Ralis set to make seasonal bow in Rebel
Edited Press Release
Grade 1 winner Ralis will make his sophomore debut in the $900,000 Rebel (G2) on March 19 at Oaklawn Park, trainer Doug O'Neill said Tuesday night.
O'Neill said Mario Gutierrez will have the mount on the Southern California-based colt, who scored his biggest career victory in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga last September 7.
Ralis hasn't started since finishing 14th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) on October 31 at Keeneland. His only other start after winning the Hopeful was a sixth-place finish, as the favorite, in the October 3 Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park.
“He's doing really well,” O'Neill said. “We gave him some well-deserved time off after his last couple that he didn't just fire in and we're trying to get him back to his Hopeful form, winning a Grade 1 at Saratoga. We're trying to get back to those days.”
Ralis has had six published workouts at Santa Anita since January 24, including five furlongs in 1:01.80 Friday. O'Neill said the decision to run in the Rebel was made following the Square Eddie colt’s last work. Ralis will be seeking his first victory around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel.
“After his last breeze, we said, 'You know what, we think he's good enough and ready enough to try the Rebel,’” O'Neill said. “We know it’s not going to be an easy race, but we think it's a great (Kentucky) Derby (G1) prep. It's going to be a good test to kind of see where we're at. If we run good there, we're on our way to Kentucky.”
O'Neill said Ralis will probably arrive in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Tuesday and “more than likely” return for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 16, if the colt performs well in the Rebel.
Ralis is campaigned by breeder J. Paul Reddam, who also has unbeaten two-year-old champion Nyquist headed to the Kentucky Derby with O’Neill. Nyquist is scheduled for his final Kentucky Derby prep in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) on April 2 at Gulfstream Park.
In other Rebel news, WinStar Farm's Creator will make his next start in the Oaklawn contest off a powerful 7 1/4-length maiden winner over track and distance on February 27, WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden said Tuesday afternoon.
Creator finished second in four of his first five career starts for trainer Steve Asmussen before his breakthrough victory last month in his Oaklawn debut.
“We've always liked the horse, and Steve's always been very high on him,” Walden said. “We were disappointed that he hadn't gotten his maiden broken yet, but we continued and then when he ran well like that – he has plenty of experience.”
Creator rallied from far back to break his maiden under three-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr., who is scheduled to have the mount aboard the Tapit colt for the Rebel.
A large field is expected for the Rebel, which Walden said he hopes will benefit the late-running Creator.
“I think he just needs a decent, honest pace in front of him, like he got the other day, and we'll see what happens,” Walden said.
Creator worked a half-mile in :51.40 over a fast track Monday morning at Oaklawn.
Also working for the Rebel on Monday at Oaklawn was Smarty Jones fifth-placer Gray Sky, who clocked five-eighths in 1:01.60 for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Stablemate Z Royal, who worked a half-mile in :48.40 Monday morning at Oaklawn, is entered in a Saturday allowance/optional claimer, but the Rebel is under consideration, according to Justin Zayat, racing and stallion manager for the colt's owner, Ahmed Zayat.
Unbeaten Dazzling Gem will miss the Rebel because of a minor foot problem, trainer Brad Cox said Wednesday morning. Cox added that Dazzling Gem will now point for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) going nine furlongs on March 26 at Fair Grounds.
Cox explained that Dazzling Gem developed a foot abscess Friday, a problem that forced the colt to miss a scheduled work Saturday morning at Oaklawn. The trainer said the foot was better Wednesday morning, adding the plan is to still run the colt in a major Kentucky Derby prep race.
“It's just a minor thing," Cox said. "As well as he's trained, he deserves a shot.”
Dazzling Gem, a son of Misremembered, won his January 18 career debut and then a February 13 entry-level allowance event. Both races were at Oaklawn and around two turns.
Ralis photo courtesy of NYRA/Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography