Stakes Advance - Rebel Day

Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

Compiled by Robert Yates

Timberlake (#7) is on a two-race schedule to reach the Kentucky Derby. The journey begins in the $1.25 million G2-Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Saturday at Oaklawn, which marks the 3-year-old debut for the Grade 1 winner and heavy program favorite.

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 $600,000 G3-Razorback Handicap for older horses at 1 1/16 miles, $400,000 G3-Honeybee Stakes 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 Rebel, which drew a field of 13, will offer 105 points to its top five finishers (50-25-15-10-5, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Oaklawn’s four-race Kentucky Derby points series concludes with the 1 1/8-miles $1.5 million G1-Arkansas Derby at 1 1/8 miles March 30.

With 16 points, Timberlake (#7) ranks 13th on the latest Kentucky Derby leaderboard released by Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters.

The complete Rebel field from the rail out: Carbone (#1), Isaac Castillo to ride, 119 pounds, 15-1 on the morning line; Northern Flame (#2), Julien Leparoux, 122, 5-1; Common Defense (#3), Brian Hernadez Jr., 117, 30-1; Tejon Pass (#4), Chris Landeros, 117, 30-1; Magic Grant (#5), Harry Hernandez, 117, 50-1; Dimatic (#6), Tyler Gaffalione, 117, 8-1; Timberlake (#7), Cristian Torres, 119, 6-5; Next Level (#8), Jose Riquelme, 117, 30-1; Lagynos (#9), Keith Asmussen, 119, 20-1; Mena (#10), Francisco Arrieta, 117, 15-1; Just Steel (#11), Ramon Vazquez, 117, 7-2; Woodcourt (#12), Emmanuel Esquivel, 119, 20-1; and Time for Truth (#13), Rafael Bejarano, 117, 15-1.

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

Timberlake is easily the most accomplished Rebel entrant, winning the $500,000 G1-Champagne Stakes – a one-turn mile – Oct. 7 at Aqueduct and concluding his 2-year-old campaign with a fourth-place finish in the $2 million G1-Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.

“Hope to have a great run with him on Saturday and then we’ll know more,” said Brad Cox, who trains Timberlake, a son of Into Mischief, for WinStar Farm and Siena Farm. “We need to get through Saturday before we think too far ahead about his next start.”

In addition to the Champagne and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Timberlake, in his second start, broke his maiden by 9 ¼ lengths July 21 at Ellis Park and finished second as the favorite in the $300,000 G1-Hopeful Stakes Sept. 4 at Saratoga. Both races were seven furlongs.

Timberlake has alternated losses and wins in his five-race career.

“He was a very talented horse from the start,” Cox said. “Excited to get him started this year. The post is fine. It’s right in the middle.”

Cox 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.

Cox and Torres teamed to win Oaklawn’s first 2024 Kentucky Derby points race, the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1, with Catching Freedom.

Just Steel finished second in the Smarty Jones and $800,000 G3-Southwest Stakes Feb. 3 for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The Southwest, delayed one week because of winter weather, was Oaklawn’s second Kentucky Derby points race.

Just Steel has another outside draw Saturday after breaking from post 10 in the Southwest. He was beaten eight lengths by Mystik Dan after taking a narrow lead in the upper stretch.

“He’s a quality horse,” Lukas said. “He’s probably 80 percent of what I can get out of him, but we’re moving in the right direction. He’s a horse that’s got some ability and if we’ll just be patient and take it notch by notch, we’ll probably be OK.”

With Mystik Dan awaiting the Arkansas Derby, trainer Kenny McPeek tapped Northern Flame and Common Defense for the Rebel.

Northern Flame, at odds of 49-1, finished fourth in the $600,000 G2-Breeders’ Futurity Stakes Oct. 7 at Keeneland and exits a one-mile allowance victory Jan. 28 at Oaklawn.

“I think he’s good right now and if he’s going to win a race like the Rebel, I think now is the time,” McPeek said. “He’s been a horse that I was a little worried was a notch below at this stage. But look, the thing’s wide open. It looks like it’s a good, solid race and the favorite hasn’t run in a while. We’re going to give him a chance.”

Common Defense broke his maiden at one mile Jan. 13 at Oaklawn, then was fifth, beaten 17 ¼ lengths, in the Southwest. McPeek said he planned to run Common Defense in the $150,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes March 2 at Turfway Park before a five-furlong work last Saturday at Fair Grounds.

“The last race in the slop. I don’t think was his favorite surface,” McPeek said. “He’s a horse that probably deserves another chance. His work was impressive enough to justify taking him (to Oaklawn) and trying him one more time.”

Lightly raced Time for Truth figures to be on or near the lead in his two-turn debut for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs.

Time for Truth scored a sharp front-running debut victory Dec. 31 and is being wheeled back in two weeks after a runner-up finish in the inaugural $150,000 Ozark Stakes. Both six-furlong races were at Oaklawn.

The first Oaklawn winner for 2019 Rebel and Arkansas Derby champion Omaha Beach, Time for Truth will break from the extreme outside.

“I would say so,” Moquett said, when asked if he expected Time for Truth to be forwardly placed. “If there’s somebody that wants to get up there in front of him, they might have to exert themselves a little bit.”

