2023 Rebel Stakes Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

Horses break from the starting gate in the 2021 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. (Coady Photography)

Saturday’s $1 million Rebel Stakes is the third of four qualifying points prep races at Oaklawn Park for the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and it has an influential history on the road to the Derby.

In years past, horses such as Smarty Jones, Curlin, and American Pharoah have used Rebel wins to propel them to victories in the Arkansas Derby and then on to success in the Triple Crown series (read more about the best Rebel winners in this feature). The Grade 2, 1 1/16-mile Rebel offers Derby points to the top five finishers on a 50-20-15-10-5 scale as well as a hefty purse distribution.

This year’s Rebel drew a competitive 11-horse field. The race will be televised on NYRA’s “America’s Day at the Races” show airing on FS2. It has a scheduled post time of 6:23 p.m. ET.

Read on for information about all of the Rebel Stakes starters.

Coady Photography

1. Verifying (2-1 morning-line odds)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owners: Jonathan Poulin, Westerberg, Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $260,150

Earnings per start: $65,038

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 102

Kentucky Derby points: 4

Pedigree: Justify – Diva Delite, by Repent

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Verifying caught the eyes of Derby watchers and future-book bettors at Oaklawn on Jan. 14, when he posted a dominant 5 ¼-length win over Gun Pilot in his 3-year-old debut. Competing in a two-turn, one-mile allowance-optional claiming race against five opponents, the colt from Triple Crown winner Justify’s first crop pressed the early pace set by Gun Pilot, took a short lead at the quarter pole, and pulled away in midstretch, finishing up with plenty of stamina to spare. His win was flattered when Gun Pilot came back and won by two lengths at the same distance and track on Feb. 4, and even more so when third-place Two Eagles River won his next race Feb. 20 by four lengths, again at the same distance and track. Verifying has been well thought of from the outset, winning last summer as the odds-on favorite in his career debut at Saratoga and earning some Derby points with a runner-up finish in the Champagne Stakes back in October. The Brad Cox trainee had a rough start and finished sixth in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, but that’s ancient history now and his three workouts at Fair Grounds since his comeback win (coming in tandem with stablemate and Rebel foe Giant Mischief) have been very sharp. Add in the fact that Verifying is a half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to champion, five-time Grade 1 winner, and $7.4 million earner Midnight Bisou, and you have a leading win candidate in Saturday’s Rebel. All systems appear set to “go” for this talented runner to take the next step in development with Florent Geroux taking the reins for the first time. Co-owners Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor from the Coolmore group won the 2016 Rebel with Cupid.

Eclipse Sportswire

2. Powerful (20-1)

Jockey: Isaac Castillo

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Courtlandt Farms

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $207,390

Earnings per start: $51,848

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 83

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Nyquist – Antiquity, by Pulpit

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Saturday’s Rebel is a tough assignment for this stakes-winning son of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist as he makes his 3-year-old debut. Powerful closed out his juvenile season with a game one-length win in the 6 ½-furlong Ed Brown Stakes Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs, a race in which Frosted Departure finished third. The colt had impressed during Saratoga’s summer meet, losing by a head in his debut and then winning a seven-furlong maiden by a half-length. He next tried a route distance for the first time in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity Oct. 8 at Keeneland and finished 11th of 14 after a slow start, beaten by 30 ¼ lengths by winner and eventual champion juvenile Forte. Powerful has a pedigree to race two turns and has already shown plenty of competitiveness in his young career, but his top speed figures are a cut below most of the rest of the Rebel field. Trainer Steve Asmussen reached 10,000 career wins Feb. 20 at Oaklawn, extending his record number of victories in North America. The Hall of Famer and 12-time leading trainer at the Hot Springs, Ark., track has won the Rebel four times: Snuck In (2000); Windward Passage (2002); two-time Horse of the Year Curlin (2007); and Long Range Toddy (2019).

