Championship Matchup Looms in Rebel


The Rebel match between Take Charge Brandi (left) and American Pharoah (right) will be the first time 2-year-old male and female champions have met before the Kentucky Derby. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)

Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park is one of 16 races in the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. It offers 85 qualifying points, with 50 going to the winner. This race will also feature a battle of champions, sexes and home team vs. shippers in the match-up of Take Charge Brandi and American Pharoah.

Take Charge Brandi and American Pharoah are both Eclipse Award winners: the 2014 champion 2-year old female and 2-year old male, respectively. Take Charge Brandi is owned by Willis Horton and trained by D. Wayne Lukas. American Pharoah is owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Bob Baffert.

Take Charge Brandi won her last four starts. The first in this string of victories was the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Her most recent win came in the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park. While she is pointed towards the Kentucky Oaks, some of her connections have flirted with entering the Kentucky Derby. The Rebel may influence her course. She was the co-second individual choice in the Kentucky Oaks future wager pool after I’m a Chatterbox.

American Pharoah has raced three times and won his last two starts, which were Grade 1 races at Del Mar and Santa Anita. The Rebel will be his first time to race outside of California. He was the individual favorite in the Kentucky Derby future wager pool 3.

Both trainers are Hall of Famers. Lukas spends the season at Oaklawn, and Baffert is based out of Southern California. However, Baffert has experienced tremendous success at Oaklawn with shippers: they have won four out of the last five Rebels. The 2013 victory went to Lukas, Horton and Will Take Charge, who went on to win the Eclipse Award as 2013 champion 3-year-old male.


These two horses have great pedigrees. Take Charge Brandi’s dam Charming is a daughter of Take Charge Lady. Take Charge Lady foaled Will Take Charge. American Pharoah is by Zayat’s Pioneerof the Nile, who finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

The owners are from diverse backgrounds. Horton is from Marshall, a small town in the hills of northwest Arkansas. Take Charge Brandi is named after one of his granddaughters. Entrepreneur Ahmed Zayat formed Zayat Stables. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, and moved to the United States at age 18. The names American Pharoah and Pioneerof the Nile are salutes to his Egyptian heritage. He will be visiting Oaklawn Park for the first time to watch American Pharoah compete.

The Rebel is the second leg of the Arkansas Triple Crown (the first race is the Grade 3, $300,000 Southwest Stakes and the final installment is the Grade 1, $1-million Arkansas Derby) and Oaklawn has increased the Rebel’s purse three times over the past four years. In addition to Take Charge Brandi and American Pharoah, other expected runners are Madefromlucky (whose sire Lookin At Lucky won the 2010 Rebel), The Truth or Else (who finished second in the Southwest) and Bold Conquest (who is by Curlin, the victor of the 2007 Rebel, a two-time Horse of the Year and a Hall of Famer). 

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