The Road to the Kentucky Derby makes its next stop in Hot Springs, Ark. for Saturday’s $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park. The race offers a total of 85 points to the top four finishers as part of Churchill Downs’ Road to the Kentucky Derby points system.
Under the system, the top four finishers in the 19-race “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” schedule of races are awarded 10-4-2-1 points, respectively. This “prep” portion of the schedule began in late September and concluded with the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18. The two-leg Kentucky Derby Championship Series began Feb. 23 and awards the top four finishers in the listed races 50-20-10-5 points, respectively for the first leg of eight races and 100-40-20-10 points accordingly for the second leg of seven races. A wild card, which includes the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland (Apr. 20) and the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs (Apr. 27) awards points of 20-8-4-2, respectively.
Headlining the field of eight 3-year-olds is Steve Asmussen’s Tapiture at a morning line of 9-5. In his last start, the Tapit colt won the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park Feb. 17 by 4 ¼ lengths over fellow Rebel contender Strong Mandate, who was six lengths in front of Ride On Curlin. Tapiture earned a Brisnet speed figure of 99 for the effort. His early running style suggests he’ll be on the lead early and may be able to set his own pace. Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. will be in the irons.
D. Wayne Lukas returns to Oaklawn Park with Strong Mandate. Making his sophomore debut in the Southwest after closing out his 2-year-old season with a third place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), this son of Tiznow is hoping for a better trip to cross the wire in front. At least five-wide through much of the Southwest, he was able to keep just off the front-runners and closed near the top of the stretch, but could not catch Tapiture. His downfall may have been how he drifted out in deep stretch once clear of traffic, which would have added distance to his path. Kentucky Derby winning jockey Joel Rosario retains the mount.
“This is round two and hopefully we’ll move forward,” said D. Wayne Lukas. “Hopefully he’ll have a better trip than he did in the Southwest when he was compromised. It should be a good prep.”