Barn Notes 2/22/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Brad Cox, who is compiling a Hall of Fame resume, has a chance this weekend to join Hall of Famers D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen as the only trainers to win all four races in Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby points series.

Cox is scheduled to start Grade 1 winner Timberlake in Saturday’s $1.25 million G2-Rebel Stakes. The 8 ½-furlong Rebel is Oaklawn’s third Kentucky Derby points race, a series that concludes with the nine furlong $1.5 million G1-Arkansas Derby March 30.

Going back to 2021, has won six of Oaklawn’s last 14 Kentucky Derby points races, but he is seeking his first Rebel victory after finishing fifth in 2014 with Sheltowee’s Boy, seventh in 2018 with High North, fifth in 2021 with Caddo River and fourth and sixth last year with Verifying and Giant Mischief, respectively.

The 6-5 program favorite, Timberlake hasn’t started since finishing fourth in the $2 million G1-Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. By super sire Into Mischief, Timberlake’s signature victory came in the $500,000 G1-Champagne Stakes – a one-turn mile – Oct. 7 at Aqueduct.

Timberlake, who races for WinStar Farm and Siena Farm, has been based this winter at the Fair Grounds.

“We gave him a little bit of a break after the Breeders’ Cup,” said Cox, a two-time Eclipse Award winner as the country’s outstanding trainer. “He had a long campaign, and we were very happy with what he was able to accomplish at the age of 2. Just excited about what lies ahead for him. He’s really turned it on over the last two weeks with his works.”

In advance of the Rebel, Timberlake has five published workouts since Jan. 20 at the Fair Grounds. He posted a 5-furlong bullet Feb. 10 (:59.40) and covered the same distance in 1:00.20 Feb. 16.

“We feel like we’ve got him about as good as we’re going to get him,” Cox said.

Cox won Oaklawn’s first 2024 Kentucky Derby points race, the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1, with Catching Freedom. It was Cox’s record third Smarty Jones victory. He also won the G3-Southwest Stakes – Oaklawn’s second Kentucky Derby points race – in 2021 with champion Essential Quality and the Arkansas Derby in 2022 with Cyberknife and 2023 with Angel of Empire.

Timberlake is among 13 scheduled starters for the Rebel, which carries a record purse after being worth $1 million in 2020-2023.The Rebel is among four stakes races on a 12-race card that begins at noon (Central). Gates open at 10:30 a.m. Weather permitting, the infield will be open for the first time this season. Probable post time for the Rebel, the 11th race, is 5:23 p.m.

The Rebel will offer 105 points to its top five finishers (50-25-15-10-5, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Timberlake (16 points) ranks 13th on the latest Kentucky Derby leaderboard released by Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters.

The projected Rebel field from the rail out: Carbone, Isaac Castillo to ride, 119 pounds, 15-1 on the morning line; Northern Flame, Julien Leparoux, 122, 5-1; Common Defense, Brian Hernadez Jr., 117, 30-1; Tejon Pass, Chris Landeros, 117, 30-1; Magic Grant, Harry Hernandez, 117, 50-1; Dimatic, Tyler Gaffalione, 117, 8-1; Timberlake, Cristian Torres, 119, 6-5; Next Level, Jose Riquelme, 117, 30-1; Lagynos, Keith Asmussen, 119, 20-1; Mena, Francisco Arrieta, 117, 15-1; Just Steel, Ramon Vazquez, 117, 7-2; Woodcourt, Emmanuel Esquivel, 119, 20-1; and Time for Truth, Rafael Bejarano, 117, 15-1.

If the field remains intact, it will equal the third largest in Rebel history. The 1980 Rebel, won by eventual 3-year-old champion male Temperence Hill, had a record 15 starters.

The $600,000 G3-Razorback Handicap for older horses at 1 1/16 miles, $400,000 G3-Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles and $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older females at 6 furlongs are also Saturday.

The Honeybee is Oaklawn’s second of three qualifying races for the Kentucky Oaks. It will offer 105 points to its top five finishers (50-25-15-10-5, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies. Honeybee entrants include Band of Gold for trainer Kenny McPeek and West Omaha, the 7-5 program favorite, for Cox.

Band of Gold won the $250,000 Martha Washington Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 3. The Martha Washington was Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Oaks points race.West Omaha won the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards Jan. 20 at Fair Grounds in her last start.