Friday, March 18, 2011

Rebel Stakes

Oaklawn Park

Saturday March 19th 2011
Estimated Local Post Time:
Name: Rebel Stakes Grade: II
Purse: $300,000
Distance/Restrictions: 1 1/16 Miles, Dirt, 3 Year Olds, STAKES

Picko’s Pride
J.P.’s Gusto
The Factor
Caleb’s Posse
Saratoga Red
Sway Away
Elite Alex
Bluegrass Jam
J.W. Blue

I can honestly say this year’s Rebel Stakes may be one of the most competitive fields I’ve ever seen for this early of a prep race. Usually when I handicap a stakes race I can foresee 2 or 3 different horses winning – with this race I can earnestly see 5 or 6 horses winning this race outright.

And I’m not the only one Trackmaster – who professionally handicaps races – doesn’t even have the 2/1 favorite (#6) The Factor finishing in the top 3 – it’s going to be a tough one to call, which in turn makes this a fascinating race to watch!!

Not only are many of these horses evenly matched – we’re looking at a very talented group. I believe that if a few of these horses have a strong showing in the Rebel and follow up with a solid April outing – they certainly could have Uncle Mo followers concerned.

The Rebel features several rematches between horses.

It is a rematch of the 1 mile Southwest Stakes here at Oaklawn that finished as follows:

(#1) Archarcharch defeated

(#5) J.P. Gusto – 2nd place
(#10) Elite Alex – 3rd place
(#4) Picko’s Pride – 4th place
and (#7) Caleb’s Posse – 6th place.

I think Archarcharch may have drawn a tough post position for his style and for this level of talent. My guess is he'll be buried in a bundle of horses before the first turn and never find a way around them.

J.P. Gusto (similar to his California Rival Jaycito) has failed to live up to the buildup he received last year. J.P. Gusto had a string of four consecutive victories but has failed to visit the winner’s circle in anything over 7 furlongs.

Elite Alex should certainly be considered a threat to win this race – he has solid closing speed, and looks like a gamer at this distance - however he has also come up short against (#2) Alternation in a 1 mile test this past January. I’m also not crazy about his post position here.

This is also an immediate rematch between Alternation and (#3) Dreaminofthewin – who dueled it out this past Feb. 21 – with Alternation winning and finishing just ahead of Dreaminofthewin.

However the two horses I’m most interested in are, the current favorite, and San Vicente Stakes winner (#6) The Factor and San Vicente Stakes runner-up (#9) Sway Away.

Please forgive me for stealing this line from the movie Seabiscuit – but Sway Away closes like a freight train, and he looks like one too – this is a big horse! And while The Factor enjoyed a victory in his last outing – that was only a mile race, and Sway Away was closing fast…..the extra 1/16th of a mile could make a big difference.

However what makes this Rebel Stakes so much fun – is that there are a number of horses who have late closing style. Sway Away, Picko’s Pride, Elite Alex, Alternation and possibly even Archarcharch usually hang around in the back of the pack and rally late.

I believe that if any of these five horses score a clear path close to the rail in the final turn they’ll be in the winner’s circle. However with a total of 13 horses in the field, it’s very possible that these late comers will have to go “well” wide in the final turn, or it’s likely a few of them will get bottled up behind a wall of laggers with nowhere to go.

I suspect the action in the back will begin right before the ¾ mile marker.

J.P. Gusto and The Factor will most likely be in the middle of the pack or slightly off the lead. The question for these two horses will be –

1. Can they hold off the late rally in a mile 1/16th race?
2. Will they get suckered into a frantic early pace?

It wouldn’t surprise me if Saratoga Red (#8) bolts for the early lead with the hopes of putting so much ground between himself and the rest of the pack that he simply avoids the traffic and outlasts everyone to the finish line. Saratoga Red is currently going off at 30-1 and while I seriously doubt he’s the best horse of this group….with a little luck he may be able to pull off an upset here.

If Saratoga Red (or any of the other horses) take off for a 45 / 46 second ½ mile – it will be interesting to see if J.P. Gusto, The Factor, Dreaminofthewin or Caleb’s Posse decide to run for an early duel. I think any early duelers will end up finishing very poorly in this race – too much talent.

The three outside horses Glint, Bluegrass Jam and J.W. Blue – I believe lack the talent to compete in this field…..however this is an unusually talented field!

Out of these three J.W. Blue also likes to rally late and with his outside position he may have a nice early edge for his style of racing. I just don’t know if he can compete with the likes of Sway Away.

In closing I’m rooting for Sway Away – I just like this big horse. I think J.P’s Gusto and The Factor will enjoy a fairly traffic free trip and I believe that will help them finish in the top four. But I believe this race will be won in the final turn. As I wrote before if one of the big closers lucks into a clear path near the rail – I think he’ll steal the race.

If all of the late closers find traffic – I believe J.P. Gusto and The Factor will go nose to nose at the wire. This has the potential of being a very special race….and with any luck we’ll see a number of these horses back at it again in the Arkansas Derby.

Trackmaster likes: J.P’s Gusto, Sway Away & Picko’s Pride

Closing Speed likes: Sway Away, The Factor, Alternation.

We'll let Dino give us his best Sway Away.....

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