March 14, 2013
Super Ninety Nine Returns to Face 10 in Rebel Stakes
Led by Graded stakes winners Super Ninety Nine and Oxbow, a field of 11 will chase the lucrative purse and Kentucky Derby points Saturday in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn.
Super Ninety Nine returns to Hot Springs from California after winning Oaklawn’s Southwest Stakes (G3) last month. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has dominated the local 3-year-old scene in recent seasons and looks to win his fourth consecutive Rebel. He pairs the colt with jockey Rafael Bejarano again. They will break from the outside, post 11, in the 1 1/16th-mile race. Baffert will also send Den’s Legacy to the Rebel for his Arkansas-based owners Westrock Stables. He will be ridden by Robby Albarado from post 6.
The Rebel is the next step on the road to the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and offers 85 total points in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” program used to determine which horses get to run at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. The winner of the Rebel earns 50 points and will be safely in the field if more than 20 horses enter.
In addition to the pair trained by Baffert, fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas sends out a pair of stakes winners in Oxbow and Will Take Charge. The former, owned by Calumet Farm, won the Lecomte Stakes at Fairgrounds in New Orleans and teams with Mike Smith for the first time from post 10. Will Take Charge won the Smarty Jones Stakes here in January and again has jockey Jon Court aboard out of gate 7.
Lukas will be in search of his second career Rebel victory. He finished second last year with Optimizer and put the finishing touches on their preparation Monday and Tuesday.
“They’re excellent and all good to go this morning,” said Lukas. “They came out of their works in good order. I spoke to Mike (Smith) briefly last week. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a lot of conversation with a rider like him. I’m just going to put him on the horse and send him out there.”
From the East, Delhomme invades for WinStar Farm, Twin Creeks Racing and trainer Todd Pletcher. The Rebel will be the Dixie Union colt’s first start of 2013. He was last seen finishing third in the Remsen Stakes (G2) in New York last November and will team with jockey Garrett Gomez for the first time Saturday from post 4.
The stacked line-up also includes stakes winner Texas Bling for Hall’s Family Trust and trainer Danele Durham. The Texas-bred won the Springboard Mile in Oklahoma late last year and just missed to Will Take Charge in the Smarty Jones. Texas Bling will need to answer for a disappointing effort in the Southwest when the sloppy track left him floundering in ninth.
Joining the Baffert pair on the plane from California is Treasury Bill, most recently second in the San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita Feb. 17. He will be coupled in a wagering entry with Title Contender, a former West Coast runner now based in New Orleans with trainer Wayne Catalano. Both runners are owned by Gary and Mary West.
The complete field for the Rebel with their riders in program order: 1 (post 2) Treasury Bill, Joe Talamo; 1A (post 9) Title Contender, Luis Quinonez; 2 (post 1) Carve, Corey Nakatani; 3 Texas Bling, Cliff Berry; 4 Delhomme, Gomez; 5 Hardrock Eleven, Terry Thompson; 6 Den’s Legacy, Albarado; 7 Will Take Charge, Court; 8 Stormy Holiday, Derek Bell; 9 (post 10) Oxbow, Smith and 11 Super Ninety Nine, Bejarano.
My Miss Aurelia Makes Seasonal Debut in Azeri; Takes On Don’t Tell Sophia and Five Others
My Miss Aurelia, the 2011 champion juvenile filly, who just missed being named the 2012 champion 3-year-old filly, will begin her 4-year-old campaign in Saturday’s $150,000 Azeri Stakes (G3). The 1 1/16-mile race, the last local prep before the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 12 drew a short, but talented field of five.
Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton’s My Miss Aurelia has not raced since finishing third in the La Brea Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Dec. 26 over a wet-fast racetrack. One race prior, she suffered her first career defeat when second to champion Royal Delta in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (G1) at Santa Anita. Up to that point, she had been undefeated in six career starts, including the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs and Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx. Regular rider Corey Nakatani comes in from Southern California for the mount.
“It’s exciting when one like her comes around,” said Darren Fleming, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.
The Azeri won’t be an easy task for My Miss Aurelia as all four of her competitors have the credentials to pull the upset. Chief among them is Don’t Tell Sophia, who has already established herself as the best local older female with runaway victories in the $75,000 Pippin Stakes and $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes. The 5-year-old Congaree mare has continued to train well since the Feb. 16 Bayakoa and will once again have the services of jockey Robby Albarado.
“I would like to have more in there,” said Don’t Tell Sophia’s trainer Phil Sims. “I hate short fields. Mainly on principle because of the pace. It seems sometimes some horses find even more trouble in the small fields because they all bunch up. But she’s ready.”
The other key Azeri contenders figure to be last year’s winner Tiz Miz Sue, most recently third in the Bayakoa, and the Donnie K. Von Hemel-trained entry of She’s All In and Songs and Sonnets. She’s All In was second in the Bayakoa, while Songs and Sonnets, the daughter of multiples stakes winner Bedanka, makes her stakes debut off an impressive allowance win.
“The complexion changed quite a bit,” said Von Hemel of My Miss Aurelia joining the field. “It goes from guessing how you are going to beat ‘Sophia’ to how are you going to beat two of them. And then I wouldn’t want to dis Tiz Miz Sue. It’s obviously a small but select group and everybody’s tough. For Songs and Sonnets, it’s not exactly the easiest way to make your stakes debut. She’s doing so good, and sometimes you just have to take a chance.”
The complete field for the Azeri with their riders in program order: Tiz Miz Sue, Joe Rocco Jr.; Holy Heavens, Israel Ocampo; She’s All In, Luis Quinonez; Songs and Sonnets, Garrett Gomez; Keiai Tokyo, Rosemary Homeister Jr.; Don’t Tell Sophia, Robby Albarado, and My Miss Aurelia, Corey Nakatani.
Oaklawn to Open Infield for Last Five Saturdays Starting Rebel Day
Oaklawn will open its infield the last five Saturdays of the season from Rebel Stakes Day through Arkansas Derby Day. Admission to the infield is free with $2 general admission and patrons can enjoy the Beer Garden, live music and Kids Zone with family friendly activities and concessions.
Blankets and lawn chairs are welcome in infield only, but coolers are not.
The special events in the infield, include:
March 16 - Boat Show courtesy of Bradford Marine
March 23 - Outdoors Expo and Blanket Giveaway - free with paid admission while supplies last
March 30 - Antique Car Show with the Hot Springs Cruisers Club
April 6 - College Day and Arkansas State Baggo Competition
April 13 – Arkansas Derby Day