Thursday, March 17, 2016
American Dubai, in his fourth scheduled career start, will have his fourth different jockey for Saturday’s $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn.
Chris Landeros is scheduled to ride American Dubai for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, following Victor Lebron, Hall of Famer Calvin Borel and Walter De La Cruz, who guided the E Dubai colt to a third-place finish in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn in his last start.
Trainer Rodney Richards said Landeros has worked American Dubai three times since the Southwest.
“He has patience and he wants to ride the horse,” Richards said during training hours Thursday morning. “He’s excited about riding the horse.”
Landeros is currently among Oaklawn’s top 10 riders with 14 victories from 101 mounts.
Creator delivered one of the most visually impressive performances of the Oaklawn meet, drawing away to a 7 ¼-length maiden victory at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 27 under Ricardo Santana Jr. He will go straight from that race into the Rebel, an event six-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen won in 2007 with two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.
Creator, a late-running gray son of Tapit owned by WinStar Farm, needed six starts to break his maiden, but had finished second four times.
“He’s a horse, obviously, the farther they go, the better he’ll do,” Asmussen said.
Creator’s breakthrough victory came after three consecutive troubled runner-up finishes, including two at Fair Grounds.
“Just ridiculously slow paces and nowhere to go and stopped repeatedly,” Asmussen said. “It was good to see him get in the clear and get a shot to run.”
Asmussen is also scheduled to send out Madtap, a front-running allowance/optional claiming winner March 5 at Oaklawn, in the Rebel.
Since Jack Van Berg has been there and done that, the Hall of Fame trainer said he wasn’t concerned about Wednesday’s post position draw for the Rebel.
Van Berg, 79, is North America’s fourth-winningest trainer (6,468) and won the Rebel in 1982 with Bold Style. His 2016 entrant, Cutacorner, drew post 11 for the 1 1/16-mile race.
“It doesn’t make any difference,” Van Berg said Wednesday afternoon. “You’ve got to have luck wherever you’re at. You’re down on the fence, you might get stopped going out of the gate. You’ve just got to take what they give you.”
Cutacorner finished ninth, beaten 18 lengths in his last start, the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn.
Van Berg is best known for handling dual classic winner and 1988 Horse of the Year Alysheba.
Trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs was deflated after Discreetness drew post 14 for the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn. Discreetness, wide throughout the 1 1/16-mile race, was never a factor in a seventh-place finish.
But Fires was elated after Discreetness drew post 4 for the Rebel.
“Gosh, yes,” Fires said before training hours Thursday morning at Oaklawn. “Thank goodness.”
Fires said he believes post 4 will allow Discreetness, normally forwardly placed in his races, to secure a spot close to the rail in the short run to the first turn. The colt was eight-wide on the first turn in the Southwest.
“I probably made a mistake last time,” Fires said. “We thought we had enough speed to get over, but we got hung wide all the way around the turn. We feel much better about it this time.”
Discreetness is a two-time stakes winner, taking the $250,000 Springboard Mile Dec. 13 at Remington Park and $150,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 18 at Oaklawn.
Gray Sky/Z Royal
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas was concerned during training hours Wednesday morning that Z Royal would be excluded from Saturday’s Rebel because of earnings. But, Z Royal’s bubble didn’t burst since 14 horses – the maximum Oaklawn’s starting gate can hold – were entered for the 1 1/16-mile race.
Z Royal ($40,911 in earnings to rank 14th) snuck into the Rebel field after trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs decided not to enter Feb. 6 Oaklawn maiden winner Tisdale. Moquett is represented in the Rebel by Whitmore.
Lukas had scratched Z Royal from an allowance/optional claiming race last Saturday at Oaklawn, gambling the Eskendereya colt would make the Rebel field.
“I heard they would double up a couple,” Lukas said Thursday morning. “That would have put us 15th, but Moquett didn’t double up.”
Lukas said he had no contingency plan for Z Royal because he didn’t want to ship for a race like the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) March 26 at Fair Grounds.
Z Royal is coming off a troubled eighth-place finish in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn. Under Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, he had to take up in traffic on the first turn.
“Oh, my gosh, that was a disaster,” Lukas said. “He couldn’t have had a worse trip.”
Z Royal, who is removing blinkers, is scheduled to break from post 9 under Ramon Vazquez.
Gray Sky, also trained by Lukas, is scheduled to break from post 10 under Florent Geroux.
Lukas said he was happy with his draw for both horses.
“It’s not bad from the simple standpoint that they load them in order,” Lukas said. “You’re not in there forever.”
Gray Sky finished fifth in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18 at Oaklawn.
Z Royal’s owner, Ahmed Zayat, won last year’s Rebel with the Bob Baffert-trained American Pharoah, who would also sweep the Triple Crown.
The news wasn’t good for Suddenbreakingnews – in terms of post position – for the Rebel.
During Wednesday’s draw, Suddenbreakingnews received the extreme outside post (14) for the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16.
Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Wednesday morning – before the draw – that he didn’t want to comment on post position preference because he might anger the racing gods.
“We did something wrong, didn’t we?” Von Hemel jokingly said before training hours Thursday morning. “Oh, it’s just luck of the draw.”
