Examining the Field for the Split Divisions of the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park

by Jim Beviglia
on March 14, 2019
7

Minute Read

The 2019 Rebel Stakes has suddenly gone from just one of many potential prep races for the Kentucky Derby and the rest of the Triple Crown circuit to one of the most important. In fact, circumstances have conspired to make the field so large that the race on Saturday had to be split into two divisions. This 2019 Rebel Stakes preview will break it all down for you.

Every year there are a host of races which help determine not only which horses will be eligible for the Kentucky Derby, but also portend what horses will be the top betting choices for that prestigious race. The Rebel Stakes, a Grade 2 event at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, is one of those prep races. And, truth be told, it often pales in comparison to some of the other races held at tracks that draw a little more interest from horse racing fans.

But this year’s Rebel Stakes has suddenly become the centerpiece of the thoroughbred racing universe. The primary cause of that is the issues that Santa Anita has been having with their race track. It forced racing to be suspended at the track, which also meant the cancellation of the San Felipe Stakes last weekend.

That race had been the target of many budding Kentucky Derby contenders and their connections, who hoped that the horses could get the seasoning they need against top competition. Derby prep races are also crucial for many horses in terms of just getting into the big race since entrants are only allowed in if they’ve amassed points from performing well in those races. As a result, San Felipe’s cancellation left a lot of owners and trainers scrambling to find another race.

The Rebel Stakes became the logical choice for many of those horses looking for a race. After all, the purse of $1 million is no slouch on its own. And it offers those crucial qualifying points as well.

A funny thing happened then: So many horses entered the Rebel that it was decided one race wouldn’t hold them all. Officials at Oaklawn Park opted to split up the race into two divisions. That gave everybody a better shot at a nice purse and crucial points to get to the Derby.

All of a sudden, all eyes are on Oaklawn Park and the 2019 Rebel Stakes. And bettors get an added bonus as well. Instead of one division, they now have two opportunities to make profits on this event.

With all that in mind, we’re offering this 2019 Rebel Stakes preview. We’ll take a look at how the two divisions have been broken down. And we’ll also check out the top contenders in each race in terms of favorites and possible value plays.

Rebel Stakes

  • When: Saturday, March 16, 2019
  • Where: Oaklawn Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas
  • Distance: 1 1/16 miles
  • Purse: $750,000 for each division

Division 1 Entrants With Post Positions And Morning Line Odds

  • 1-Extra Hope: 12-1
  • 2-Long Range Toddy: 4-1
  • 3-Corruze: 50-1
  • 4-Easy Shot: 15-1
  • 5-Proud Nation: 30-1
  • 6-Ninth Street: 30-1
  • 7-Classy John: 20-1
  • 8-Galilean: 2-1
  • 9-Improbable: 6-5

The Favorites

You have to go to the outside two horses to find the ones that will be gathering the most betting attention. Improbable sits as the 6-5 morning line choice, while Galilean is right there at 2-1. And you can make an argument that it will come down to these two battling it out through the stretch and down to the wire.

Improbable is the lesser-known of the two Bob Baffert-trained 3-year-old stars that will be in Arkansas on Saturday. In other years, he might have been the Derby favorite at this point. After all, he was a perfect, hardly-challenged three-for-three at age two, and he has been working out splendidly in preparation for his sophomore debut.

Galilean, meanwhile, has won three of his four races for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. This will be the first time he steps out of California. His last two victories have come in an eye-popping combined total of 13½ lengths, so he seems to be getting better all the time.

The Value Plays

Long Range Toddy, the 4-1 third choice, has experience, with four wins in six starts. Alas, his two losses have come in the last two, both at Oaklawn, although he was extremely competitive in both. He has the post position edge on the two top contenders on the outside.

Extra Hope makes for an impressive 12-1 play. On the negative side, he was well back of Improbable on December when they found themselves in the same field. But his last race, a victory in the slop at Santa Anita, earned him excellent speed figures.

One other possibility here, mostly as a choice for the exotic wagers, is Classy John. He might not have faced the same class as some of the others in here. But he battles race in and race out, as his record of three wins and two places in five career races indicates.

The Pick

The question mark here is whether Improbable struggles following the layoff.

Galilean, who seems as if he might be close to the favorite in terms of talent, is probably just a little fresher. And that should make the difference in this first split.

Division 2 Entrants With Post Positions And Morning Line Odds

  • 1-Market King: 30-1
  • 2-Laughing Fox: 15-1
  • 3-Parsimony: 30-1
  • 4-Jersey Agenda: 12-1
  • 5-Game Winner: 6-5
  • 6-Omaha Beach: 6-1
  • 7-Our Braintrust: 8-1
  • 8: Gunmetal Gray: 4-1
  • 9: Kaziranga: 30-1
  • 10: Captain Von Trapp: 15-1

The Favorites

Game Winner has been anointed by many as the next superhorse out of the Bob Baffert stable, and it’s understandable why that is the case. Four for four as a two-year-old culminating with a convincing victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will put you in that rarefied air for sure. People are already pondering whether he can make it back-to-back Triple Crowns and three in six years for Baffert, an unheard-of accomplishment.

If you are looking for chinks in the armor, he, like Improbable, could be facing a little bit of rust. But, unlike Improbable, there doesn’t seem to be anybody in the field who can quite hang on the same level talent-wise, which means that the rust factor shouldn’t be that overwhelming for him.

Gunmetal Gray is the second choice at 4-1, and he couldn’t stay with Game-Winner in the two times they faced each other a year ago. This year Gunmetal Gray has a win and a place in a pair of Grade 2 events in California. He’ll hope for a swift pace so he can possibly uncork a late move and run Game Winner down in the stretch.

The Value Plays

If you genuinely believe, as many do, that Game Winner will be a no-doubt winner here, you should be looking at horses to spice up your exotic plays. Jersey Agenda makes for an interesting one at 12-1. He is coming off a clunker, but he might just have the tactical speed here to make the early lead and then hold on for a piece of the pie at the end.

Laughing Fox, at 15-1, has to face up to the fact that he hasn’t faced anywhere near this class up to this point. But he is coming off back to back wins on the Oaklawn oval. And his last one came with a speed figure that suggests he has the ability to step up.

Beyond that, there are mid-priced options like Omaha Beach and Our Braintrust that might excite some bettors. The fear is that those horses might get caught trying to hang with Game Winner and battling for the win. And that might lead to a fade in the stretch to the point where they can’t even hang on for a minor award.

The Pick

Even coming off the layoff, Game Winner seems much the best here. It will be interesting to see if he races again before the Derby, as the San Felipe cancellation has left a bit of a time crunch.

In any case, Game Winner is the horse to beat in this division of the 2019 Rebel Stakes and going forward into Triple Crown season.

Conclusion

We hope our 2019 Rebel Stakes preview has you all set for the action. It doesn’t look like a long shot winner is a possibility in either of the two divisions. But you can make some nice scratch with exactas and trifectas if you use some of our valuable plays with the obvious favorites.

Jim Beviglia

Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in August of 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for Gamblingsites.org, and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog. For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a harness racing establishment near his home. He spends as much time as possible with his wife Marie and daughter Daniele, both of whom are used to hearing his long-winded monologues about either the struggles of his Fantasy baseball team or which Beatles song is definitively the best.

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