Kellie Reilly picks the Rebel for Kentucky Derby Dream Bet

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

March 18th, 2016

It’s a good thing that I had a couple of winners at the beginning of the Kentucky Derby Dream Bet Qualifying Round, because the wheels have since come off. Saturday’s $900,000 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park shapes up as a tricky spot to try to regain handicapping momentum, so I offer the following more for entertainment value than anything else.

While freely admitting that he’s going to be a shorter price than warranted in a hotly competitive race, I’ve landed on Cupid (#4, 7-2) to strike the target. That’s not just because trainer Bob Baffert has dominated recent runnings of the Rebel – his couple of Derby prep invaders this meet haven’t panned out, and if anything, the Rebel trend will only be harder to keep up over time.

But Cupid does bring a progressive profile and an intriguing collateral formline from the deeper Southern California circuit. Toss in a commercial pedigree, $900,000 yearling price, and bullet work in 1:11 3/5 at Santa Anita last Friday, and you have a promising 3-year-old who doesn’t need the Baffert brand to advertise himself.

A Tapit half-brother to Grade 3-winning sprinters Heart Ashley, Ashley’s Kitty, and the ultimately disappointing Indianapolis, Cupid started out with two creditable efforts in sprint maidens. Second time out, he was runner-up to the convincing Denman’s Call, who came back to finish a fine third to Nyquist and Exaggerator in the San Vicente (G2).

Stretching out to two turns in his latest, Cupid inhaled the leaders in the stretch and drew off under a motionless Martin Garcia. He earned a gaudy 111 BRIS Late Pace figure, reflective of the slow early tempo that turned into a sprint for home. He’ll encounter a stiffer pace in the Rebel, but he’s had good tactical speed to sit just behind the pace in Santa Anita sprints. The inside post (3) could be more of a challenge for the sometimes headstrong colt, who can take a fierce hold. Nevertheless, Cupid is a talent going in the right direction.

This isn’t to diminish the horses coming out of the Southwest (G3), especially last-to-first hero Suddenbreakingnews and the troubled second Whitmore. But they’ve drawn near or on the far outside. Although Suddenbreakingnews (post 14) had no problem coming from the clouds from post 13 last time, he’s a hostage to fortune with that running style, and he now concedes weight as the 122-pound co-highweight. (Cupid is among those getting seven pounds.) Whitmore meets Suddenbreakingnews on far better terms here, in receipt of five pounds, but he’s also parked out in post 12. Similarly, the Dale Romans-trained Cherry Wine is marooned in post 13. He was a solid prospect at Gulfstream before missing the Fountain of Youth (G2) with an illness, and it’s hard to play catch-up on the Derby trail.

Cupid photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

Check out the Kentucky Derby Dream Bet contest, where you can play to win a trip to this year’s Kentucky Derby and Oaks and a $25,000 win bet on the Kentucky Derby.

Also, the Rebel is one of the races in the “Play Hoops and Horses for 2 Million Points” contest taking place Saturday and Sunday.