Graded Stakes Spotlight: The Rebel Stakes.
Grade 2 Rebel Stakes: February 26th, 2022, Post Time: 5:22 PM at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
Purse: $1 million
Distance: 1 1/16th miles
Age: 3 year-olds
Here is the field for the 62nd running of the G2 Rebel Stakes:
1.Kavod (Lea): (J) F. Arrieta, (T) C. Hartman. 11; 3–1–0. Last out he placed fourth in the G3 Southwest Stakes with a speed figure of 89.
2. Newgrange (Violence): (J) J. Velazquez, (T) B. Baffert. 3; 3–0–0. Undefeated, last out he won the G3 Southwest Stakes with a speed figure of 98.
3. Cairama (Cairo Prince): (J) G. Franco, (T) S. Asmussen. 4;1–0–1. Last out placed sixth in the Smarty Jones Stakes (Listed) with a speed figure of 83.
4. Un Ojo (Laoban): (J) R. Vazquez, (T) R. Courville. 5;1–2–0. Last out placed second in the G3 Withers Stakes with a speed figure of 74.
5. Texas Red Hot (Texas Red): (J) R. Santana, Jr., (T) R. Morse. 5;2–1–0. Last out placed tenth in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes with a speed figure of 77.
6. Stellar Tap (Tapit): (J) C. Torres, (T) S. Asmussen. 4;1–0–1. Last out placed third in an allowance optional claiming race with a speed figure of 87.
7. Ben Diesel (Will Take Charge): (J) J. Court, (T) D. Stewart. 4;1–0–1. Last out placed third in the G3 Southwest Stakes with a speed figure of 93.
8. Chasing Time (Not This Time): (J) T. Gaffalione, (T) S. Asmussen. 5; 2–2–0. Last out won an allowance optional claiming with a speed figure of 91.
9. Barber Road (Race Day): (J) R. Gutierrez, (T) J. Ortiz. 6;2–3–0. Last out placed second in the G3 Southwest Stakes with a speed figure of 95.
10. Ethereal Road (Quality Road): (J) L. Contreras, (T) D. Wayne Lucas. 4;1–0–1. Last out won a maiden special weight race with a speed figure of 88.
11. Dash Attack (Munnings): (J) D. Cohen, (T) K. McPeek. 3;2–0–0. Last out placed fifth in the G3 Southwest Stakes with a speed figure of 86.
Homestretch Handicapper’s Thoughts.
Of the entire field, the horse to beat is ultimately going to be Newgrange. This horse is undefeated and is trained by Bob Baffert who has won this race eight times. Not to mention, Newgrange has won on the Oaklawn Park dirt at a 1 1/16th distance in his previous start.
As far as that win goes, he did not win with ease, in my opinion. The field for the G3 Southwest Stakes was not as strong as the one for the G2 Rebel Stakes, and Newgrange had to be pushed to find enough of a gear to pull ahead within the last furlong.
The horse with the most starts is Kavod, but has never won a race above six furlongs on dirt. I believe the distance for the Rebel Stakes will be too much for him to be a fierce competitor. I would say the same for Cairama, whose only win is a six and half furlong race on dirt, and he took that win by a head in front before being overtaken by a horse from behind.
I would not discount Un Ojo for this race, his last two starts alone have been a classic representation of stalker style — starting from the back and driving from behind down the homestretch to place second both times. A miles and sixteenth may just be his perfect distance to master this style, as his last two attempts were seven furlongs and then a mile and an eighth.
Chasing Time and Barber Road are two major contenders of this race as well, both having only been out of the money only once in their career starts. Barber Road uses a stalker style, almost overtaking Newgrange in the G3 Southwest Stakes down the stretch.
While Chasing Time, who may not seem like much from his maiden and allowance optional claiming starts, actually won his last race by over seven lengths in front — showing that two turns have nothing on him as he cleared the field with ease.
As well as Ethereal Road, who impressively won his maiden race at Oaklawn Park at a mile and a sixteenth from behind with a wicked turn of foot to clear the field. Even though the time was slower than Newgrange’s time, I do believe this horse is catching his stride just in time.
Homestretch Handicapper’s Final Picks:
1st: Chasing Time (Not This Time) ML Odds: 8/1
2nd: Ethereal Road (Quality Road) ML Odds: 12/1
3rd: Newgrange (Violence) ML Odds: 9/5
Brief History of the Rebel Stakes:
The Rebel Stakes — formerly known as the Rebel Handicap — had its inaugural run on March 18th, 1961 as a precursor to the Arkansas Derby.
Originally, the Rebel Handicap was set at a distance of one mile and 70 yards, up through 1983. While at this distance, the race produced champions such as Bold Ego (Bold Tactics) who would go on to win the 1981 Arkansas Derby and 2nd in the Preakness Stakes, that same year.
In 1983, Sunny Halo (Halo) would be the last to win the race at the shorter distance and would go on to win the same year’s Kentucky Derby, and inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
After changing the distance to one and one sixteenth miles in 1984, it soon became a bona fide Grade 2 in 2008, then a part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby in 2013. Only in 2019 was the race split into two divisions to make up for a race in California that was abandoned that year.
At this new distance, racehorses such as Smarty Jones (Elusive Quality), Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike), Omaha Beach (War Front) and American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) would go on to become champions in their careers.
As of 2021, well-known trainer, Bob Baffert, has the most wins for a trainer at a total of eight — all of which were won in a span of eleven years. The record time held for the new distance is Vanlandingham (Cox’s Ridge), who in 1984 ran the race at a bullet, 1:41.00.
For reference, the only horse to come close to that in the last two decades is Smarty Jones in 2004 with a time of 1:42.07.