Things are really heating up on the Road to the Kentucky Derby – we’ve had a handful of preps so far, and we’ll have another on Saturday at Oaklawn Park. The Grade II Rebel Stakes will offer 50 pivotal points to the winner, which will all but guarantee a spot in the starting gate the First Saturday in May.
Garrett Gomez makes the trip to Oaklawn to ride the Todd Pletcher trainee, Delhomme. Doing his best work on the front end, Delhomme got an easy lead in the Grade II Remsen Stakes last November at Aqueduct, only to surrender late and finish third. In the Remsen, he battled down the lane with Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion – which is why I’m looking at Delhomme in a negative light. Overanalyze came back to run a very flat fifth in the Gotham Stakes, while Normandy Invasion had a horrendous start and rallied to finish fourth in the Risen Star Stakes. As bad a start as Normandy Invasion had in the Risen Star, I feel like he should have been able to take care of business in that situation. Until someone proves me otherwise, I’m looking at the Remsen as a negative key race.
Oxbow is a horse coming out of the Risen Star at Fair Grounds that I was alluding to before. I think too many people have gotten caught up with his 11+ length victory in the LeComte Stakes – a race in which I’m not sure he beat anything of real significance. He’s made steady progress in almost every one of his races, but I think he’s a notch below the top three-year olds at the moment.
Treasury Bill is a nice son of Lemon Drop Kid that should enjoy going two turns for the first time in his young career. As much as I like him, I have a feeling that he’ll end up being a bit of a “wise guy” horse – what are his odds going to look like come post time? Ron Ellis has spoken very highly of this colt, and he must think he has some ability if he’s willing to ship into Arkansas and pursue a spot in the Derby. He’s coupled with Title Contender, who is sure to guarantee that there will be a strong pace for Treasure Bill to close into. He’ll have to show that he has the ability to ship outside of his home state of California, but I think Treasury Bill has a solid chance in the Rebel.
Den’s Legacy is a nice colt, but I think his future is on the grass. After tomorrow’s race, I’d imagine Bob Baffert and Co. will move him to the surface that seems to suit him best. Once he gets on the turf, I think Den’s Legacy has a chance of developing into a solid turf runner.
Super Ninety Nine is on many people’s short list of Kentucky Derby contenders, mine included. He possesses the best speed figures of the group running in the Rebel Stakes, so I’d imagine his morning line of 3/2 isn’t far off from what his odds will be once post time arrives. While his last effort in the Southwest Stakes was as flashy and convincing as wins come, it was his victory in the optional claiming race at Santa Anita on January 31 that impressed me the most. After pressing strong fractions, Super Ninety Nine still had enough left in the tank to draw off to victory by more than three lengths. If he runs back to that race, he’ll be a handful in this spot. He should work out a nice stalking trip, so he’ll have every opportunity to get the job done if he’s good enough.
He may be light on experience and class, but I like Carve in the Rebel Stakes. In his brief two race career, he hasn’t done anything wrong – he’s two for two with both wins coming over the Oaklawn Park surface. Granted, his two victories came in a maiden race and a mid-level optional claimer, but between his running style and breeding, I think Carve could turn into a very nice three-year old. I don’t think people should downplay the fact that he broke his maiden in his first race going 8.5 furlongs – something not many horses can pull off. Now under the training of Steve Asmussen, Carve will be ridden by Corey Nakatani in the Rebel. His tactical speed is without question an advantage, and I anticipate him sitting within two to three lengths of the leaders early on. I wouldn’t be shocked if he came down slightly from his morning line odds of 15/1, but he should still offer a very solid price, in the ballpark of 12/1 or 13/1. I like Carve to win the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
SELECTION: 2 – Carve, Corey Nakatani; ML 15-1