The Grade 2 $300,000 Rebel Stakes, which runs at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas on Saturday, will be the deciding factor in whether or not The Factor continues on toward the Kentucky Derby. The colt has won his last two races, which includes the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes. He is an incredibly fast horse and has set new track records at Santa Anita Park, but it's yet to be seen if he can carry that speed the distance. He has never run further than seven furlongs, which is just under a mile. His connections have said that if he wins the 1 1/16 mile Rebel that they will continue with him toward the Kentucky Derby, but if he loses, they will look for other options.
Sway Away is on the same path as The Factor, finishing behind him in the San Vicente Stakes and showing nothing but speed. He will also be trying a route distance for the first time. He has one win and two seconds from three starts.
Some strong contenders are coming out of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes that ran at Oaklawn Park last month. Archarcharch won the one mile Southwest Stakes by a length over JP's Gusto, who was 1 1/4 lengths in front of Elite Alex, who was another 1 1/2 lengths in front of Picko's Pride. JP's Gusto has the most experience of the lot with nine lifetime starts, seven of those being graded stakes. He recently worked a quick five furlongs at Oaklawn and will have the country's second leading jockey, Ramon Dominguez, aboard.
Elite Alex may have finished third in the Southwest, but he was on the far outside of an outstretched line of six turning into the top of the short stretch. He undoubtedly had the longest trip of any horse in the field, but still managed to finish only 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner. He will be ridden by Churchill Downs favorite, Calvin Borel, who traditionally spends his winters riding at Oaklawn Park and knows the track as well as he knows Churchill's.
Archarcharch pulled the upset in the Southwest Stakes over favored JP's Gusto. He turned in a bullet work this week which, according to his workout history, indicates he's coming into the Rebel in top form.
For a longshot play, I like Alternation. He's turned in back-to-back bullet works at Oaklawn and is coming off a 1 1/16 mile allowance race at Oaklawn which he won by 3 1/4 lengths. Completing the field are Dreaminofthewin, Caleb's Posse, Saratoga Red, Glint, Bluegrass Jam, and JW Blue.
The race is the 10th on Oaklawn Park's Saturday card and can be seen on HRTV and TVG. As a reminder, if you're playing with us in the Road to the Roses Handicapping Challenge, don't forget to update your power horses prior to race day for extra points!
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby