- Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park is this year’s second major Kentucky Derby prep race
- Through three races in his career Newgrange is unbeaten but does not qualify for Derby points
- What is our best betting option Saturday in Hot Springs, Arkansas?
The Kentucky Derby is ten weeks from Saturday. This weekend’s Rebel Stakes features 11 Run for the Roses hopefuls including likely favorite Newgrange.
Because Newgrange is trained by Bob Baffert, who was officially stripped of his record setting seventh Derby triumph on Monday, Newgrange can win Baffert his ninth Rebel Stakes, but Churchill downs will not award Derby qualifying points to the disgraced trainer of the now disqualified late Medina Spirit.
Regardless of the politics, as we approach the Triple Crown it is a good idea to brush up on horse racing rules. As for handicapping the Rebel, Newgrange is a reasonable favorite, but there is reason to bet on someone else with a little more enticing price.
Let’s handicap some of the top contenders with an eye towards value.
2022 Rebel Stakes Odds
|Texas Red Hot||+1200|
Odds as of February 25
With a purse of $1 million, the Rebel always attracts top horses. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah took the Rebel before capturing the Arkansas Derby before his run to history. The one-mile-and-sixteenth distance is usually run in good conditions. However, weather forecasts for this Saturday call for seasonally low temperatures, in the 40’s, with possible rain.
This is a good example of a race where understanding how pari-mutuel wagering works can really be an advantage to savvy bettors. While Newgrange is listed at just under +200 on the morning line, there is a distinct possibility he will go off at closer to +100. That can create value on other contenders. Monitoring prices can lead you to profitable overlays.
Post time is scheduled for 6:22 pm EST. TVG has television coverage. The winner, so long as it is not Newgrange, will receive 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Second place earns 20 points, the third place finisher gets 10 points, and whoever is fourth leaves with five points. These points will surely go a way to affecting the Kentucky Derby odds.
Newgrange Is Logical But Not Overwhelming Favorite
Newgrange has done nothing wrong. He has run three times and won each of them. Baffert, while in trouble at the moment, has dominated three year old racing in recent years. Jockey John Velazquez has won the Kentucky Derby four times, though his win last year on Medina Spirit is now off the books. Newgrange beat four of his rivals today in last month’s Southwest Stakes.
In beating Barber Road, Ben Diesel, Kavod, and Dash Attack, Newgrange justified his +150 odds last time out. Unlike his previous race, when he went wire-to-wire in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, he came from behind and responded when asked down the stretch in the Southwest.
Of his rivals, only Barber Road really had lousy racing luck in the Southwest. Barber Road perhaps was too far behind early, and has dealt with traffic issues in back-to-back races. Barber Road lost to Dash Attack in the Smarty Jones Stakes on January 1. Even if you can make excuses for both of those results, he was once available to be bought for a modest $30,000. That is not an indication he is expected to be a classic winner.
Steve Asmussen Isn’t Winningest Trainer of All Time for No Reason
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has won more than 9,600 races, the most of any North American conditioner in thoroughbred history. He has taken the Rebel Stakes on four occasions, and has three shots to win this year’s version.
Chasing Time will be facing stakes quality horses for the first time on Saturday, but the $250,000 son of Not This Time has been the favorite in all five of his races, has two wins and two seconds, and sure looked good last time out.
His two longest races have been his best and maybe two turns is what Chasing Time really wants.
Stellar Tap also cost a quarter-million dollars but has just one victory in four starts. After winning convincingly in his first start, he tried a pair of graded stakes to end last year and finished fifth and seventh. At Fair Grounds in January he ran an ok third in an optional claiming event.
Cairama, a $525,000 son of Cairo Prince, won his debut sprinting at Belmont Park in September, but ran poorly in November’s Nashua Stakes. He finished third, finishing behind Kavod in a stakes race at Oaklawn Park in December. On January 1 he did not run well in the Smarty Jones Stakes, but didn’t get out of the gate cleanly.
Three Year Olds Often Make a Big Jump
Newgrange has clearly been better as a three year old than a two year old. Sure he has won each of his races, but the bump from his debut in November, to two races in January has been significant. Only one horse in this race has yet to run in 2022.
Texas Red Hot won twice in 2021, but has been resting since late November. He was outrun in a grade two event when last seen, but that race ended up producing several big time Derby contenders (Smile Happy, Classic Causeway, White Abarrio). His first career victory was impressive.
Bettors have never really embraced Texas Red Hot. He is a square price, and if improvement comes as a three year old, who knows.
Rebel Stakes Best Bet
Unlike like last week’s Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, on paper the Rebel only has a few horses you could imagine being Kentucky Derby factors.
Newgrange would need a new trainer, or Baffert’s legal maneuverings would need to work in order to be a Derby contender. If one of those things occurs, there is no doubt he is in the mix. While Barber Road could turn the tables on him here, he doesn’t have the pedigree we generally like to back.
On the flip side Chasing Time has all of the things we look for. He is well bred, trained by a legend, and made a big jump in his seasonal debut. Another step forward on Saturday and you might find yourself a winner at a nice price.
Pick: Chasing Time (+800)