Mucciolo’s Sophomore Spotlight: Rebel Stakes Preview

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March 16th, 2017

Rebel S. (G2):

A single graded feature will be held this weekend for sophomores on the Kentucky Derby Trail, but the quality of Saturday’s field makes up for the lack of quantity nationwide. The $900,000 Rebel S. (G2) has attracted a fine field of 11 and I have a hunch we might see one or more of these three-year-old prospects vault up the leaderboard in their division.

I have become a bit infatuated with the progression of John Shirreffs’ ROYAL MO and will continue to ride this one until he proves me wrong. Bay colt has been first or second in each of his four career runs, led by his tally in the Robert Lewis S. (G3) last time out in a seasonal debut. The $300,000 yearling purchase is unbeaten since stretching out to route two prior and continues to train like a youngster who has plenty more to offer recording a trio of strong six-furlong morning drills in preparation. This field is no joke and Royal Mo will have to get a bit faster to annex this race, but his BRIS Speed ratings have improved with every start and further progress is expected. I think it’s a benefit drawing outside of the other speed and class in the field and Victor Espinoza will be along to guide the selection at an expected nice price.

AMERICAN ANTHEM has been tabbed as a really good one by Bob Baffert (who has won the last three runnings of the Rebel) since his debut tally in December and exits a game second in the January 7 Sham S. (G3) in just his second career outing. Expensive son of solid young sire Bodemeister was not flattered when the horse that beat him last time came back to run a clunker, but American Anthem may still have a very high ceiling with a ton of room for improvement. He shows a pair of swift bullet morning moves of late and Kentucky-bred has a pedigree that indicates that he will stay a route of ground. And the presence of Mike Smith aboard the exciting prospect is a plus for sure.

MALAGACY will get his first true test in this two-turn debut after a pair of smashing sprint wins in Florida for conditioner Todd Pletcher, who shipped in One Liner to Oaklawn for an impressive win in the February 20 Southwest (G3). By Shackleford, Malagacy followed up a 15-length debut win with a seven-length dusting of allowance runners, registering 104 and 103 BRIS Speed figures to date. $190,000 yearling buy is a big question mark running long and I have no clue how classy he really might be. With that said, the chestnut couldn’t be much more impressive to this point and has to be considered a player beneath Javier Castellano.

UNTRAPPED is yet another who has shown steady progression in his career and the Steve Asmussen trainee was a clear second behind a nice one in the February 25 Risen Star (G3) at Fair Grounds. Son of Trappe Shot earned a whopping 106 BRIS Late Pace figure last time to hint that he will be better with some more ground to work with and dark bay might get a fine trip from off the pace in a cast with a lot of early speed. I like the rider move to Irad Ortiz and think this race will be very defining for the colt, who could train up to the Kentucky Derby with a win after making three stakes appearances in the last eight weeks.

Ron Moquett’s PETROV has gradually improved in each of his four lifetime runs and it’s easy to appreciate how he’s finished either first or second every time. Consistent son of Flatter seems to be a bit behind some of the top players in this spot, and also might be more of a middle distance runner at his best, but the gray remains eligible to earn a piece of the pie yet again with a well-timed ride.

The Rebel Stakes offers players the chance to qualify for the final round of the $25,000 Kentucky Derby Dream Bet at You can win trip to the 2017 Kentucky Derby and a $10,000 Win Bet on your Derby horse!