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3. Red Route One (10-1)

Jockey: Cristian Torres

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Career record: 6 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $313,575

Earnings per start: $52,263

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98

Kentucky Derby points: 13

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Red House, by Tapit

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: The second of three Steve Asmussen trainees lined up consecutively in the Rebel starting gate has been sitting on a breakthrough race while competing in four consecutive graded stakes dating back to last fall, and the pace scenario for Saturday’s tilt could help him get that elusive win. Red Route One is a stone-cold closer who made his first two career starts on turf last summer and won the second of those at Kentucky Downs by 3 ¾ lengths. Owners Ron and Joan Winchell then put the Gun Runner colt on the Derby trail, and he has since finished third in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, a rough-trip fifth in the Street Sense Stakes, a very good fourth (beaten by only 1 ½ lengths) in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes after encountering some stretch traffic, and then a clear second in his 3-year-old debut last month in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. In the Southwest, Red Route One was the only horse making up any ground late behind pacesetting winner Arabian Knight and, although he finished 5 ½ lengths behind that foe on a sloppy track, he did overtake third-place Frosted Departure and also earned a career-best 98 Equibase Speed Figure. Several of the leading contenders in the Rebel prefer to set or press the pace, so if the early fractions are fast and Red Route One gets a good trip, he’s a threat to at least hit the board and possibly pull the upset drawing on a stamina-laden pedigree. He gets the services of young jockey Cristian Torres for the first time Saturday, and Torres is tearing up the Oaklawn meet as the runaway leader by both wins and purse earnings through Feb. 20, nabbing his first career graded stakes win just last Saturday aboard Last Samurai.

Coady Photography

4. Gun Pilot (8-1)

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Three Chimneys Farm

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $151,600

Earnings per start: $50,533

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Bush Pilot, by Smart Strike

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Gun Pilot rebounded from a runner-up finish behind Verifying in his 3-year-old debut last month to win a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race by two lengths over Bourbon Bash Feb. 4 at Oaklawn. The Three Chimneys Farm homebred son of Horse of the Year Gun Runner had contested the early pace in both his debut win last fall at Churchill Downs and in his two-turn debut against Verifying, but in his second 2023 start regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr. changed tactics and sat in midpack through the backstretch and into the far turn while saving ground. The colt angled out on cue and took over to win going away, and it will be interesting to see what strategy Santana and trainer Steve Asmussen will employ in Saturday’s Rebel against several opponents – most of them drawn to Gun Pilot’s outside – who prefer to be forwardly placed. His speed figures place him in the second-tier of Rebel win candidates, but then again, Gun Pilot has only made three starts and is eligible to keep improving. If he does that on Saturday, he should make an impression against a very competitive field. Of note: Gun Pilot will race without the anti-bleeder medication Lasix (furosemide) in the Rebel per Road to the Kentucky Derby rules after competing with it for both of his prior races this winter.

Eclipse Sportswire

5. Giant Mischief (5-2)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owners: Spendthrift Farm, Steve Landers Racing, Martin Schwartz, Michael Dubb, Ten Strike Racing, Jim Bakke, Titletown Racing Stables, Kueber Racing, Big Easy Racing, Winners Win, and Stonestreet Stables

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $193,400

Earnings per start: $64,467

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Vertical Oak, by Giant Oak

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of leading sire Into Mischief makes his much-anticipated 3-year-old debut Saturday after impressing in three starts as a juvenile for his large ownership group and top trainer Brad Cox. Giant Mischief won his career debut last September at Horseshoe Indianapolis in a 5 ½-furlong sprint and then earned a sharp 105 Equibase Speed Figure in his second start on the Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard Nov. 4 at Keeneland, when he edged favorite Arabian Lion by three-quarters of a length in a seven-furlong allowance. That performance made him the 4-5 favorite in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes Dec. 17 – a Derby points race – but Giant Mischief lunged at the start of the two-turn mile event and could not make up enough ground late to win, finishing second behind 15-1 longshot Wildatlanticstorm. Since Giant Mischief competed with Lasix (furosemide) in the Springboard Mile, he did not earn four Derby points with the runner-up effort, although it’s worth noting that he raced without the anti-bleeding medication in his swift Keeneland win. This colt has been training very well at Fair Grounds in company with stablemate and Rebel rival Verifying, and he will be and should be one of the favorites to win Saturday evening. Florent Geroux usually rides Brad Cox’s top Derby contenders in the Midwest, and he gets aboard Verifying for the Rebel after riding Giant Mischief in his two previous starts – but the replacement jockey could not be better, as reigning Eclipse Award winner Irad Ortiz Jr. travels from Florida to take the mount.

Eclipse Sportswire

6. Reincarnate (7-2)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Tim Yakteen

Owners: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, and Catherine Donovan

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $142,400

Earnings per start: $28,480

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Good Magic – Allanah, by Scat Daddy

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt from the first crop of champion and Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic should be a pace factor at the very least in the Rebel Stakes as he ships in from California and makes his first start for a new trainer. Reincarnate broke through on Jan. 8 with a game neck win over Newgate in the two-turn, one-mile Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park, but he did not earn 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points due to Churchill Downs’ current suspension of previous trainer Bob Baffert from entering any of his horses in the 2023 Kentucky Derby. Per Churchill’s rules, owners of Baffert-trained prospects must move them to other trainers by Feb. 28 in order to earn Derby points in qualifying preps, and over the past week or so several of them have begun to do just that, including the partnership that owns Reincarnate. Tim Yakteen assumes training duties Saturday, and the California-based veteran has experience with Baffert’s horses, having trained Taiba and Messier prior to the 2022 Derby while Baffert sat out the first of what will in all likelihood be two consecutive Derbys. Reincarnate earned a 103 Equibase Speed Figure in the Sham when besting stablemate Newgate, and that runner came back to win the Robert B. Lewis Stakes Feb. 4 before being sidelined; on the other hand, this colt has been competing against small fields in Southern California and was a 16.50-1 outsider in the Sham. How he handles the trip and unfamiliar surroundings at Oaklawn is anyone’s guess, but Baffert-trained horses won eight prior editions of the Rebel – all since 2010! That statistic, coupled with the fact that Reincarnate has never finished worse than second in his career, makes him a win threat Saturday. Look for Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who rode Reincarnate to a maiden victory last fall at Del Mar, to be aggressive from the outset and put him on the early lead.

Eclipse Sportswire

7. Confidence Game (15-1)

Jockey: James Graham

Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Owner: Don’t Tell My Wife Stables

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $203,775

Earnings per start: $33,963

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby points: 7

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Eblouissante, by Bernardini

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Confidence Game will seek to recapture the talent he flashed in his final 2-year-old start on Saturday as he ships in from Fair Grounds for trainer Keith Desormeaux. Back on Nov. 26 during Churchill Downs’ “Stars of Tomorrow” card, he set the pace in a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race and was all out to hold off subsequent Holy Bull Stakes winner Rocket Can by a half-length. Confidence Game then took a break of nearly two months before returning for his 3-year-old debut in the Lecomte Stakes Jan. 21 at Fair Grounds, and this time pressed the pace set by Echo Again into the far turn. He kept on after that rival fell back but was no match for eventual winner Instant Coffee and runner-up Two Phil’s, settling for a distant third in a strung-out field. His Equibase Speed Figure dropped from 97 back in November to 87, and that will need to be reversed Saturday in order for Confidence Game to have any shot at pulling the upset. Furthermore, his connections rarely compete at Oaklawn Park – jockey James Graham last rode regularly in Hot Springs back in 2006, and Keith Desormeaux trained Southwest Stakes winner My Boy Jack in 2019 on the Derby trail. It will be interesting to see what Graham does with his mount early on – will he join the early scrum alongside Reincarnate and one or two other rivals or keep Confidence Game off the pace? This colt has a good distance pedigree – by top sire Candy Ride out of a winning half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Hall of Famer Zenyatta – and he can spice up the exacta and trifecta payouts in the Rebel if he rebounds.

Coady Photography

8. Talladega (30-1)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset

Owners: WinStar Farm and Siena Farm

Career record: 4 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $68,028

Earnings per start: $17,007

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 89

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Thin Disguise, by Yes It’s True

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Talladega enters the Rebel off a maiden win Jan. 28 at Oaklawn, his second start at age 3. He led at every point of call in the 1 1/16-mile race, held earlier on the Southwest Stakes card on a track rated as wet-fast. Talladega finished up in a final time that was about 1.25 seconds slower than Arabian Knight’s win in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest on a track that was downgraded to sloppy, a race where Red Route One checked in second. It resulted in a 89 Equibase Speed Figure, easily this colt’s best in four career races, but about 10-15 points below what’ll be required to win the Rebel. This son of Into Mischief sold for $850,000 as a yearling and finished third in his second career start behind Gun Pilot in a seven-furlong sprint on Churchill Downs’ “Stars of Tomorrow” card last November. He was a well-beaten fifth in his 3-year-old bow Jan. 14 at Oaklawn going 1 1/16 miles but had some trouble in that race and responded well under Flavien Prat to graduate on the off track Jan. 28. It will be interesting to see if Prat – who comes in from California to ride Talladega again – will try to secure the early lead again against a far tougher field. If he does, Talladega will have an impact on the Rebel outcome in the early stages at least, but he’s a longshot to win.

