California Shippers Hold Favoritism in Oaklawn’s Rebel
By Jordan Sigmon
Trainers Bob Baffert and John Sherriffs have tasted plenty of success when shipping horses into Oaklawn Park. Baffert, in particular, has won six of the past seven editions of the Rebel Stakes (GII) and has this year’s favorite in American Anthem. Winning will be no easy task, though, as John Sherriffs has shipped in Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GIII) winner Royal Mo while Todd Pletcher has shipped in the undefeated Shackleford colt Malagacy in hopes of taking down the big favorites.
WinStar Farm LLC and China Horse Club International Ltd.’s American Anthem will be making just his third start, but what he lacks in experience the son of Bodemeister makes up for in talent and heart. A debut winner in December, American Anthem closed from a few lengths back to win by a neck in a brisk final time of 1:10 1/5. The colt returned a month later in the Sham Stakes (GIII) dueling throughout the one-mile race only to be nailed on the wire by grade 1 winner Gormley and finishing another 13-lengths clear of third-place finisher Big Hit. With last weekend’s injury to the undefeated Mastery, American Anthem takes over as Baffert’s top Derby prospect.
Jerry and Ann Moss’ Royal Mo has improved with every start, leaving his connections hoping the upward spiral will lead them all the way to the First Saturday in May. The son
of Uncle Mo will face his biggest test to date in the Rebel. After two second-place-finishes to start out his career, the big bay has rattled off two straight wins, both going two-turns. While both of his victories have been in gate-to-wire fashion, his recent work patterns suggest they may try to rate the colt in what looks like a speed-laden field Saturday.
Malagacy has won both starts for owner Sumaya US Stables by a combined 22 lengths. However, both of those wins were sprinting and now he will have to prove that he can not only handle a route of ground but also graded stakes company. Pletcher was questioning even running this colt around two-turns anytime in the near future a few weeks ago, but recent works have changed his mind. With so much speed lined up, his first two-turn test will be a stern one.
Local runners Uncontested and Petrov will look to fend off the challenges of the out-of-towners and pave their way to the Derby. Owned by Harry T. Rosenblum and Robert V. LaPenta, the Wayne Catalano-trained Uncontested will be a much better price this time after being well beaten as the even-money favorite in last month’s Southwest Stakes (GIII). Catalano believes the colt is coming into this race a much better and more relaxed horse after being fitted with a new bit, among other equipment changes. He has also been able to hold a steadier work pattern leading into this race due to better weather conditions.
Rialto Racing Stables LLC and Southern Springs Stables’ Ron Moquett-trained Petrov has been second in three consecutive stakes since breaking his maiden in November. All three of those efforts came running near the pace early, but with how the race is shaping up it’s likely he will take back early this time around.
Steve Asmussen has entered a pair of multiple-graded-stakes-placed colts for the race in Lookin at Lee and Untrapped. Owned by Michael Langford, Untrapped has been second in both the LeComte Stakes (GIII) and the Risen Star Stakes (GII) at Fair Grounds this winter. L & N Racing LLC’s Lookin at Lee was a stakes winner in his third start last year before rattling off second-place finishes in the Iroquois Stakes (GIII) and Breeders’ Futurity (GI) as well as a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI). In his most recent start, the son of 2010 Rebel winner Lookin at Lucky was third in the Southwest. Both colts will get a good setup for their fast-closing running styles on Saturday.
Maiden winners Silver Bullion, Silver Dust and Appalachian Gem, and the maiden Sonneteer round out the Rebel field.
Carded as the 10th of 11 races, approximate post time for the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (GII) is 6:06 pm ET.
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