As one major player is forced off the Derby trail, several new faces arrive on the scene.
Last Saturday, trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey announced that his highly regarded Derby prospect Top Billing was taken off the Derby trail due to a non-career-ending injury sustained during a workout. The trainer of 2013 Derby winner Orb, McGaughey also conditions the 3-year-old Honor Code, who got his year underway in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday (replay). Considering that his last race was a win in the Grade 2 Remsen in November, Honor Code didn’t run terribly to finish second, but the winner, Social Inclusion, burst onto the scene like a shot with a front-running score (that was aided by an easy lead). No word yet on the next move Honor Code but Social Inclusion is definitely pointing towards the Derby.
Also making a splash last weekend were Ring Weekend in the Tampa Bay Derby and California Chrome in the San Felipe. Ring Weekend wasn’t on anyone’s radar, including trainer Graham Motion’s, and California Chrome proved that he can win outside of state-bred company. No plans have been announced for either winner, but California Chrome is definitely pointing towards the Derby according to trainer Art Sherman.
News About the Contenders
Blood-Horse: Onlyforyou Euthanized After Training Accident New
Blood-Horse: Cairo Prince Leads Florida Derby Worktab New
Blood-Horse: Shared Belief confirmed off Kentucky Derby Trail
Blood-Horse: Social Inclusion On Derby Path After Big Win
Blood-Horse: McGaughey Encouraged by Honor Code’s Effort
Blood-Horse: Steve Haskin’s Derby Dozen 3/10/2014
Blood-Horse: Haskin’s One for the Roses: Honor Code
Blood-Horse: Pressure Off Sherman After ‘Chrome’s Dazzler
Brisnet: Quartet work for Florida Derby New
Brisnet: Candy Boy zips five furlongs at Santa Anita New
Brisnet: Sanchez nearing a decision on Social Inclusion New
Brisnet: Sanchez entertaining offers, targeting Kentucky Derby for Social Inclusion
Brisnet: Honor Code exits setback in good order
Brisnet: Constitution confirmed for Florida Derby
Brisnet: General a Rod picks up Rosario; Spot possible for Florida Derby
Brisnet: Fans shine spotlight on Derby hopeful California Chrome
Brisnet: Unbridled Forever on course for FG Oaks
Brisnet: Social Inclusion downs Honor Code, sets track record
DRF: Shared Belief jogging, but will miss Triple Crown series
DRF: Top Billing has surgery, might return to training in four months
Oaklawn Park, Saturday March 15, post time: 7:04 ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
As we saw last week with breakout wins from Ring Weekend in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and California Chrome in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, this is the time of year when 3-year-olds get good/better in a hurry, and that makes this edition of the Rebel Stakes particularly exciting because improvement from any of the favorites would make them major players on May 3 in Louisville.
Five of the eight Rebel entrants have already run at least a 95 Brisnet.com Speed Rating, and a breakthrough off that into a triple-digit win would easily make any of those a top choice not only in Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 4 in two weeks, but also the Derby itself in seven weeks.
The Grade 3 Southwest Stakes trifecta of Tapiture, Strong Mandate, and Ride On Curlin is back here, and Tapiture already owns the best Speed Rating as a 3-year-old with the 99 he earned when 4 1/2 lengths clear of Strong Mandate, with another six lengths back to Ride On Curlin in third.
That dominant performance was also good for a 121 Class Rating, which like his Speed Rating tops this field for this year but is not a lifetime best in either category. Ride On Curlin busted a 102 Speed Rating when breaking his maiden in July at Ellis, and Strong Mandate earned a 122 Class Rating when winning the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes last year at Saratoga—the only Grade 1 win in the field.
Helping us get a gauge on the Oaklawn form will be the West Coast-based Hoppertunity and Kobe’s Back. The former has already shipped East once, finishing fourth to Intense Holiday after a wide trip in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes three weeks ago at Fair Grounds. The latter won the Grade 2 San Vicente last out in his dirt debut and stretches back out for trainer John Sadler.
Locals Jet Cat, Sheltowee’s Boy, and Street Strategy are each making his stakes debut and round out the field. Jet Cat is the slowest in the race, has never been lower than 10-to-1 odds, is not Triple Crown nominated, and would be a surprise.
Sheltowee’s Boy won at first asking on an off track last fall and returned to the winner’s circle following an entry-level allowance race on the Southwest undercard in what was his fast track debut. Street Strategy retains the services of three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel, who rode Ride On Curlin in five of his seven career starts, including both 3-year-old efforts. Street Strategy was second in his career debut before breaking his maiden by 6 1/2 lengths going a mile on January 30. Borel piloted Street Strategy’s sire, Street Sense, to champion 2-year-old male honors in 2006 and Derby glory the following year.
The race is void of any need-the-lead types, as no entrant has been on the lead at the first call in more than two races, but Jet Cat, Ride On Curlin, Tapiture, Strong Mandate, and Street Strategy each have pace ratings quick enough to make the lead here.
Ricardo Santana aboard Tapiture would probably not mind either Jet Cat or Ride On Curlin going to his inside so he can tuck in second or third with Strong Mandate potentially wide into the first turn. Those to Tapiture‘s outside, including Strong Mandate and Street Strategy pressing for the lead, could get the worst of it, as posts 4-7 have just 10% winners going 1 1/16 miles this meeting at Oaklawn.
Unfortunately for those looking for a price, I expect the stakes form to hold in this race. Tapiture is the lone two-time graded stakes winner, Kobe’s Back is the only other multiple stakes winner, and Strong Mandate is the only Grade 1 winner, and I expect the trifecta to comprise these three horses.
- Ed DeRosa (Disclosure: Marketing Director for Brisnet.com)
News and Recaps
Hoppertunity Stays Up in Roughshod Rebel
Hoppertunity prevails in troubled Rebel finish
Rebel, and Other Thoughts
Hoppertunity headed back to California, for now
Arkansas Derby In The Plans For Tapiture, Strong Mandate; Hoppertunity Heads To Santa Anita
2014 Rebel Stakes Replay