03/15/2015 11:42AM

Road to the Derby analysis: Rebel Stakes

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American Pharoah wins the Rebel Stakes by 6 1/4 lengths Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

Grade 2, $750,000 Rebel Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Oaklawn Park, March 14, 2015
(50 Derby qualifying points for a win, 20 for second, 10 for third, 5 for fourth)

Winner: American Pharoah
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Victor Espinoza
Owner: Zayat Stables LLC
Beyer Speed Figure: 100

AMERICAN PHAROAH, last year’s champion 2-year-old male, made a splashy return, both literally and figuratively, in his 3-year-old debut. This was his first start since winning the Grade 1 FrontRunner at Santa Anita on Sept. 27. He would have been favored in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but was injured the week of that race and did not go back into serious training until two months later.

He came into the Rebel having crammed six workouts into just 33 days. He had to ship out of town. And he was presented with a sloppy, sealed track, the first time he had raced on an off track.

Then, just to make things more interesting, he stumbled slightly leaving the gate, enough to cause his right front shoe to become askew for the running of the race. Despite all that, he cruised to an effortless victory, winning by 6 1/4 lengths while never being asked for his best.

Nitpickers will point out that the field was inferior to what American Pharoah will face going forward and that he had no pace rivals. Both are true. But there is no way he was at his absolute best for this. He has been under a tight schedule, has made every deadline so far, and figures to move forward now that he’s gotten this crucial first race out of the way.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

He most likely will head back to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby on April 11 for several reasons – trainer Bob Baffert has Dortmund for the Santa Anita Derby on April 4, the Zayat family has El Kabeir for the Wood Memorial on April 4, American Pharoah probably would benefit from having four weeks into his next race rather than three, and he proved he likes Oaklawn.

As for the race itself, American Pharoah made the top despite his awkward start, cantered along on the front end with his ears forward as if cruising through a morning drill, then accelerated through the lane and drew away impressively without ever feeling jockey Victor Espinoza’s whip.

MADEFROMLUCKY, who finished second, sat on the rail while following American Pharoah around the first turn and down the backstretch, stayed on the rail the rest of the way and, though no match for the winner, was 2 1/2 lengths better than anyone else.

BOLD CONQUEST, who finished third, pulled some of the same shenanigans he did in his prior start, the Southwest. He again lugged out around the first turn, though he also appeared to be avoiding clipping heels with PAID ADMISSION. That put him in the three path the rest of the way. He was even with Madefromlucky in upper stretch, but as in the Southwest, he was on his wrong lead much of the way down the lane. Perhaps the off tracks he has encountered are hampering him, but he has some maturing to do.

THE  TRUTH OR ELSE, who was fourth, was near the back early while hugging the rail, moved forward along the inside down the backstretch, remained on the rail behind traffic while appearing to have some run, but went evenly when switched out for the stretch drive.

Paid Admission finished fifth after stalking the early pace of American Pharoah. He started to come under a ride with about three furlongs remaining while between Madefromlucky and Bold Conquest and retreated.

SAKIMA, who finished sixth, was three paths wide entering the first turn and had to exercise caution when Bold Conquest came out. He remained three lanes wide the rest of the way and simply was outrun despite aggressive handling from his rider the final three furlongs.

TIZWONDERFULCREEK finished last of seven. He hopped at the start, was at the rear of the pack inside Sakima around the first turn and into the backstretch, was out-footed on the far turn, remained on his wrong lead in upper stretch, and faded.

Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
I also like Bolo a great deal - despite his last out loss to Dortmund. Going into the San Felipe he was coming off a two month plus layoff, was making his first start on dirt and missed some training time due to rare poor SoCal weather. His two previous starts he lengthened impressively driving in the lane. In the San Felipe he took on Dortmund at the top of the stretch and battled giving up the place late. A very nice horse for Carla Gaines and wouldn't it be cool to see a female trainer win the Derby??!!
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
And Bobby does look like he his holding some serious cards this year!
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
The Rebel was an extremely well paid workout. AP was never asked and drew off in a visual jaw dropper. He has a very fluid way of going and I don't see any reason he cannot go longer. Still, the field he crushed was so poor that he was never asked at anytime in the race, so drawing too many conclusions from this effort alone may well prove premature. With Dortmund you get a horse who 3 back got his nose down on the line, race before last fought back after being passed to win and last out just played with them. So my advice to the handicappers - why cap the first Saturday in May on St. Patty's? Sit back and give a little look see.
Debbie Gardner More than 1 year ago
My main concern with AP is the time lost, no races for such a long time, and no work outs for quite awhile, and then get on the grueling triple crown trail and run in the 1 1/4 mile Derby. I'm curious if any colt has lost as much time off the races, and no work outs, and came back and won the Derby? And, if he makes the Derby field, he could be low odds. I think I'll pass.
peter jaworski More than 1 year ago
As long as the shoe incident caused him no physical harm I think he could be just as effective with 3 rather than 4 weeks between races. He was unchallenged and may be kicking the doors down to run again in 15 to 20 days, assuming he is healthy.
Dan More than 1 year ago
The Beyer rating on American Pharaoh from the Rebel should've been at the very least a 100+. He ran a full 15 lengths faster than the previous race run at the same distance, in an easy hand ride "work out" in doing so. The track times were slow for the day and 145. was far superior to anything run that day. The horse relaxes well, and I am sure that they can rate AP a bit if needed as it looks as though he doesn't need lead to win. He is much the best horse of any 3 year old I have seen. Lightly raced, he will win the roses at the Derby if the Arkansas Derby doesn't over tax him. Espinoza will win 2 Kentucky Derbies in a row. You will be lucky to get 5/2 on him at post time. I shouldn't be telling you all as now you will all pile on and ruin his odds.
Rick Cook More than 1 year ago
out of 55 previous rebel stakes, 53 of them were faster than this one. I don't pay attention to the worthless beyer numbers but that was about an 85 tops. the only two horses who ran slower were those hall of famers nuits st. georges 1990 and Lucy's axe 1979. that race before the rebel was a maiden race the race before that was 5 lengths faster than the rebel with at best g3 horses. American pharaoh needs to improve 10+ lengths to be competitive in the derby.
Tom Jefferson More than 1 year ago
The previous race was a maiden race won in 1:48.14. The winner of that race had lost another slow maiden race in 1:48.13 on 2/21 at OP to the same distance. That track wasn't that slow for OP. AP's race was hardly the fastest of the day he went w1:45.78 while Race Day went 1:44.88 just two races earlier.
AJ More than 1 year ago
Yes, and Race Day handily beat quality horses like Ride on Curlin and Tapiture - off a very solid 3rd place behind stud Valid. So AP being a few 10ths slower in his first race back as a three year old looks very solid.
Rick Cook More than 1 year ago
those horses aren't nothing he beat midnight hawk who wasn't in the top 5 horses in bafferts 3 year old string last year. if you think running the 53rd slowest race out of 55 races is good then so be it. a few 10ths slower, 4 lengths to be exact.
AJ More than 1 year ago
You really know your racing. Tapiture is a multiple graded stakes winner who finished second in the Breeder's cup mile. Good call. Race Day finished half a length behind Valid in the Fred Hooper - the same Valid that went eye to eye with one of the best sprinters in the country, Private Zone in the GP Handicap. Oh, and these horses are 4 year olds. I guess you think Upstart is garbage too, since he ran the slowest FOY in history. Or maybe, as is indicated by the other runners'' times, both tracks were playing historically slow. That is the point of speed figures.
Rick Cook More than 1 year ago
oh and in the razorback they ran the 1st 6 furlongs 3, 2/5ths seconds faster than the rebel was ran. that's why they call it gambling. imio I have seen at least 10 3 year old horses run better in the last 2 weeks than American pharaohs race.
Randy Perez More than 1 year ago
You say 10 horse ran better than him in the last 2 weeks.. name them
Rick Cook More than 1 year ago
if I was setting the odds right now American pharaoh would be about 15to1 at lease 7 or 8 horses ran better race last out
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Time means nothing in this race. First off, there was no speed in the race. Even with the awkward break AP was going to the lead by himself. He coasted just as the mare that beat Untapable did and finished well....just as the speed the entire card did. AP is very good...but he is not as good as Dortmund....and Baffert knows this....that's why Dortmund is the one that Baffert is running in his beloved SA Derby and not AP. As we all know, the key is to stay healthy and then of course post position in the Derby, which means a lot depending on who and/or where the true speed of the speed is in that race. So, like many of you, I'll reserve my Ky Derby pick for after those entries. For now...I think the best is Dortmund. But, who knows. I so agree with many on here...I don't think AP will win the Derby. I just don't. He's good.....real good...but, I don't think he'll get the 1 1/4.
tommy More than 1 year ago
I don't think american pharaoh or Dortmund will win the kentucky derby!! I really like metaboss, international star, el kabier, far from over, carpe diem for now. I will make my final judgement for kentucky derby once they all run 1 1/8 so that I can obtain better vo2 max data to better predict the winner!! Post position draw matters, but if you are really good, you can outrun the horses as they tire out!! Wicked strong was not such a great horse and he came 4th from post position 20. Also the post position 1 is not bad because you can save ground going into first turn and then make your all outrun and hope for the best. But the best post position draw is from 3- 10 and it will give them the best opportunity to win compared to positions 16-20
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Tommy, what I meant wasn't so much which actually post position the actual horse was in...I meant where the speed would be ....there's always a horse that will lead the race...it's important in every race to know who that will be and who will be on his butt and/or how fast. Since we don't know yet...we don't know. But, makes a huge difference. Depending on if the speed is inside or outside and where you want to be. Don't know if you get my point, but clearly you want your horse to get as clean a trip as possible. Big Brown is the only #20 horse I've ever be in my life...and I didn't care he was that far out, because for him I thought he would get a clean trip. It worked out...but, you are right....you can win from any post....but, where you are in regards to who's around you....is key. Good luck to you.
Rick Cook More than 1 year ago
ANY speed horse who draws way down inside has absolutely no chance in the derby. the jock will have to ride the 1st quarter mile like a quarter horse race to get position and will have nothing left when they hit the top of the stretch. a come from behinder has some chance from down inside but has to get a perfect trip and cany go 8 wide on the far turn and try to circle the field. the best post for a speed horse is all the way outside 16-17-18-19-20, when big brown derw out these everyone was saying after the race how it was amazing he won from out there when in fact it was a huge advantage
Rick Cook More than 1 year ago
post position 1-2-3 are the kiss of death, no horse can win from there in the derby
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Rick Cook More than 1 year ago
carpe diem will jerk his head off
Randy Perez More than 1 year ago
Right just like Texas Red did when he ran right past Carpe Diem in the Juv... just like AP did to Calculator and Texas Red... Carpe Diem ran against a field of pigs.. please
Juan Jose F More than 1 year ago
The Kentucky derby has name DORTMUND or CARPE DIEM ,the others colt run for the position with paid
AJ More than 1 year ago
Looks like a large number of DRF readers have no idea how speed figures work.
mike More than 1 year ago
I'm not a "figures" guy.
Michael . More than 1 year ago
Mike must be cheering for a friends horse, a horse he has not said is his pick yet.
Rick Cook More than 1 year ago
which figures? beyers are worthless numbers who are someones opinion and some of the guys making the beyers have no idea what they are doing.