Friday, March 16, 2012

Long Shots Worth a Look in the Rebel Stakes

Since 1976 when Elocutionist placed in the Rebel Stakes (G-2) and later won the Preakness, the Oaklawn contest has been a good preview of Triple Crown race winners. Sunny’s Halo and Smarty Jones pulled off a Rebel/Kentucky Derby double, while Temperence Hill, Pine Bluff, Victory Gallop, Curlin, and Lookin At Lucky won the Rebel and the Preakness and/or Belmont Stakes. The hero of this year’s Rebel Stakes may be worth a second look in the Triple Crown contests.

SecretCircleScatmanSix contestants of the Southwest Stakes are back to wage battle.

 SECRET CIRCLE, SCATMAN, ADIRONDACK KING, PEE H DEE, and CYBER SECRET the top five finishers in the second division of the Southwest are joined by runners-up from the first division, JAKE MO, RECKLESS JERRY , RING IT UP and UNBRIDLED'S NOTE who seeks a do-over after a troubled ninth place finish.

SabercatMaking a highly anticipated three year old debut is SABERCAT (Bluegrass Cat - Miner's Blessing, by Forty Niner), hero of last year’s Delta Jackpot. He likely won’t be cranked, and thanks to the huge purse of the Jackpot, is an automatic shoo-in for the Kentucky Derby. He has a miler oriented pedigree and is suspect for distances past 1 1/16 miles.

There are three newcomers to the Oaklawn Park stakes scene.

ATIGUN (Istan - Rimini Road, by Dynaformer) won his three year old debut while beating Ring It Up by a neck in an allowance last time out. His sire’s offspring haven’t done a whole lot to date, but may improve with racing. Atigun has little blacktype in his distaff line, but his second dam is a half-sister to top NY sire Cure The Blues. Antigun has no early speed and will make his run from the back of the pack.

NajjaarThe light bulb turned on this year for NAJJAAR (Jazil - Hasheema (IRE), by Darshaan). After winning his maiden, Najjaar came back to beat older horses. Both races were at today’s distance. As expected, his sire’s offspring are slow to mature and so far, only a handful have won. They will improve with time and distance. Jazil is a half-brother to Rags To Riches, who also won the Belmont Stakes, in an epic battle with Curlin. Najjaar has little speed in his pedigree and his immediate distaff family has no notable blacktype.

We’re hoping the light bulb goes on for the once great Wayne Lukas. His well-bred charge OPTIMIZER (English Channel - Indy Pick, by A.P. Indy) did well over the turf and Polytrack last year, but hasn’t hit the board in four dirt attempts, including a 13 length drubbing by El Padrino in the Risen Star Stakes. Not surprising, given his turf pedigree. The son of English Channel has a strong stamina oriented distaff family. His dam Indy Pick is a half-sister to the top race mare Finder’s Fee, heroine of the Matron (G1) at two and the Acorn (G1) at three, as well as other graded stakes events. Another half-sister, Freedom of Speech, produced the multiple stakes winning turf veteran T D Vance.



Track bias: Oaklawn plays relatively fair, although 32% of the front runners, win. No rain is forecasted and the track should be fast.

The final time for the first division of the Southwest Stakes was a full second slower than the second division. Jake Mo, Restless Jerry and Ring It Up didn’t have any excuses, but Unbridled’s Note did. He’s well-bred and should be fit. If he can get away cleanly, he certainly has the speed to stick with the front runners. We’ll see if he’s good enough. His odds are attractive at 20-1 and he’s trained by Asmussen who gets 21% winners second time out.

Secret Circle owns a ton of speed, but after winning the Southwest Stakes, he shipped back to Santa Anita. He ships again, has speed to his inside and tacks on an additional 1/8 mile, so he could be vulnerable. He’ll be up on the lead fighting with Scatman and Cyber Secret may join them. That one shouldn’t be stuck four wide and with a better trip, he could surprise. Adirondack King and Najjaar are stalkers who should come running at the end. Sabercat could be right there with them, but his time in the Delta Jackpot was slow and nothing notable came out of that race. Let’s play against the chalk.

#2 Unbridled’s Note

#3 Scatman

#11 Najjaar

#4 Cyber Secret – longshot pick