It's Rebel weekend at Oaklawn Park as we inch ever so much closer to the first Saturday in May and the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Joining the Rebel on the weekend graded stakes calendar are the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita, the Honey Fox at Gulfstream, the Azeri at Oaklawn, and the Inside Information on St. Patrick's Day in South Florida.
Let's take a quick look at some of the major stakes action on Saturday.
G1-Santa Margarita (Post Time: 6:35 pm ET)
The field for the lone Grade 1 race this weekend is a little bit disappointing as Eblouissante, the half-sister to Zenyatta, bypassed the event due to some minor injury issues. Regardless, I think this race sets up well for More Chocolate, winner of the G2-LaCanada back on Jan. 20, to sit right behind Joyful Victory and Great Hot (BRZ) in the early stages.
G2-Honey Fox (Post Time: 5:35 pm ET)
Class Included, the 2012 Emerald Downs "Horse of the Meet", will make her debut for Dale Romans on the lawn in the Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park. In her last race she received a less than ideal ride in the G2-Bayakoa at Betfair Hollywood Park when she finished 7th of eight. That race followed a 7th place finish in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic where she had some trouble going into the first turn. So, she's had a bit of a rough go of it in her last couple of efforts. I'd like to see her get a good trip and ride in the Honey Fox... at least give this mare a chance.
I think these next two races are pretty key for Super Ninety Nine as he moves towards the Derby, in much the same way that the Arkansas Derby was key for Bodemeister last year. We know Super Ninety Nine can win up front, and that's probably where he truly wants to be and he definitely needs to control his early speed in order to maximize its effectiveness, but I don't feel he's a "need to lead", one-dimensional colt. In fact, his Southwest victory is the only gate-to-wire performance of his career.
With Title Contender, Delhomme and Oxbow to his inside, Bejarano will be able to pick and choose his spot heading into the first turn. If the pace is soft (which it probably won't be), he can take command. If one of those three decides to throw down some serious early splits, I think he can sit just off the pace in a perfect stalking position.
Delhomme's Remsen looks really nice on paper but Overanalyze and Normandy Invasion didn't exactly light up the tote board in their 2013 debuts (both finished fifth); no horse in that field has come back to win a race, even those horses that dropped down to allowance and claiming levels. I think there's a good deal of doubt about the quality of that race overall.
Treasury Bill is an interesting colt stretching out to two turns for the first time. His dam, Wow Me Free) won five times in eleven starts when routing, including a win in the nine furlong G3-Next Move Handicap at Aqueduct, a win in the ungraded ten furlong Ladies' Handicap at Laurel, and a 3rd place finish in the G2-Shuvee. Combine the dam's stamina with that of sire Lemon Drop Kid and you'd think Treasury Bill will do just fine at longer distances.
On my personal graded stakes ratings, I have the Risen Star as the best race any of the horses in the Rebel field ran in this year and but I've got Super Ninety Nine's win in the Southwest as the best individual performance from this group. Given Oxbow's close 4th place finish in the Risen Star, combined with his wide trip, puts Oxbow ahead of Super Ninety Nine just a tad in this race. When you compare the morning line odds - 3/2 for Super Ninety Nine and 4/1 for Oxbow - it becomes a "no brainer"; I like Oxbow as the play... but I won't be surprised if Super Ninety Nine pops another big effort.
G3-Azeri (Post Time: 6:13 pm ET)
My Miss Aurelia comes into the Azeri off of the first two loses in her career in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and the G1-LaBrea, and she didn't exactly land in a completely soft spot for her 2013 debut. The mare to My Miss Aurelia's inside, Don't Tell Sophia, has been on quite a roll at Oaklawn this winter, dominating the fields in the Bayakoa and the Pippin stakes by 6 ½ and 7 ¼ lengths, respectively. In the Pippen Stakes, the runner-up, Vuitton, came back to win an allowance races at six panels in her next start, while the fourth place mare, Itsabeautifulthing, won an OC event next out.
A wild-card filly in the Azeri field is Song and Sonnets (8/1), a nice looking daughter of Unbridled's Song that popped the best race of her career in her first try on dirt on Jan. 31. Prior to that day she had run five times on turf and synthetic surfaces with middling to fair results. In her first try on dirt she wired an allowance field by eight lengths and looked good doing it. It won't be easy but she might be able to steal this one on the front-end.
G2-San Luis Rey (Post Time: 7:07 pm ET)
Bourbon Bay won this race a year ago but his form dipped noticeably at the end of the year when he finished 8th in the G2-John Henry Turf Cup and 6th in the G2-Hollywood Turf Cup. He's been given some time to refresh following those two races but at seven years of age you've got to wonder how much this guy has left in the tank. He's always been good at going a distance of ground (9-4-2-0 lifetime at 12 furlongs) but it's tough to take short odds on this gelding.
If Bright Thought, Fire with Fire and Slim Shadey (GB) mix it up a bit in the first half mile to mile, Interaction (ARG) should be able to use his big late kick to its full advantage.
|16-Mar||SA||Santa Margarita Stakes||1||4up||f&m||9.0||Dirt|
|16-Mar||SA||San Luis Rey Stakes||2||4up||12.0||Turf|
|16-Mar||FG||Colonel Power Stakes||4up||5.5||Turf|
|16-Mar||FG||Happy Ticket Stakes||4up||f&m||5.5||Turf|
|16-Mar||TAM||Wayward Lass Stakes||4up||f&m||8.5||Dirt|
|17-Mar||SA||Irish O'Brien Stakes||CA||4up||f&m||6.5||Turf|