The $1 million, Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, the local prep at Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby, drew a field of eight 3-year-olds trying to earn the winner’s share of 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, not to mention the minimum $600,000 which goes to the winning owner.
Among the eight, seven have two-turn experience and six have won a two-turn race, with four of those stakes winners and another stakes-placed. On the flip side, three of those with positive stakes experience are returning from layoffs ranging from 100 to 165 days. It might be a tough question to ask even those talented colts to run a winning race off those long layoffs. Get Her Number is one of those, having captured the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at the end of September. Another is Keepmeinmind, winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at the end of November. Super Stock finished third and second in three graded stakes last year, the most recent when the runner-up in the Street Sense Stakes at the end of October.
Five horses in the field have raced this year; all five enter the Rebel Stakes following wins. Among that group, Caddo River and Concert Tour were stakes winners. Caddo River returned from a little more than two months off to win the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn on Jan. 22, while Concert Tour won the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 6. Hozier enters the race off a maiden win at Santa Anita and shares the barn of Bob Baffert with Concert Tour. Big Lake and Twilight Blue both won their most recent races in allowance company and are trying to step up to the stakes level with similar efforts.
Having discounted the chances of all three horses with stakes credentials who are trying to win off lengthy layoffs – Get Her Number, Keepmeinmind and Super Stock – and believing the horses coming out of maiden and allowance wins may need a bit of maturing and seasoning to win a race at this level, it appears Concert Tour and Caddo River are standouts in terms of probability to win.
Concert Tour has won both starts of his career, the first a six-furlong race on Jan. 15 with a 100 Equibase Speed Figure and the second when winning the San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 6 with an even better 106 figure, the best mark any horse in the Rebel field has earned. Showing a lot of maturity when racing in third in the early stages, Concert Tour moved professionally to the lead in the final sixteenth of a mile and won by a half-length. Jockey Joel Rosario was aboard for both wins and rides back in the Rebel and the colt put in a snazzy six-furlong workout in 1:11.40 on March 6 to show he’s in tip-top form.
Concert Tour has a fantastic pedigree for going long as a son of Street Sense out of a Tapit mare. Sons of Street Sense such as Maxfield, McKinzie, and Avery Island have had a big impact the past few seasons in 3-year-old races and, of course, there’s the Baffert factor as well. A simple STATS Race Lens query exemplifies what racing fans know internally about Baffert’s success in 3-year-old races, showing over the last five years Baffert trainees have won 33 of 95 dirt route graded stakes for 3-year olds. Additionally, there’s no concern about a Baffert charge stretching out to a route for the first time in a graded stakes, as he won the 2020 Rebel with Nadal off a sprint as well as the 2021 Sham Stakes with current early Kentucky Derby favorite Life Is Good.
Caddo River was very impressive winning the Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 22 at Oaklawn by 10 lengths. Cruising to the lead from the start, Caddo River kept a steady pace to draw away by three lengths with a quarter-mile to go, by six lengths with an eighth of a mile to go before coasting home. Earning a 101 figure, the same earned when winning his previous start in November, Caddo River could easily take a huge step forward in his second start off the layoff and run well enough to win the Rebel Stakes, particularly if allowed to control the pace from a rail he draws. Jockey Florent Geroux has been aboard for the colt’s last two wins and rides back, and the fact that Caddo River won over the track could give him a familiarity edge over Concert Tour. Although he’s been training for many years, trainer Brad Cox has burst into the big leagues the past few years, and his numbers are quite similar to Baffert's in 3-year-old dirt route races in terms of percentage. Cox has a record of 10-for-28 in 3-year old dirt route graded stakes over the past five years, including Essential Quality, winner of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at the end of February; and Mandaloun, recent winner of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford. If Caddo River runs well, that would give Cox three major players as we head into the biggest races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
The rest of the field (with best representative Equibase Speed Figures): Big Lake (95), Get Her Number (88), Hozier (89), Keepmeinmind (91), Super Stock (93) and Twilight Blue (100).