The Kentucky Derby Trail makes its way to Oaklawn Park on Saturday for the running of the $900,000 Rebel Stakes. This is the biggest event of the prep race season to this point, and the field should be deep with promising 3-year olds.
The projected 20-horse field for May's Kentucky Derby is slowing taking shape, but things will begin to really come into focus over the next few weeks -- starting with the results of Saturday's Rebel Stakes. Looking over the field of the nine entries expected to run in the main event at Oaklawn, the following three would be my “best bet” pick for a trifecta play.
2017 Rebel Stakes
The Rebel is a Grade 2 stakes race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds contested on the dirt track at Oaklawn over a distance of 1 1/16 miles. The total prize purse for this year's race has been set at $900,000.
The horse at the top of my list in this race is trainer Steve Asmussen's Untrapped, who will be looking to take a big step towards a spot in the Kentucky Derby field after his second-place finish in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fairgrounds just a few weeks ago. This Kentucky-bred colt also took second in the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes at Fairgrounds on Jan. 21 at a distance of 1 mile 70 yards. In his only race as a juvenile, he placed second in a Maiden Special Weight race at Keeneland in late October at a distance of 6 ½ furlongs.
Untrapped comes into this race as the highest-ranked entry on the list by Horse Racing Nation at No. 182, and the son of Trappe Shot also has the top rating on the board at 7.44.
Asmussen is also expected to run Lookin At Lee in the Rebel Stakes, and if that is the case this Kentucky-bred colt would be my second choice for this race. He had a very busy juvenile campaign that was highlighted by a solid fourth-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park behind Classic Empire, Not This Time and Practical Joke at a distance of 1 1/16 miles. He managed to finish in the money in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 8 with a second-place run over that same distance.
In his only race this season, this pedigree of Lookin At Lucky took third in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. This home-track advantage along with his previous major graded stakes experience makes Lookin At Lee a very attractive pick as a boxed exacta with Untrapped.
Rounding out my top three picks in this race would be trainer Bob Baffert's American Anthem. Baffert has been looking for the right spot to run this Kentucky-bred colt after taking second in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita in early January behind Gormley at a distance of 1 mile. This pedigree of Bodemeister with a progeny that goes back to Unbridled comes into this race with an HRN rating of 6.26.
In his only race as a juvenile, American Anthem placed first in a MSW event at Del Mar on Dec. 3 at a distance of six furlongs, and I have been waiting patiently to see him take to the dirt at a longer distance against a much stronger field.