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Homeracing

Uncontested a rebound pick in Rebel

Profile Picture: James Scully

March 17th, 2017

Saturday’s Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park features a solid field of 11 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. American Anthem, Malagacy and Petrov all possess some early foot and merit a serious look for win honors, but I am playing the speed of the speed, #2 Uncontested.

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After being a heavy favorite in the Smarty Jones and Southwest (G3), Uncontested is listed at 10-1 on the Rebel morning line. Presumably, the consensus surrounding the speedy colt is he was exposed in the Southwest, weakening to be a well-beaten sixth after setting the pace on a clear lead.

I understand the sentiment but am not putting any stock in the Southwest performance.

When it comes to morning workouts, Uncontested is one of the fastest horses on the grounds at Oaklawn. There was no slowing him down in preparations for the January 16 Smarty Jones, with multiple bullet moves on his resume. And he came back to record a pair of swift works after rolling to a 5 ¼-length wire-to-wire decision in the one-mile race.

But six days before the February 20 Southwest, Uncontested worked a half-mile in :51. It was the 10th slowest of 11 horses at the distance and sticks out like a sore thumb. And then something was amiss from the start of the Southwest as Uncontested never appeared comfortable tossing his head in a rank manner. Supporters knew the even-money favorite was in serious trouble on the first turn.

Trainer Wayne Catalano wasn’t talking about the next prep afterward – he wanted to make sure Uncontested was okay. His charge came back 10 days later to record a 5-furlong bullet work and speculation centered on him pointing toward the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 15. After an effortless 5-furlong bullet on March 10, Uncontested had trained himself into the Rebel.

Uncontested can deliver the performance Saturday many were expecting in the Southwest and the price will be much greater. I have no illusions about him carrying his speed 1 ¼ miles this spring but 8 ½ furlongs is within his wheelhouse. His main rivals are probably looking to sit behind the expected pacesetter and if Uncontested gets away with reasonable early splits, he could be gone by the top of the stretch.

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