Kentucky Derby Dream Bet Rebel pick from Vance Hanson

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

March 18th, 2016

Saturday's $900,000 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park is the sixth of eight opportunities to qualify for the final round of's $25,000 Kentucky Derby Dream Bet, and as far as races go it has to be one of the more difficult to handicap that I've seen so far this year.

There are many likeable horses in this race. Suddenbreakingnews, who rallied from 15 lengths down and passed all 13 rivals to win last month's Southwest (G3), might again be forced to win in similar fashion after drawing post 14 in the Rebel. Southwest runner-up Whitmore endured some traffic trouble in that race but finished up nicely in an improved effort. Discreetness, who showed little in the Southwest after a wide trip, has rebounded from bad efforts before and can play a part at a fatter price.

Among the California invaders, recent maiden winner Cupid seems preferable to Hopeful (G1) winner Ralis, who was soundly beaten in both the Champagne (G1) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), evidence perhaps that he'll be more effective under a mile. It doesn't hurt that Cupid is trained by Bob Baffert, who's won five Rebels since 2010.

However, I'm going to take a stab in the Rebel with stakes debuter Madtap (#1A, 6-1), who appears to be peaking at the right time for Steve Asmussen. A first-out winner on grass last fall at Indiana Grand, Madtap showed little in his next two starts, a Keeneland turf allowance and an off-the-turf allowance at Fair Grounds.

The addition of blinkers since coming to Oaklawn has helped, though. Third in his meet debut, the gray Tapit gelding perked up earlier this month fighting through a contested pace and drawing off to win by an impressive six lengths against first-level allowance company going the Rebel distance.

Madtap is drawn well in the middle of the field (post 7), is proven capable from on or off the pace, and hails from a female family that has produced the likes of multiple Grade 1 winner Flat Out, Grade 1-winning sprint mare Got Koko, and J. T.'s Pet, who many years ago captured the Louisiana Derby (G3) and Jim Beam (G3). If there's one major knock, he does come off a short break of two weeks.

For what it's worth, Madtap backers will also get last-out maiden winner Creator as part of the entry. I don't expect that one to contend, but stranger things have happened. Keep in mind Suddenbreakingnews was considered the lesser half of an entry in the Southwest, too, and would have paid much more than $10.20 if he had run uncoupled.