Dick's Picks: Improvement Mandated in Rebel

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7:15 am EDT

By Dick Downey

Conditions could be ripe for Strong Mandate to turn the tables on Tapiture in the Rebel Stakes.

For one thing, weather could influence the outcome. As of this post, there's a 60% chance of rain in Hot Springs on Saturday, and Strong Mandate's best race came on a muddy/sealed track in the Hopeful Stakes. Admittedly, the Hopeful was run around one turn, but a wet track could move him up on two as well.

For another, Strong Mandate had a really tough trip in the Southwest Stakes, while Tapiture had a perfect one. After breaking from post 8, Strong Mandate and Joel Rosario had difficulty getting good position as, in Rosario's words after the race, "horses were bouncing in and out." That was not conducive to the plan because, according to Rosario, "he's the kind of horse you need to let run easy. He's a big horse, and you want to let him do what he wants." The result was a double-wide route.

Rosario concluded his remarks by saying, "maybe next time we'll get a better trip." That is almost assured, as we now have an eight horse field as opposed to 12, and Strong Mandate has drawn post 4, which happens to be immediately to the outside of the handy winner of the Southwest, Tapiture.

Additionally, Strong Mandate showed great improvement in his second career race, and he's running second off the layoff on Saturday.

With Tapiture's tactical speed under him, Ricardo Santana, Jr. will be in position to either stalk, say, Ride On Curlin or Street Strategy, or just go to the lead and try to set easy fractions. Either way, Tapiture has shown the ability to handle the situation, and another win would not be surprising. A question is whether he can handle an off track; it's one that's not been asked before.

Hoppertunity comes in for Bob Baffert, and that's a factor that never should be ignored. Baffert has won this race three of the last four years – Wayne Lukas won last year – and Hoppertunity has palpable upside potential after running fourth in the Risen Star in only his third career start. Hoppertunity clearly emerged from that effort in very good order, he is Baffert's selection for this spot, and Mike Smith will be riding, so there's a lot to like. Note: Smith will also be in town to ride Govenor Charlie in the Razorback.

Kobe's Back showed brilliance running on a speed-laden track going one turn in the San Vicente. He's run well in all three of his one-turn races, and the bad result in his sole two-turn race can be attributed to clipping heels. He has drawn widest of all in the eight-horse field. I expect Kobe's Back to drop back a bit and make one run. Based on his track record, it's hard to predict how he'll do.

Ride On Curlin finished third in the Southwest, but he was beaten 10 lengths. Calvin Borel, who has switched over to Street Strategy, said after the Southwest, "He got a little heavy at the end."

Street Strategy could be one of those horses that busts things up. He's lightly raced but has run good Brisnet figures in both his outings despite his slow times, and both those races have come at the track. He's a $425,000 purchase, and if he can keep going when they turn for home, who knows what can happen.

Sheltowee's Boy and Jet Cat look outmatched and would really need to step up to make a dent in the outcome.



Saturday, R10
Grade II Rebel Stakes
Oaklawn Park
1 1/16 Mile
Post Time: 7:04 ET

Post   Horse  ML  Jockey Sx  Wt Trainer
1 Jet Cat (TX) 30-1 J. McKee C 115 E. Frederick
2 Ride On Curlin (KY) 12-1 K. Desormeaux C 115 W. Gowan
3 Tapiture (KY) 9-5 R. Santana Jr. C 122 S. Asmussen
4 Strong Mandate (KY) 2-1 J. Rosario C 117 W. Lukas
5 Hoppertunity (KY) 10-1 M. Smith C 115 B. Baffert
6 Sheltowee's Boy (KY) 15-1 J. Navarro G 115 C. Cox
7 Street Strategy (KY) 8-1 C. Borel C 115 R. Morse
8 Kobe's Back (KY) 7-2 J. Lezcano C 115 J. Sadler

All will run with Lasix.

Owners: 1 - Oak Haven Farm LLC (Stephen R. Baker) ; 2 - Daniel J. Dougherty ; 3 - Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (Ron & Joan Winchell) ; 4 - Robert C. Baker & William L. Mack ; 5 - Karl Watson, Michael E. Pegram & Paul Weitman ; 6 - Sheltowee Farm (Michael Evans) ; 7 - Iron Horse Racing LP (David Clark) ; 8 - C R K Stable (Lee Searing)

Breeders: 1 - Stephen R Baker; 2 - G. Watts Humphrey Jr. & Louise IrelandHumphrey Revocable Trust - 2008; 3 - Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC; 4 - G. Watts Humphrey Jr.; 5 - Betz/D.J. Stable/Kidder/J. Betz/Robenalt; 6 - Michael E. Evans; 7 - Glencrest Farm LLC & Darley; 8 - Joanne R. Mummert