Mena, a full brother to Caddo River trained by Steve Hobby of Hot Springs, was beaten a neck by Northern Flame Jan. 28

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has three entrants (Carbone, Dimatic and Lagynos).

Carbone suffered his first career loss in the Southwest, beaten 21 ¾ lengths as the favorite. Dimatic adds blinkers after breaking his maiden at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 3 at Oaklawn in his last start. Lagynos hasn’t started since finishing sixth in the Smarty Jones.

Tejon Pass finished a distant third behind unbeaten Nysos in the seven-furlong $100,000 G3-Bob Hope Stakes Nov. 19 at Del Mar. In two Oaklawn starts for Southern California-based trainer Peter Miller, Tejon Pass finished second in the six-furlong $150,000 Renaissance Stakes Dec. 31 and fifth as the favorite in the first division of the split Jan. 28 first-level allowance. It was the first start around two turns for Tejon Pass.

“He’s on the inside of a fast pace with some longshot,” Miller said. “Then he takes back and swings wide around the turn and, I think, he only got beat two lengths. I think it was a lot better than it looked.”

The Rebel carries a record purse in 2024 after being worth $1 million in 2020-2023.


The Honeybee is Oaklawn’s second of three qualifying races for the Kentucky Oaks and offers 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.

The 10-horse Honeybee field, from the rail out: Alys Beach (#1), Julien Leparoux to ride, 117 pounds, 10-1 on the morning line; Band of Gold (#2), Brian Hernandez Jr., 122, 2-1; Honor Cat (#3), Harry Hernandez, 117, 15-1; Neom Beach (#4), Tyler Gaffalione, 117, 8-1; Edistrudis (#5), Isaac Castillo, 117, 30-1; West Omaha (#6), Cristian Torres, 122, 7-5; Lemon Muffin (#7), Keith Asmussen, 117, 30-1; Tapit Jenallie (#8), Emmanuel Esquivel, 117, 10-1; In Just My Heels (#9), Rafael Bejarano, 117, 20-1; and Midshipman’s Dance (#10), Ramon Vazquez, 117, 12-1.

Band of Gold was a 2 ¾-length winner of the 1 1/16-miles $250,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 3 in her last start. The Martha Washington, Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Oaks points race, was delayed one week because of winter weather.

“She was doing pretty well going into that the last race and I think she’s going to need to move a step forward in this spot,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “But we’ve got her doing good. She’s there and let’s pull the trigger again.”

Program favorite West Omaha exits a five-length victory in the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards Jan. 20 at Fair Grounds.

Trainer Brad Cox, who swept Oaklawn’s 2023 Kentucky Oaks points series with Wet Paint, scratched West Omaha from the $300,000 G2-Rachel Alexandra Stakeslast Saturday at Fair Grounds to run in the Honeybee.

“Obviously, proven at the distance,” Cox said. “Excited about the opportunity with her. This gives her a little bit more time, five weeks. Very happy with her this winter.”

Neom Beach and Tapit Jenallie, finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Martha Washington, while unbeaten Midshipman’s Dance (2 for 2) will be making her two-turn debut for trainer Robertino Diodoro.

Diodoro originally planned to run Midshipman’s Dance in the $150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes last Saturday at Oaklawn, then stretch out the daughter of Midshipman in her next start. She captured the six-furlong $150,000 Mockingbird Stakes Jan. 13 at Oaklawn in her last start.

“I think I’m making the right decision,” Diodoro said. “We’ll see. Her last two works down there (Louisiana Downs) were very, very impressive, and with long gallop outs. Bred for it (two turns), built like it and trains like it.”

Alys Beach, third and fourth in two Grade 1 events last year for trainer Tom Amoss, will be making her 3-year-old debut.

In Just My Heels exits a 2 ½-length maiden victory at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 2 at Oaklawn for trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs and breeder/owner Anita Ebert. High Heels, the dam of In Just My Heels, finished second in the 2007 Honeybee for Ebert.

The Honeybee has record purse in 2024 after being worth $300,000 in 2020-2023.


Promise Keeper bids for his second consecutive stakes victory at the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting in the Razorback, which drew a bulky field of 13.

Racing in blinkers for the first time, Promise Keeper was a front-running half-length winner of the one-mile $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 27 at Oaklawn in his last start.

Promise Keeper, then with future Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, hadn’t won since the $200,000 G3-Peter Pan Stakes in May 2021 at Belmont Park.

The Fifth Season was Promise Keeper’s second start since Diodoro claimed the now-6-year-old gelding for $80,000 out of an 11th-place finish in a Sept. 21 optional claiming race at Churchill Downs.

“He’s going to have to take another step forward, but he’s got lots of back class,” Diodoro said. “He hadn’t won in a long time and sometimes those kinds of horses that get a win in them get going again. And the way he did it when he won his last race, he had to dig in. He really had to fight for the win and, hopefully, it got some heart back into him.”

Promise Keeper finished fourth in the 2022 Razorback for Pletcher.

The Carousel marks the stakes debut for 7-5 program favorite Zeitlos, a 4-year-old daughter of Curlin who races for her breeder, Stonestreet Stables (Barbara Banke), and is trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen.

Zeitlos exits a 3 ¼-length allowance victory Feb. 3 at Oaklawn for Asmussen, who has won the Carousel a record seven times and has a record 109 career Oaklawn stakes victories.