Tapiture, the runaway winner of the Southwest Stakes on February 17th, leads a field of eight as the 9/5 morning line favorite in Saturday's Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park (Post time: 7:04 pm Eastern; TV: TVG, HRTV), part of the 2014 Road to the Kentucky Derby. Tapiture is currently sitting on 22 points, good for ninth place on the current Kentucky Derby points leader board. A top two finish in Saturday's Rebel would essentially guarantee a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs.
If you were a fan of Tapiture heading into his three-year-old season, you have to be really on the bandwagon at this point in the spring. He was good as a juvenile when he won the G2-Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill (always a nice victory on the resume if you're looking for success at Churchill again on the first Saturday in May), and he was as good third to Cleburne and Smart Cover in the G3-Iroquois in early September. Tapiture doesn't appear to be a colt that peaked as a juvenile, like so many "potential" Derby contenders, but was able to build off a solid juvenile campaign for his first start of 2014. If perhaps there is one concern with this colt it might be the front-running style he's displayed in his last three efforts. Given the speed that appears to be lining up to make a run at the Roses in May, a little more of a stalking style (like he displayed in the Iroquois) would make him a massively dangerous colt in Louisville.
D. Wayne Lukas' Strong Mandate, second in the Southwest by four and a quarter lengths, drew to the immediate outside of Tapiture. Despite his defeat to the favorite last time out, Strong Mandate really didn't do anything wrong in the Southwest other than get caught up in some traffic at various points during the race. Ultimately, Strong Mandate was he was six lengths clear of third place finisher Ride On Curlin and was clearly the "best of the rest".
Strong Mandate currently sits in 30th place on the road to the Derby leader board with six points to his name.
Kobe's Back, winner of the G2-San Vicente at seven furlongs back on February 16th, attempts to route for the second time in his career; he finished a well-beaten 10th in the G1-CashCall Futurity in mid-December. Given the way Kobe's Back ran in his first start on dirt in the San Vicente, which was the best effort of his brief career, this colt could have a big shot of an off-the-pace win should the pace be strong on the front end.
More on this race, and all of this weekend's racing action, a bit later.
Below are the entries, post positions, and morning line odds for the Rebel Stakes:
|1||Jet Cat||J. McKee||E. Frederick||30/1|
|2||Ride On Curlin||K. Desormeaux||W. Gowan||12/1|
|3||Tapiture||R. Santana, Jr.||S. Asmussen||9/5|
|4||Strong Mandate||J. Rosario||D.W. Lukas||2/1|
|5||Hoppertunity||M. Smith||B. Baffert||10/1|
|6||Sheltowee's Boy||J. Navarro||B. Cox||15/1|
|7||Street Strategy||C. Borel||R. Morse||8/1|
|8||Kobe's Back||J. Lezcano||J. Sadler||7/2|