But late-running Suddenbreakingnews, 3-1 program favorite for the Rebel, has already proven that he can win a route race at Oaklawn from a far outside post. Suddenbreakingnews, from post 13, was a last-to-first winner of the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15.
Von Hemel kidded that he could tweak Suddenbreakingnews’ style Saturday.
“We might send him to the lead,” Von Hemel said. “Get over to the rail on the front end.”
Regular rider Luis Quinonez is scheduled to ride Suddenbreakingnews in the Rebel.
Whitmore earned plenty of trouble lines during a runner-up finish in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn. Now, Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, who co-owns and trains Whitmore, is looking for a stress-free journey in the Rebel.
“Shuffled, checked, stood up, transfer, twisted,” Moquett said. “You can put whatever adjective you want. I just want a better trip this time.”
Whitmore was ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the Southwest, but switches to Irad Ortiz Jr. for the Rebel. He is the co-7-2 second choice in the program for Saturday’s race.
The Grade 2 $900,000 Rebel Stakes could easily be referred to as the Bob Baffert Invitational, considering that the Hall of Fame and Triple Crown winning trainer has captured five of the last six editions with promising young colts he’s sent from his powerful Southern California stable.
It stands to reason that when Cupid, a son of Tapit for whom the Coolmore connections paid $900,000 as a yearling, runs on Saturday he’ll have to shoulder mighty big expectations along with the 115 pounds assigned.
“Are there big expectations for this horse? Absolutely, said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s top assistant who also supervised American Pharoah (2015), Hoppertunity (2014), Secret Circle (2012), The Factor (2011), and Lookin at Lucky (2010) when they shipped in and shipped back with the trophy. “I’ve been here for all of the Rebels. I think it’s a wide open race but since we do that quite often, people expect you to win. But you never know how it will turn out.”
The lightly-raced Cupid is being asked to handle the class hike from a maiden win all the way up into Grade 2 company, but has been made the 7-2 co-favorite in the field of 14 3yos vying for Kentucky Derby qualifying points (50-20-10-5) to remain on the Triple Crown trail.
“With the large field, we need a good break and to get a good position and hopefully, he’ll take it on from there. You need the trip. Hopefully, he’s talented enough where he’ll get out of the gate, establish position, and show us what he’s really made of,” said Barnes. “He seems like he’s improving and we’re just testing the waters. You really don’t know until they do it, but this our normal routine and we expect big things.”
None could be bigger than what Zayat Stables, American Pharoah- the reigning Arkansas Derby champion, two-time Eclipse Award winner, Horse of the Year, and Triple Crown champion- accomplished this past year.
“We’re still searching for the next American Paharoah, but he’s hard to find. You just never know when it could happen again, or not happen,” Barnes said with a smile.
Cupid galloped 1 ½ miles Thursday morning under exercise rider Danielle Rosier after the break and as Barnes cooled him out afterward back at the barn, he reported the colt’s condition and disposition as “absolutely perfect.”
Gabe Grossberg’s Siding Spring must contend with many of the same horses he tangled with in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes here last out, but trainer Mark Casse predicted that this time the colt will fare far better than when he blazed out of the gate from post #11, set a blistering early pace and faded to finish fifth.
“He’s trained better for this race than he did for his last, and his last race wasn’t bad. We have a much better post this time, much better. We used him some last time to get position and then he kind of ran off. We wanted to get him away from there to get position and so he didn’t lose too much ground but then he ran off. We don’t have to employ that same strategy Saturday. He should be a better horse this time,” said the seven-time Sovereign Award-winning trainer.
Siding Spring drew post #6 in the 14-horse field and will have Joe Rocco, Jr., who was aboard for the Southwest, back in the irons.
Grossberg plans to be in Hot Springs Saturday to watch the son of Warrior’s Reward, who took third in a Grade 3 stakes race and won impressively on the grass as a juvenile.
“He's a very good on the turf and he still has to prove he’s a very good horse on the dirt,” said Casse, who reported Siding Spring galloped 1 1/2 miles Thursday morning
Incremental/La Macchina/Looks To Spare
Owner/trainer Otabek Umarov has three chances to win the $350,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn. Incremental, La Macchina and Looks to Spare also represent 60 percent of Umarov’s stable.
All three were once claiming horses, including Looks to Spare, who will be making his 2016 debut after finishing third, at odds of 88-1, in the $500,000 Clark Handicap (G1) Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs.
Leading into the Razorback, Incremental ran fifth, beaten 4 ¼ lengths, in the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 16 and La Macchina won the $100,000 Essex Handicap Feb. 13.
Umarov has been pointing Looks to Spare, a $5,000 claim in April at Hawthorne, for the Razorback since December.
“This horse is worth a lot of money,” Umarov said during training hours Thursday morning at Oaklawn. “That’s why I save him for the big races. That’s why I skipped those races. There are plenty of good races, and the year has just started.”
Asked which horse he believed has the best chance to win Saturday, Umarov was diplomatic with his words.
“To me, honestly, at the end of the day, if they come back from the race healthy and happy, that’s all that matters,” he said. “We have a whole year in front of us, and there’s always races out there.”