This years Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn has more than usual luster due to the arrival of West Coast invaders who usually don't show up till later on the Derby trail. So many invaders, in fact, that the race has been split into two divisions. It's a real handicapper's delight. Lets look at the fields in both divisions.
1. Extra Hope
He is a solid racehorse, but seems a little ambitiously placed for my money. He did grab third in the Los Al Futurity behind Improbable, but that was by passing tired horses late after running near the back early. He was not making up any ground on Improbable in that race and I don't think he will here either. He draws inside and will let the outside speed fight it out early, but I simply can't see him threatening here. Maybe you could throw him in underneath on the superfecta, but I think he is overmatched in here. No thanks.
2. Long Range Toddy
This is the sleeper in here, but I will not be falling asleep on him. He has yet to run a bad race in six outings and his last may have been his best. The beauty of his run in the Southwest is it is so well disguised. His jockey pushed him early from the gate in that one in an effort to secure an inside position from post ten and it worked to perfection. His reward for that outstanding piece of race riding was to get bounced off the horse (talk about punishing a rider for a great ride).
He wound up drafting behind the speed while sitting on the rail and waited for a hole to open up at the top of the stretch. Sueno was racing right outside him waiting for the same hole. It never materialized. While these two were waiting for daylight, Super Steed swooped the entire field and won at 62:1. Once Sueno and Long Range Toddy got some room, they exploded, with Sueno getting first run and almost catching the winner. Toddy had to wait longer, but he was really running late up the rail. I give this horse a big chance in here and will be betting him to win and in combination with the heavy favorite, Improbable.
You don't see many grass sprinters on the Derby trail. You don't bet them either.
4. Easy Shot
It would be poetic justice if Eramia were able to win with this horse just to teach the connections of the 2 horse a lesson, but I can't see it. Getting 3rd in a stakes race is usually good, but when you only beat two horses and never threaten the winner, you have to temper your enthusiasm a little.
5. Proud Nation
Maybe Joe Sharp will find his hole card. I don't think he has one. No thanks.
6. Ninth Street
I'm really having a hard time making a case for some of these horses. He will sit at the back and maybe pass the horses who get tired chasing Classy John, Galilean, and Improbable, but that's it.
7. Classy John
A speed demon who has yet to run a bad race (3 - 1sts and 2 - 2nds) and he will be on the engine as far as he goes in here. It will be a very tall order to wire this race, but he figures to get the lead from the horse on his outside (Galilean) and if allowed to relax on the front, it will take some running to reel him in. I will be using him under the 2 and the 9.
He hasn't done much wrong in his brief career (3 - 1sts, and a 2nd). He is a fast racehorse who will be faced with a decision early in this race. Does he go with 7 and try to put him away early or does he sit off his flank and wait? If he waits too long, Improbable will come cruising, so I think he will be forced to commit earlier than he wants to. It's a tough choice. It's hard for me to throw him out, but I don't see the race setting up right for him. Blazing speed to his inside and a killer stalker to his outside is just not the right recipe. I'll pass.
He's undefeated, untied, and unscored upon. He figures to get the ideal setup in here sitting just off the 7 and 8 and reeling them in on the turn. Still, it's easy to envision all three of them banging it out with each other a little to soon and the 2 coming to pick up the pieces. I see him and the 2 as the most likely to be around at the end. If he runs away from the 8 and the 2 in another romp, then we're probably looking at another superstar. I think this may be a little tougher for him than it looks to most.
That winds up the first division. I'll be betting the 2 to win and keying exotics with both the 2 and the 9. Good luck if you're playing!
1. Market King
One of several early speed types in here who seems to be ambitiously placed. I love D. Wayne but this seems like overreach.
2. Laughing Fox
This is a nice, improving racehorse. He figures to sit the inside stalkers trip in a race packed with questionable early speed horses and I'll be surprised if he's not around at the finish. If Game winner were not in this race I would be all over this horse like a rash. Still, I'll be using him everywhere.
I normally take an extra close look when maidens show up on the Derby trail, but all this horse has done to date is burn money. He always gets bet, but he's still a maiden after seven tries. No thanks.
4. Jersey Agenda
One of the speeds who could hit the board if he can control the cheap speed up front. The problem is he may be the cheap speed up front. No thanks.
5. Game Winner
For you Tolkien fans out there, this is The Return of the King. Unbeaten, untied, and unscored upon, last year's Juvenile winner could be any kind. I like to take shots against the returning Juvenile winner every year, but I have to admit this one has me a little anxious.
I'll be using him with the 2, 8, and the 10 in here. I don't see any chinks in the armor yet, and he'll have to run a bad one before I don't use him.
6. Omaha Beach
One of the speeds who has a front runners chance, but his price won't be appetizing at all and there is that bothersome horse to his inside. No thanks.
7. Our Braintrust
He hasn't done anything wrong yet and his last shows he can handle the trip. Still, I have a feeling he may get over bet. I'll have to wait and see, but I'm leaning toward tossing him.
8. Gunmetal Gray
He will be passing lots of horses late if he gets the right pace setup and I'm thinking there will be lots of pace on here. He's the only one who's ever been in the same zip code with the favorite and I won't be surprised if he clunks up for a piece.
10. Captain Von Trapp
He's an intriguing proposition in here. He flashed some ability last year and definitely seems on the improve. This is a very tough post, but he'll probably be right behind Game Winner when he makes his push. I'll be using him and the hills will definitely be alive with the sound of music if he gets there.
That wraps up both divisions. It's too bad Game Winner is not in the 1st half, but we should see some great racing tomorrow. I'll be making wins bets on the 2 and the 10 in the 2nd division and boxing Game Winner with 2-8-10. Those 4 will make up my super.
Good luck to all who are playing!