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9. Event Detail (30-1)

Jockey: Gerardo Corrales

Trainer: Paulo Lobo

Owner: OXO Equine

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $57,305

Earnings per start: $19,102

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: City of Light – Breaking Beauty, by Into Mischief

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt from the first crop of 2018 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light ships in from Turfway Park in northern Kentucky for a bid at securing Kentucky Derby points. He’s upped his game on Turfway’s synthetic Tapeta Footings track with a runner-up finish and more recently a 2 ¾-length win, both in one-mile maiden races, and posted Equibase Speed Figures of 98 and 99 in those starts. Now he will return to racing on dirt, the surface he debuted on last November at Churchill Downs and finished sixth of 10 after stalking the early pace in a 6 ½-furlong sprint. Event Detail was visually impressive in his maiden victory and has some stamina in his female pedigree as his second dam (maternal grandmother) was a German Oaks winner. Still, it’s a bit odd that this colt is taking a big leap in class on a track surface that he’s not had success at rather than waiting for, say, the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes March 4 at Turfway (although the Battaglia does not offer as many Derby points). Jockey Gerardo Corrales and trainer Paulo Lobo have been successful teaming up during Turfway’s current meet, which means this colt deserves some attention as a potential trifecta and/or superfecta filler at the very least. 

Eclipse Sportswire

10. Bourbon Bash (20-1)

Jockey: Mickaelle Michel

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Owner: BC Stables

Career record: 8 starts – 1 win – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $174,900

Earnings per start: $21,863

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 90

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: City of Light – Buy Sell Hold, by Violence

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Another colt from City of Light’s first crop, Bourbon Bash has assembled a decent racing career to date while competing mainly in sprint races and comes into the Rebel off of his best two starts through eight overall appearances based on speed figures. Bourbon Bash closed out 2022 on New Year’s Eve with a third-place finish in the six-furlong Renaissance Stakes, which was won by Rebel rival Frosted Departure. He then returned for his 3-year-old debut Feb. 4 in a one-mile allowance race at Oaklawn, and was overtaken by another Rebel foe, Gun Pilot, to check in second by two lengths. Bourbon Bash earned Equibase Speed Figures of 90 and 86 in those races, and if he stays in that range in the Rebel, filling out the superfecta is his ceiling – although it’s worth noting that he raced with Lasix in both of those starts and will race without it Saturday. Legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas worked his charge four furlongs in a swift :47.60 at Oaklawn Feb. 13 in preparation for the Rebel, and French jockey Mickaelle Michel retains the mount after riding Bourbon Bash in his two recent starts. Suffice to say, if this outsider pulls off the upset his connections will act out his name in celebration. Lukas has won the Rebel twice, way back in 1989 with Manastash Ridge and, more recently, with eventual champion 3-year-old male Will Take Charge in 2013.

Coady Photography

11. Frosted Departure (20-1)

Jockey: Francisco Arrieta

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owners: C&H Diamond Racing and Magdalena Racing

Career record: 10 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $317,211

Earnings per start: $31,721

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98

Kentucky Derby points: 6

Pedigree: Frosted – Undeterred, by More Than Ready

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Over the past several years, if a Kentucky Derby points prep is taking place on the Midwest circuit, it’s a good bet that more often than not Ken McPeek will have a horse entered. Frosted Departure has been answering the bell regularly for the Kentucky-based trainer since back in July, and the Rebel will be his seventh stakes start in a row. Since finishing seventh of 10 and defeated by 28 lengths in the Street Sense Stakes last October at Churchill Downs, this Frosted colt has noticeably improved his form, finishing third and fourth in sprint stakes at Churchill and Oaklawn before closing out a nine-race juvenile campaign with his first stakes victory in the six-furlong Renaissance Stakes at Oaklawn on New Year’s Eve. He earned a 94 Equibase Speed Figure in that win and then matched it in his 3-year-old bow, which came via a big class test in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest Stakes. Frosted Departure raced in second behind pacesetter Arabian Knight in the Southwest and had no response when asked to quicken by jockey Francisco Arrieta, and he ended up losing second to late-running Red Route One. Still, it was a much-improved effort around two turns compared with his starts last fall in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (10th) and the Street Sense. Arrieta, currently second in the Oaklawn jockey standings by both wins and purse earnings, will ride Frosted Departure again, and he’s been aboard the colt for his three most recent races, all at Oaklawn. Last Saturday, McPeek-trained Sun Thunder nabbed second in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Lincoln and Lamarque Crescent City Ford at double-digit odds. Frosted Departure faces a tougher challenge in Saturday’s Rebel, but if he can improve off his Southwest effort and get a good pace to run into, a similar finish is not impossible.

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