Mother Nature may well have something to say about the $1 million, Grade 2 Rebel Stakes when the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds is run for the 60th time this Saturday at Oaklawn Park. Unlike last year, when this traditional stepping-stone on the Road to the Kentucky Derby was split into two divisions, this year's $1 million Rebel – which dispenses 85 qualifying points (50-20-10-5) to the Run for the Roses – attracted just eight entrants, and wet weather is in the forecast. There is an 80 percent chance of rain in Hot Springs, Ark., on Friday, and that gloomy prediction increases to 90 percent by race day.
Heading the lineup from the rail is the unbeaten Nadal, a heavily hyped colt by Blame who stretches out after beginning his career with two sprint wins at Santa Anita Park for six-time Rebel winner Bob Baffert. Among those standing in his way are a trio of Steve Asmussen-trained runners: Basin, unraced since winning a sloppy renewal of the Grade 1 Runhappy Hopeful Stakes Labor Day weekend at Saratoga; Silver Prospector, the most accomplished member of the lineup with wins in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and Grade 3 Southwest Stakes; and longshot Excession, who was off the board in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes and division one of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at the Fair Grounds most recently. Also expected to take support is Three Technique, who is owned by former NFL coach Bill Parcells and comes off a rallying second in the Smarty Jones Stakes in his seasonal debut for Jeremiah Englehart. The aforementioned contenders figure to be chasing No Parole, who has swept his three starts against Louisiana-bred company by a combined 34 lengths on the front end. Breaking toward the outside and completing the field are Coach Bahe, an off-the-turf maiden winner last out; and American Theorem, unraced since finishing second in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes early last fall.
Nadal lived up to his backing when dispatched at 6-5 for his unveiling in mid-January, shrugging off early pace pressure and drawing away to win decisively with a 102 Equibase Speed Figure. Three weeks later, he handled pressure to gamely edge away late in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes, earning a field-best figure of 107. A $700,000 colt by Blame, Nadal will race with blinkers off, and has prepped for his initial route start with a trio of sharp works, capped by a bullet five furlongs.
Silver Prospector is already a dual stakes winner around two turns, having annexed a sloppy Kentucky Jockey Club with a figure of 92, and the Southwest with a 103. The colt by Declaration of War is this group's top money winner to this point with over $700,000 in earnings.
Basin splashed to a decisive win in the Hopeful with a 96 ESF. He is a half-brother to Rise Up, a five-time winner of over $900,000 going long.
Three Technique ran second to Basin in a maiden race at Saratoga, before closing out a promising juvenile campaign with back-to-back victories from off the pace. He returned at Oaklawn in late January and overcame a slow start to wind up second in the Smarty Jones with a 94 ESF. His half-brother, Stan the Man, is a five-time route winner of nearly $300,000.
American Theorem earned an ESF of 78 when clear for second in the American Pharoah Stakes over third-place finisher Storm the Court, who then won the Grade 1 TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile to cement an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male of 2019.
The rest of the field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, consists of Excession (79), No Parole (102) and Coach Bahe (87).
Top Win Contenders:
Second-tier Win Contenders: