The Road to the Kentucky Derby returns to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. where a field of 11 will compete in the Grade II 1 1/16 mile Rebel Stakes this Saturday. The race is worth 50 points to the winner on the Road to the Kentucky Derby points systems.
The new Kentucky Derby points system replaces the graded stakes earnings system as the determiner of Kentucky Derby entrants. In the first phase, the Kentucky Derby Prep Season that concluded Feb. 18, the top four finishers in 19 pre-determined races were awarded points of 10-4-2-1, respectively. A total of five Grade II and three Grade III races comprise the first leg of phase two, which began Feb. 23, in which the top four finishers in the pre-determined races are awarded points of 50-20-10-5, respectively. The second leg of phase two begins Mar. 30 and includes two Grade II and five Grade I events in which the top four finishers in these pre-determined races will receive points of 100-40-20-10, respectively. The series concludes with two wild card races in which the top four finishers will be awarded 20-8-4-2 points, respectively.
Bob Baffert is going after his fourth consecutive Rebel Stakes win with Super Ninety Nine. This son of Pulpit won the Southwest Stakes on a sloppy Oaklawn track by an impressive margin of 11 ¼ lengths. He will meet tougher competition on Saturday, but appears to be the horse to beat.
After a troubled start and fourth place finish in an allowance race in late December, Super Ninety Nine made his three-year-old debut in an optional claimer at Santa Anita Jan. 31. He won the one mile race by 3 ¼ lengths over fellow-Kentucky Derby hopeful Code West and earned a Brisnet speed figure of 103 for the effort. Super Ninety Nine followed that up with a figure of 101 in the Southwest wire-to-wire romp. He drew the outside post 11 for Saturday’s Rebel, but Super Ninety Nine has the speed and front-running style that should help him overcome the poor post. Rafael Bejarano has the mount.
A handful of runners in Saturday’s Rebel will likely try to challenge Super Ninety Nine on the front end, but none have the speed to match him. D. Wayne Lukas’s Oxbow will likely go to the front with Super Ninety Nine, but breaking from post 10, he’ll have to use up some energy to get there. In his last start, the Grade II Risen Star Feb. 23, he also broke from the 10 post and was unable to get the early lead. He had the lead by the halfway point, but was caught in the stretch and wound up fourth, beaten a half-length.
Todd Pletcher’s Delhomme will make his long-awaited three-year-old debut and, if he returns to the form he showed in his last start, could be a viable opponent to Super Ninety Nine. That last start was in the Grade II Remsen Nov. 24 where Delhomme attempted to take the field wire-to-wire before battling a dual threat from Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion in the stretch. He finished three-quarters of a length behind the pair. Jockey Garrett Gomez, who's been the regular rider of Den's Legacy, will be aboard for the first time.
If enough of a battle occurs on the front-end, a closer like Steve Asmussen’s Carve, Ron Ellis’s Treasury Bill, or Bob Baffert’s Den’s Legacy may be able to capitalize, much like Hear the Ghost did last week in the San Felipe Stakes when front-runners Flashback and Goldencents wore one another out. Carve is undefeated in two starts and Treasury Bill has not finished off the board in his three career starts.
Den’s Legacy has already made 10 career starts, five of them in graded stakes. He’s faced the East Coast’s top Derby contenders—Flashback, Goldencents, and Violence—and hit the board with all three. Jockey Robby Albarado replaces Gomez as Den's Legacy's pilot. Baffert has become the Rebel ruler, so if his Super Ninety Nine doesn’t win, Den’s Legacy could keep Baffert’s Rebel legacy going.
The field from the rail out is: Carve, Treasury Bill, Texas Bling, Delhomme, Den’s Legacy, Will Take Charge, Stormy Holiday, Title Contender, Oxbow, and Super Ninety Nine.
The race is the 10th on Oaklawn’s Saturday card with a scheduled post time of 6:48 p.m. EDT. It can be seen on HRTV and TVG. Free PPs for the Rebel provided by Brisnet.
Photo: Courtesy Oaklawn Park/Oaklawn.com