How I'm betting the Rebel and the Oaklawn Saturday card
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- The clouds in Hot Springs are just starting to burn off at this writing, and sunshine should be abundance at Oaklawn Saturday with unseasonably warm temperatures around 80 degrees. We could be looking at a record crowd for Rebel Stakes today, with the added attraction of the St. Patrick's Day parade in town also bringing in folks from all over.
The 10-race program is a strong one, and here are some horses to watch.
Race 4 -- The experienced Brad Cox trainee #2 TWIST OFF obviously looks tough in this nine-furlong maiden for three-year-olds. One that perhaps could garner a slice or more is the first-time starter #1 FULL SCHEDULE (12-1), who appears not to have missed a single work all winter at Tampa for Ignacio Correas. Two have been at seven furlongs, and he turned in a solid half-mile breeze over this track Wednesday. The Take Charge Indy colt is a half-brother to Always in a Tiz, whose career fizzled out but not before he won at first asking at Saratoga and missed by a neck to eventual champion Will Take Charge in the 2013 Smarty Jones over this track.
Race 5 -- #7 RAPID DIAL (10-1) won his first two starts here at the 2017 meet, and last time was likely in need of a race when fourth at this level for trainer Ingrid Mason in his first start since July. That was also in the slop, and he simply hasn't run his best on off tracks or on synthetic. Gets a fast track to work with today.
Race 7 begins the Late Pick 4, and #9 MITOLE (2-1) is likely headed back to stakes company if he comes through as the expected favorite. He'll be hard to catch. We'll single him and use the following in our multi-race exotic plans:
Race 8 -- Essex Handicap -- Fourth in this race last year to eventual Metropolitan H. (G1) hero Mor Spirit, #5 DAZZLING GEM (3-1) earned an overdue return trip to the winner's circle against allowance foes last time, and was chosen to compete here by Cox instead of the scratched Leofric. Grade 3 winner #4 UNTRAPPED (5-1) was solid in early-season Triple Crown preps last term, later won the the Oklahoma Derby (G3) over Battle of Midway, and unluckily caught off tracks in two earlier starts this meet. Better on the way.
Race 9 -- Azeri (G3) -- A deep prep for next month's Apple Blossom (G1) at 1 1/16 miles, which might be a touch short for #1 ACTRESS (3-1), whose graded wins were both at nine furlongs. Nonetheless, she improved dramatically adding blinkers in the Comely (G3) in November, and last time perhaps made the front a little too soon when run down by #4 TIGER MOTH in the final strides of the Houston Ladies Classic (G3), also at this distance. Also expect #2 FARRELL to bounce back some on a fast track.
Race 10 -- Rebel (G2) -- From a class perspective, favorite #3 SOLOMINI has the favorable running lines against the likes of Bolt d'Oro, Good Magic, and McKinzie. However, we're going to take a shot against him.
#8 HIGH NORTH (12-1) had an unfavorable run in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), which has surprisingly developed into quite the key race. He was severely bothered in the first turn by a horse who lost his rider, but he rallied well to finish fourth in a congested field. His season debut in the Risen Star (G2) was an oddly-run race as no one made any ground from behind. Bravazo narrowly edged Snapper Sinclair after dueling with him all the way around the racetrack, and third-place finisher Noble Indy was more or less in that position throughout.
A well-bred son of Midnight Lute (his dam and half-sister were also Grade 2 winners), High North is well-regarded by Brad Cox and could take a step forward here.
#10 COMBATANT (8-1) ran second in the Smarty Jones to a loose-on-the-lead Mourinho and second again in the Southwest (G3) to My Boy Jack, who rode a golden rail to victory. He figures to be in the mix again, and might earn a breakthrough win if a few things go his way.
#5 HIGHER POWER (20-1) was impressive taking an allowance earlier in the meet, but returns here after missing the Southwest (G3) due to illness. Trainer Donnie Von Hemel is not one to rush his three-year-olds, so even a minor placing would probably be a satisfactory step forward for his connections. Nonetheless, this half to Oaklawn H. (G2) winner Alternation could prove to be a nice one and I'm using him.
The Pick 4 play is 9 with 4,5, with 1 with 5,8,10.