How to bet the Rebel Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

March 12th, 2020

Handicapping Saturday’s $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2), is Nadal vulnerable?

Handicapping Saturday’s $1 million Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park boils down to one key question—is #1 Nadal a deserving favorite, or is he vulnerable to defeat at a short price?

It’s a tricky question because both answers can be true.

Yes, Nadal should be favored to win; trainer Bob Baffert has won the Rebel six times since 2010, and Nadal has trained up a storm since battling to victory in the 7-furlong San Vicente (G2) last month. A stoutly-bred son of Blame, Nadal should show improvement while stretching out over 1 1/16 miles and dropping the blinkers he wore in his first two starts.

On the other hand, Nadal doesn’t hold an edge in terms of Brisnet Speed ratings, and Baffert hasn’t had the best of luck at Oaklawn in recent years. Since the beginning of 2018, Baffert runners have gone just 1-for-14 at Oaklawn, which includes a pair of narrow defeats from Improbable and Game Winner in split divisions of the 2019 Rebel.

But playing both possibilities isn’t a financially lucrative proposition. Betting Nadal on top, and simultaneously covering for his defeat, makes it difficult to produce profitable plays. Taking a stand one way or the other seems like a sounder option, and since I’m optimistic Nadal will improve off his gutsy effort in the San Vicente, I’ll accept the role of chalk-eating weasel and key him on top in this Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race.

Underneath, #4 Silver Prospector must be used off his victory in the Feb. 17 Southwest (G3) over the same track and distance as the Rebel. I loved the way Silver Prospector saved ground behind runners before rallying tenaciously to win with fast speed figures. It wasn’t a fluke performance either, because Silver Prospector beat graded stakes winners Tiz the Law and Enforceable in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) last fall.

#6 Three Technique was compromised by a slow pace and a speed-favoring track when rallying to finish second in the Jan. 24 Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn. An improved run should be in store after the offing, if he catches a fair track on Saturday. #3 Basin beat Three Technique in a Saratoga maiden race last summer and subsequently romped to victory in the Hopeful (G1), but the son of Liam’s Map hasn’t run since September. Can he hold his own against this caliber of competition while returning from a long layoff?

Speaking of layoffs, #8 American Theorem hasn’t been seen since finishing second in the Sep. 27 American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita. This classily-bred youngster has held his own against top competition out west, but again, the layoff is a big question mark.

Should Basin and American Theorem fail to fire in their 2020 debuts, #7 Coach Bahe could slip into the exotics at a price. The son of Take Charge Indy will add Lasix after rallying through traffic to break his maiden going a mile at Fair Grounds last month.

We’ll mix and match these runners in a couple of trifecta bets with Nadal on top:

$4 Trifecta: 1 with 4 with 3,6,7,8 ($16)
$3.50 Trifecta: 1 with 3,6,7,8 with 4 ($14)

Good luck!