03/14/2008 11:00PM

Sierra Sunset runs big in Rebel


Sierra Sunset appeared to be sitting on a breakout race heading into the Grade 2,$300,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, and he delivered with a three-length win in the final local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby. King’s Silver Son closed from well back for second, finishing 2 3/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Isabull.

Z Fortune, the 4-5 favorite off a runner-up finish to Pyro in the Grade 3 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, finished fifth.

Sierra Sunset ($10.40) was the second choice following his runner-up finish to the undefeated Denis of Cork in the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest last month at Oaklawn. Sierra Sunset had invaded from Northern California for that race and then remained here to train for the Rebel. Among his works was a bullet five furlongs in 59.20 seconds Feb. 29.

Saturday, he broke with the field and raced about four lengths off Sacred Journey, who was alone on the lead through fractions of 22.97 seconds for the opening quarter and 46.58 for the first half-mile. Sierra Sunset raced off the rail down the backside, advanced three-wide on the turn, took the lead at the quarter pole, and went on to cover the mile and a sixteenth on a fast track in 1:43.88.

"Around the turn I let him go and he just kept running," said Chris Emigh, who was aboard the winner for trainer Jeff Bonde.

Bonde said he asked Emigh to keep Sierra Sunset off the rail, as he felt it was the better part of the racetrack Saturday.

When he made his move, I wanted [Chris] to get him to the middle of the track because every race I'd watched today, everything came flying down the middle of the track," said Bonde.

Bonde said Sierra Sunset will remain at Oaklawn and be pointed for the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby on April 12.

Z Fortune raced in sixth early in the Rebel, was wide on the final turn and finished 9 3/4 lengths behind Sierra Sunset.

"My trip was okay," said Garrett Gomez, who rode Z Fortune. "It wasn't anything out of the ordinary for being in the outside post. He traveled well to the half-mile pole, and at the half-mile pole he came off the bridle."

The remaining order of finish was Golden Yank in fourth, Z Fortune, He’s Eze, Anak Nakal, Stone Bird and Sacred Journey.

Sierra Sunset earned $180,000 for the win. It was his third career stakes victory behind the California Cup Juvenile and the Bay Meadows Juvenile. He races for the partnership of Philip Lebherz, Al Mariani, George Schmitt, and Carol Wirth.

* Attendance was 29,961. The handle on the 11-race card from all sources was $5,873,589. Both were meet highs for Oaklawn.