire.

“This is round two and hopefully we’ll move forward,” Lukas said. “Hopefully he’ll have a better trip than he did in the Southwest when he was compromised. It should be a good prep.”


3) Kobe’s Back– this gray colt by Flatterer possesses a lethal late run and he could not have been anymore impressive in romping home by 5+ lengths in an eye popping 1:21.4 in his last (the San Vincente, Feb 16).

That being said, I’m not sure he’ll get a distance of ground. The one and only time he went a route distance, albeit clipping heels with another horse, he was beaten almost 28 lengths. I’m not saying he cant get the distance but he still needs to prove he can…. if he can, he’s a huge threat. Lastly, be sure and note that titanic work on March 7 (6F- 1:11 flat)


Honorable Mentions:

Ride On Curlin shows a 7-2-1-3 record with excellent versatility as he can run effectively from on or off the pace. Not sure what Calvin Borel was thinking in his last race (The Southwest) but, after being amongst the early leaders, Borel takes him 7 or 8 wide on the turn for home. …why?…whatever the answer is/was, it didn’t matter much as he is being replaced in this race by Kent Desormeaux…He might go well Saturday afternoon with better ride. Hoppertunity, who is a half brother to multiple stakes Executiveprivilege, broke his maiden very nicely two starts back at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert. Baffert then shipped him to the Fair Grounds for the Risen Star where, after being 10th after the first quarter, weaved his way thru traffic but ran into serious traffic issues and was forced extremely wide from about the 3/8ths pole to mid-stretch and could only manage a 4th place finish….a pair of big works (March 6- 4F- :47.2 and March 11- 5F- 1:00.2) since the Risen Star and, like Strong Mandate, could run well with a cleaner trip. Street Strategy launched an impressive 5 wide run leaving the quarter pole but got beat a nose in his debut race at six furlongs (Jan 11), then came back just 19 days later to whistle vs. maidens at a mile and 50 yards. He looks in deep jumping from maidens to a graded stakes race, but his recorded speed figures in those two races say he can contend vs. these.


2014 Record: 6-14 = 43%

2013 Record: 20-59 = 34%

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Little Bets N’ Pieces


**** Mining My Own, who is the dam of both 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and 2012 Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Dullahan, gave birth to a bay filly from the first crop of Bodemeister last week at Pauls Mill Farm near Versailles, Ky.

“This filly is nothing short of awesome, just very representative of the quality of foals this mare has had,” Ben Walden said. “It is a beautiful mating when you consider that both Mine That Bird and Dullahan hail from the Fappiano sire line, as well as Bodemeister, who I feel has a real chance to be a breed-shaping sire.”

The mare will be bred back to Bodemeister.


**** Now that the 2014 Kentucky Derby is officially sans two year champion Shared Belief, these next few prep races loom even larger for this year’s Derby…a few notes about the upcoming Florida Derby:


* Joel Rosario, who rode General a Rod to a victory in the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Years Day 2014, will be back aboard the colt for the March 29 Florida Derby according to trainer Mike Maker

“He’s not a complicated horse to ride and Joel has won on him before, so we’re happy to have him,” Maker said. “We’ve had a lot of success together in the past, and I hope it continues. He’s a top-class rider, and I’m glad we’ve got him.”
Maker said General a Rod will breeze again Saturday morning but that
the horse is “doing great, and he looks fabulous,”

* Spot, an upset winner of the Swale Stakes in his last start, worked a half-mile in :47.3 yesterday morning at  Palm Meadows and remains a possibilty for the Florida Derby.

“He actually went a little too fast for me,” trainer Nick Zito said. “But he did it on his own, and he worked with Grand Arrival, who at one time was a horse with a lot of potential. The horse is doing great.”

Zito said he plans to speak to owner Joseph Moss and a decision on the race will be made “after his next work, which will be on March 22.”
“The Florida Derby is going to be a tough race, no question about it,” Zito said. “You’ve got the Holy Bull winner (Cairo Prince), the Fountain of Youth winner (Wildcat Red), and the Pletcher gang—those are real horses. One thing about us is that we never say never. If he continues training well, then it’s a possibility he’ll be in the entries.”


**** Trainer Shug McGaughey said surgery to repair Top Billing’s cracked cannon bone went off without a hitch Sunday in Kentucky, and the prognosis for his recovery is good.

“Everything went perfectly,” McGaughey said. “He’ll likely stay up there and recuperate at WinStar. If all goes well, we can probably have him back in training in about four months.”

Top Billing finished third in the Fountain of Youth after posting an impressive allowance win at Gulfstream Park. He was expected to be one of the favorites in the Grade 1 Florida Derby until being injured during a routine workout at Palm Meadows last Saturday.