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Oxbow winning the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. (Photo courtesy of Lou Hodges Photography)

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

The 53rd running of the $600,000 Rebel Stakes, a race worth 50 points to the winner on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, drew a field of 11 aspiring 3-year-olds, four of whom earned their most recent victories leading from start to finish. Considering that the rules of physics apply in racing and that no two objects, in this case horses, can occupy the same space, one of the speedballs will get the lead and probably be pushed by any or all of the others, leading to an early pace scenario that has them all tiring late as the stalkers and closers shift into high gear.

One of those who earned his most recent victory leading from start to finish is Super Ninety Nine, victorious on a sloppy Oaklawn Park main track last month in the Southwest Stakes. Another is Delhomme, returning from nearly four months off and last seen finishing a close-up third in the Remsen Stakes. Among the closers, San Vicente Stakes runner-up Treasury Bill is notable, particularly as he is coupled in the wagering (having the same owner) with Title Contender, another horse who appears to want to be in front in the early stages. Lecomte Stakes winner Oxbow showed an off-the-pace style for the first time last month in the Risen Star Stakes and could improve after finishing fourth and beaten just a half-length, while Smarty Jones Stakes winner Will Take Charge hopes to rebound off a sixth-place effort in the Southwest. Den’s Legacy enters the Rebel off a pair of runner-up efforts in California in the Sham Stakes and Robert B. Lewis Stakes. Texas Bling finished a disappointing ninth in the Southwest but could be competitive if repeating the effort at Oaklawn just before that when finishing just a neck shy of victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes. Carve is a perfect 2-for-2 in his career but will have to improve as he faces stakes competition for the first time, as will Stormy Holiday, with three straight fourth-place finishes in non-graded stakes. Hardrock Eleven would be a surprise after finishing last of 12 in the Risen Star at odds of 142-1.

Main Contenders:

Treasury Bill is a rapidly improving colt who is making his first start around two turns and third start after returning from a two-month rest, a perfect pattern for more improvement. Having come back from the layoff in January, Treasury Bill earned a 94 Equibase Speed Figure on Jan. 27 when winning for the first time then improved to a 99 figure on Feb. 17 when rallying from last to finish second in the San Vicente Stakes. The pattern of improvement and late kick shown in the San Vicente is nearly identical to that of Hear the Ghost, who stretched out for the first time last weekend to win the San Felipe Stakes. As a son of Lemon Drop Kid, Treasury Bill is bred to run even better as the distances increase and best of all with the speedy Title Contender in the race (sharing the same owner), an honest pace is insured that should help Treasury Bill to rally late past the tiring pacesetter to win the Rebel Stakes.


 Treasury -Bill MLHRFull

Benoit & Associates photo

Oxbow showed that he doesn’t need the lead from the start for the first time last month in the Risen Star as he relaxed in fifth position in the early stages then closed steadily to lead in the stretch. Although he did tire a bit late, Oxbow was only beaten by a half-length for the win and can improve nicely off that effort with a key jockey change to Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith. With a Equibase Speed Figure earned in the Risen Star coming on the heels of a career-best 101 figure when winning the LeComte Stakes by 11 lengths prior to that and having put in a best-of-the-day half-mile workout at Oaklawn in preparation for this race, Oxbow could be the stalker who gets first run on the tiring pacesetters and have the lead from the top of the stretch to the finish line in the Rebel.

Will Take Charge, like Oxbow, comes from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, no stranger to getting a horse ready to run in the Kentucky Derby, having won four times on the first Saturday in May in his long and illustrious career. Will Take Charge ran the best race of his life at Oaklawn in January when taking the Smarty Jones Stakes with a 97 Equibase Speed Figure, but in his most recent race, the Southwest Stakes, was too far back early (10th and last) on a sloppy track not conducive to his late running style and could only manage a sixth-place finish. However, in this year’s Rebel, Will Take Charge should have an honest pace to run into on a fast track and therefore has a big shot to return to his previous top form.

Others of note:

Texas Bling is often ignored by the bettors and runs well at high odds, such as one race before his most recent when a neck behind Will Take Charge in the Smarty Jones, earning a career-best 97 Equibase Speed Figure that if repeated could have him in the thick of the action near the finish in the Rebel. Delhomme was last seen in November when leading from the start and beaten less than a length in the Remsen Stakes, the most highly rated 2-year-old race of the year. Having earned a 114  Equibase Speed Figure with that effort, which probably would win the Rebel if repeated, it must be noted that in both route (a mile or over) races to date in his career, Delhomme has led from the start, and additionally all of the other top finishers from the Remsen ran poorly in their next races. Although I don’t think Delhomme can win the Rebel, I believe he may be capable of winning his second start back from the layoff and will be watching closely to see where he shows up next. Super Ninety Nine ran the fastest of any of these that have run this year, earning a 104 Equibase Speed Figure winning the Southwest Stakes last month at Oaklawn. That being said, he led from start to finish in that race and in his other wins was second in the early stages. With his extreme outside 11 post position in the Rebel, Super Ninety Nine probably will not benefit by either running style which may cause him to use too much early energy trying to secure a good position before the first turn or cause him to go wide and run much farther than many of his opponents.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Carve (94), Den’s Legacy (97), Hardrock Eleven (92), Stormy Holiday (89) and Title Contender (93). 

My Selections:

Treasury Bill


Will Take Charge

$600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2)

March 16, Oaklawn Park, Race 10, Post Time 6:48 p.m..

1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds








C.S. Nakatani


S.M. Asmussen


Treasury Bill 

J Talamo


R.W. Ellis


Texas Bling 

M.C. Berry


D. Durham



G.K. Gomez


T.A. Pletcher


Hardrock Eleven

T. J. Thompson


D P Banks


Den’s Legacy

R.J. Albarado


B. Baffert


Will Take Charge

J.K. Court


D.W. Lukas


Stormy Holiday 

D.C. Bell


M. Robertson


Title Contender

L.S. Quinonez


W.M. Catalano



M.E. Smith


D.W. Lukas


Super Ninety Nine

R. Bejarano


B. Baffert

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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