15 Mar

By Lucky Kalanges

With the Baffert barn firing both barrels, it won’t be easy squeezing value out of the split divisions of the Rebel Stakes this Saturday, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Oaklawn 8 – 1st Division of the Rebel Stakes

There’s been a lot of groaning on social media about how the parting of the Rebel Stakes has set the table for Baffert’s dynamic duo to feast at 4/5 and while that may be the case, the first division looks like an interesting race if you think Improbable isn’t going to be fully cranked for his sophomore debut. From a speed figure standpoint, he has a clear edge over his competition. However, given the way he had to grind out his first win as a maiden perhaps there is reason for hope for his eight other foes now that he’s being asked to go two turns coming off a 90+ days layoff over a surface he’s never raced before.
But let’s get this clear for starters, Improbable (4/5) owns the last two best Beyer speed figures over this field by a sizable amount, and appears best suited to withstand a hot pace and still finish. The fact that he draws widest might mean he has to sacrifice some ground early, but it also means Drayden Van Dyke can pick his place to stalk the pace without getting into too much trouble.

The main contenders to Improbable, as I see them are:

#9 – Galilean (3/1) – Ships in for the Mandella barn after beating up on Cal-breds in consecutive restricted stakes by 9 and 4.5 lengths. Clearly the main danger from a speed figure standpoint and could have a slight fitness edge over Improbable, coming in second off a layoff.

#2 – Long Range Toddy (10/1) – Hard knocker for Steve Asmussen is 3 for 6 lifetime, and owns a second and third place finish over this strip, the latter coming after a troubled trip in which he had to steady a bit before spitting horses from the rail to get up for third. Moves from outside post to the two hole. Modest improvement could make him an Exacta horse.

#1 – Extra Hope (6/1) – Second Mandella entry was no match for Improbable two back, but got a good confidence builder over the slop at Santa Anita last out and ships in second off a layoff. Mike Smith gets the call, as Flavian Prat chooses Galilean. He’s got natural speed and is going to have to use it early to establish position into the first turn, and with a wall of speed coming outside of him, it seems like a tall task here.

#7 – Classy John (15/1) – Has sprint and bullring speed, and showed some ability to ration it early while almost winning a Louisiana-bred stake going a mile at Delta Downs last out. Not sure he wants to go much farther than this, but he should be the target on the front end for Galilean and Improbable. He could get brave and hang on for a slice if nobody goes with him for the crafty Dallas Stewart barn.

The verdict:

While this appears to be the toughest of the two divisions of the Rebel, it’s hard to make a strong case to bet against Improbable unless something unexpected happens or he takes so much of the Show pool that a bridge-jumping situations exists. I’ll keep a close eye on the Show pools here and if Improbable has 95% or more of the pool, I’ll put some Show money down on #2 – Long Range Toddy and perhaps Galilean, hoping for another situation like the San Diego Handicap a couple years ago, when I made about $150 on $15 in Show bets when Arrogate finished fourth.

If I play this race straight, I will likely key #2 – Long Range Toddy underneath in Exactas under both Improbable and to a lesser extent Galilean. I think Long Range Toddy can offer value as the 3rd choice in the 2nd hole of the Exacta behind both Galilean and Extra Hope.

My Plays:

$10 Exacta #9 Improbable over #2 Long Range Toddy
$5 Exacta #8 Galilean over #2 Long Range Toddy
$5 Show Bets on both Long Range Toddy and Galilean if Improbable takes 95% or more of the Show pool

Oaklawn 10 – 2nd division of the Rebel Stakes

I usually love betting against Breeders’ Cup winners in their next starts and I think I’ll take a shot here even though it is Baffert. The biggest reason is the horses exiting the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile haven’t accomplished much and with the long layoff, I think it’s probably worth taking a shot against #5 – Game Winner (4/5) at an expected short price.

Here’s my choices, in order of preference, to upset the apple cart:

#7 – Our Braintrust (6/1) – While many exiting the Withers Stakes failed to fire in the recently contested Gotham, I’m going to take a flyer on this guy given his competitiveness and 95 Beyer, which actually outranks Game Winner’s BC Juvenile number of 93. He’s gradually increased his speed figures and has finished no worse than third in his five career starts. He encountered some trouble, being bumped in the Withers Stakes and I think a clean stalking trip for this competitive horse might get him to the winner’s circle. Distance shouldn’t be a problem given he carried his 95. First time blinkers is a 24% move for Mark Casse.

#4 – Jersey Agenda (15/1) – Speed of the field will be overlooked due to the perceived clunker in the Southwest Stakes. He lost all chance in that event after dueling with the horse at the rail who failed to negotiate the clubhouse turn and pushed him wide. Still, he didn’t quit and kept plugging until the far turn when he was passed by 62/1 upsetter Super Steed. Gets Jose Ortiz after top rider Santana opts for Laughing Sort. I think he get a better chance to win today if he can get loose on the lead. It might be a tall task, but I think he should make the lead and take them as far as he can. He might go off at 20/1 or more.

#2 – Laughing Sort (10/1) – Gets top local rider and trainer in Santana and Asmussen, is two-for-two over the track and is coming in third off a layoff. He’ll be looking to come from off the pace on a track that has been playing fairly over the course of the meet.

#6 – Omaha Beach (7/2) – Clearly talented sort drew off by nine in the slop at Santa Anita to break his maiden in his fifth try. Began his career routing on the lawn, so distance shouldn’t be a problem. Gets Mike Smith for the Mandella barn. I’m just thinking getting his first win here against Grade II company might be a bit much to ask and if he’s the second choice as he is on the morning line, I won’t be crazy about the price.

#8 – Gunmetal Gray (10/1) – Deep closer might have a better chance of getting back to the winner’s circle outside of California. Should get a decent pace to chase with Prat up for Hollendorfer.

The Verdict:

I’m going to take a shot with #7 – Our Braintrust, $20 to Win at 5/1 or better.

In the event there is a bit of a pace meltdown, I do like the closer #2 Laughing Fox at a price underneath in the Exacta.

So $5 Exactas, #5 Game Winner and #7 Our Braintrust over #2 Laughing Fox
And $2 Exactas, #5 Game Winner and #7 Our Braintrust over #4 Jersey Agenda.

Of course, if the bridge-jumpers are out in force on Game Winner, I will bet both Our Braintrust and Laughing Fox to Show.

Best of luck betting this big card from Hot Springs.


  1. Daneil W Stovall March 16, 2019 at 5:27 am #

    Lucky Kalanges ???

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