BAFFERT LOOKS TO CONTINUE DOMINANCE IN REBEL STAKES
HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, March 17, 2017) – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert bids for his fourth consecutive victory and seventh in the last eight years in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the Rebel, the 10th of 11 races, is 6:06 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 1:05 p.m., with the infield open for the first time this season, weather permitting.
The Rebel shares the blockbuster card with the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares and $250,000 Essex Handicap for older horses. The 1 1/16-mile race offers 85 points toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby (50-20-10-5).
Baffert has won the Rebel a record six times overall – all since 2010 – and returns with the 2-1 program favorite in American Anthem, a son of 2012 Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister. American Anthem won his Dec. 3 career debut at Del Mar and finished second in his only other start, the $100,000 Sham Stakes Jan. 7 at Santa Anita.
The colt is scheduled to break from post 7 under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith and carry 115 pounds. He American Anthem has drawn outside two other speedsters, Uncontested and unbeaten Malagacy.
“I think the break is important, but I’ll let Mike do what he wants to do,” Baffert said. “My horse is pretty quick, too, and he’s fast. He’s got natural speed.”
Completing the projected 11-horse field from the rail out: Silver Bullion, Ramon Vazquez to ride, 115 pounds, 30-1 on the morning line; Uncontested, Channing Hill, 122, 10-1; Sonneteer, Richard Eramia, 115, 30-1; Petrov, Jose Ortiz, 115, 9-2; Untrapped, Irad Ortiz Jr., 8-1, 115; Malagacy, Javier Castellano, 4-1, 115; Silver Dust, Corey Lanerie, 115, 15-1; Appalachian Gem, Gary Stevens, 30-1, 115; Royal Mo, Victor Espinoza, 122, 9-2; and Lookin At Lee, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117, 15-1.
Uncontested was a wire-to-wire winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16 in his 3-year-old debut.
Malagacy ships in from south Florida for trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20 with One Liner (Uncontested was sixth as the favorite). One Liner (then 2 for 2) was making his first start around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest. Malagacy is also 2 for 2 and has never raced around two turns. The son of 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford has won his two career starts this year at Gulfstream Park by a combined 22 lengths.
Petrov finished second in the Smarty Jones and Southwest for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs.
“It’s going to be an interesting race the way it shapes up,” Moquett said. “There’s a lot of great riders in there. I’m going to watch it like a fan and see whose horse wins.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who has won the Rebel three times, including 2007 with Curlin, will be represented by Lookin At Lee, third in the Southwest, and Untrapped, runner-up in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Feb. 25 at Fair Grounds.
Silver Dust ran fourth in the Southwest for trainer Randy Morse.
Also shipping in from Southern California is Royal Mo for trainer John Shirreffs. He won the $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) Feb. 4 at Santa Anita in his last start.
Baffert won the Rebel in 2010 with champion Lookin At Lucky, 2011 with The Factor, 2012 with Secret Circle, 2014 with Hoppertunity, 2015 with champion American Pharoah and last year with Cupid.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas won the 2013 Rebel with eventual champion Will Take Charge. He is scheduled to be represented by long shot Silver Bullion Saturday.
The Rebel is the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15.