Challenged At Almost Every Step
By Dick Downey
The Downey Profile
Nadal shook off challenges early, middle and and late while doing all the heavy lifting to win Oaklawn Park's Rebel Stakes in 1:44.97. After being pressured all the way to the stretch, he held at bay a late charge by 82-1 Excession. Basin and Three Technique finished a non-threatening third and fourth.
The win gave 50 Kentucky Derby points to Nadal, ridden by Joel Rosario for Bob Baffert. Excession, the second finisher, got 20 points, Basin picked up 10, and Three Technique was awarded five.
It was Nadal's third race overall and his first one after shipping from his base at Santa Anita, his first one at two turns, and his first one over a wet track.
After breaking from post 1 cleanly, Nadal briefly vied with No Parole in the first turn and headed into the backstretch with a slight lead. In the blink of an eye, another Santa Anita shipper, American Theorem, was all over Nadal, and the two ran together through a quarter-mile in 22.84, a half in 46.00 and six furlongs in 1:11.38. Nadal had a mere head advantage at each of those calls into the far turn.
No sooner had Nadal shaken off American Theorem in the the turn, there was a cavalry charge of challengers in the form of Three Technique, Silver Prospector and Basin, but Nadal dispatched them off running for the final furlong. He led at the furlong marker by 1 1/2 length, but Excession was coming.
Out in the middle of the track, Excession was produced by Tyler Baze, and for a few moments, it looked like the longshot might cruise by Nadal. But it was not to be. Nadal dug in doggedly and held off that challenger by three parts of a length. It was seven more lengths back to Basin, who finished a head in front of Three Technique.
Those four were followed by Coach Bahe, Silver Prospector, American Theorem and the No Parole.
Sent off at 4-5 odds from a morning line of 5-2 in a field of eight, Nadal paid $3.80 to win, $4.00 to place (not a typo) and $3.20 to show on $2 bets. Excession returned $37.00 to place and $10.60 to show. Basin, sent off at 9-2 odds, paid $4.40 to show.
It was Baffert's seventh win of the Rebel Stakes.
Nadal was bred in Kentucky by Sierra Farm and is owned by George Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman and Mark Mathiesen.
Connections will wait to see how he comes out of the Rebel, but it would be no surprise to see Nadal return to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby.
Winning trainer Bob Baffert: “We were hoping for that outcome. We knew he was a good horse, but until they go two turns … and then the way it set up, the speed duel and all. Pretty impressive when they can just keep going like that. Only the really good ones can do that. I was just fortunate that you guys even ran the race, right now with the way things are. Crazy.”
Regarding future plans: “It's a little early, but we'll get him back here and we'll look at all of them. One of them will be there (Arkansas Derby).”
Winning co-owner George Bolton: “It was an amazing effort because he was in the 1 hole and he was told to go to the lead. And when you are told to go to the lead in a mile and a sixteenth race, and he'd never gone around two turns, you are sending the horse into a potential oxygen debt and potential stress. When he liked turned for home and was a length or two ahead, I thought, 'You know what? He may be special. This may be a special horse and he may have the ability to go fast and then go faster.' And that's rare in a horse, to go in a Grade 2, which I considered today a Grade 1 because it's a million dollar race in front of the Kentucky Derby. He didn't waver. When the pressure hit, he stood and he took it and he accelerated.”
Tyler Baze, second on Excession: “He's a really nice horse. I had the trip I wanted. I loved him last year when I first rode him when he was a maiden. He’s a special animal. I can't wait until he learns how to run. He's kind of a big dummy, but I had the exact trip I wanted. I wish I would have had a clear trip, but he ran his heart out.”
Javier Castellano, Basin: “I liked the way he did it. He earned a good place. It was his first start since the Hopeful and his first time around two turns. It was a good test for him. I was very happy with him. He passed the test.”