03/10/2009 12:00AM

Rebel key to Silver City's future path


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - It will be either the Kentucky Derby or Derby Trial after this weekend for Silver City. Already proven to be a brilliant sprinter, he will make his second start around two turns on Saturday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel at Oaklawn Park.

The 1 1/16-mile stakes is the final local prep for the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby. Silver City comes into the race off a runner-up finish to Kentucky Derby favorite Old Fashioned in the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest at a mile here Feb. 15.

"This is a big race for him," said Bret Calhoun, who trains Silver City for Clarence Scharbauer Jr. "This is the kind of the race that we're going to decide what direction we go. Obviously, we need to have a clean trip and get a fair chance to see exactly where we are distance-wise and we'll make our decisions. It's going to be a good race to evaluate our situation, whether we're just Derby dreaming, or we're a legitimate mile-and-a-quarter horse the first Saturday in May."

Silver City came into the Southwest off a four-length win in the $50,000 Dixieland at Oaklawn on Jan. 16, a 5 1/2-furlong race for which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99. One start prior, he had won a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at Churchill Downs over General Quarters, earning a 101 Beyer. In the Southwest, he set a hot pace after breaking from post 3 and ran on stoutly in the lane to finish 3 1/4 lengths behind Old Fashioned, who will be an imposing favorite Saturday.

"If he had a good second to him again and he was running at the end and just got outrun, I would still be encouraged if it looked like the mile and a sixteenth was not a problem," Calhoun said.

"I just don't want to keep beating him up and running him in places that he can't win, because he's a very, very talented horse and he's going to win a lot of races for us, a lot of stakes for us, I believe. I just want to put him in spots where he can do his best - if it's going to be around one turn for a mile or shorter or it's going to be around two turns at a mile and sixteenth, mile and an eighth, a mile and a quarter. We're going to try to make that decision this weekend."

Jon Court will be aboard Silver City for the first time Saturday. Miguel Mena, who had ridden the horse in all five of his starts, opted to stay at Fair Grounds because Saturday is Louisana Derby Day and there are six stakes on the card.

"I guess they had a lot of live mounts," Calhoun said, adding he is pleased to have secured Court.

"He's ridden a lot of good horses in a lot of big races all over the country. I like that aspect of it. One of the other reasons we chose Jon is that he is going to Kentucky after this meet."

Silver City will be heading there, too, for either a start in the Kentucky Derby on May 2 or the Grade 3, $100,000 Derby Trial at 7 1/2 furlongs on April 25.

Flat Out not yet committed to Rebel

Silver City is expected to start as the second choice to Old Fashioned in the Rebel. The field also is expected to include recent winners Hamazing Destiny, His Greatness, Poltergeist, and Wise Kid, according to Oaklawn stakes coordinator Craig Lytel.

Flat Out, winner of the $50,000 Smarty Jones in January and a troubled fourth in the Southwest, is on the fence for the Rebel, trainer Scooter Dickey said Tuesday. A decision on whether he starts in the race or trains up to the Arkansas Derby on April 11 was to be made Tuesday night, Dickey said.

Loch Dubh, who is nominated to the Rebel, instead will target the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End at Turfway Park on March 21, trainer Jeff Talley said.

Acoma targets Apple Blossom

Acoma, who put up a career-best 100 Beyer for her five-length win in the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri on Sunday, came out of the race in good order and is being pointed to the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap here April 4, trainer David Carroll said Tuesday. She closed from eight lengths back to win Sunday in what was her first out since November.

"I really liked the way she ran the last eighth of a mile," Carroll said. "It was definitely a good race back. She's back at the Fair Grounds, shipped back beautifully, and obviously, if everything goes well, the Apple Blossom is our goal."

Acoma picked up her fourth graded stakes win in the Azeri. She is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Arch.