©2015 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” express will roll into Hot Springs, Arkansas Saturday where American Pharoah, the Eclipse Champion Two Year Old Colt, will make his three year old debut as the 1-2 morning line favorite in the 55th running of the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park. Post time is 7:06 p.m. ET.
American Pharoah comes into this race with 2-0-0 record in three starts for Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert, including a 3¼-length win in the FrontRunner Stakes (G1) and a 4¾-length win in the Del Mar Futurity (G1).
Baffert won his first Stakes (G2) in 2010 with Lookin At Lucky and overall he’s won four editions of this race. Another win will tie him with the late Robert “Bob” E. Holtus who won five Rebels.
It remains to be seen if American Pharoah will be sharp enough off of a five month layoff to secure Baffert another win in the Rebel Stakes (G2). However, with two recent bullet work outs, it looks like American Pharoah is ready to run a good race.
Despite the layoff, I look for him to be competitive, and, if he’s improved off of his form as a two year old, American Pharoah will be tough to beat.
Madefromlucky (6-1), with a 2-1-1 record in five starts, ships in from Florida and he’ll be making his second start for trainer Todd Pletcher. Last December, Cheyenne Stables purchased majority interest in the Lookin At Lucky colt after he broke his maiden by an impressive 4¾ lengths, and he was transferred to the stable of Pletcher.
Last month, Madefromlucky rewarded the new owners with a win in a 9-furlong race at Gulfstream Park and Pletcher was pleased with his debut as a three year old.
“I thought it was really good.” said Pletcher in a Gulfstream Park news story. “It was his first time at a mile and an eighth. …Hopefully it will springboard him into a stake next time.”
Madefromlucky has yet to win a stakes race, but he has room to improve in his second start of the season and I look for him to be competitive.
The Truth Or Else (4-1), who finished second in the Southwest Stakes (G3), and fourth-place finisher, Bold Conquest (8-1), are the only two horses from that race to advance to the Rebel. The Southwest was the three year old debut for both colts, and they have room to improve in just their second start of the season.
The Truth Or Else has yet to win a major stakes race for trainer Kenny McPeek and he comes into this race with a 1-1-3 record in eight starts.
McPeek has yet to win a Rebel Stakes (G2). But, in 2010 McPeek came close to winning with Noble’s Promise who lost by a narrow head to Lookin At Lucky. McPeek would like to turn the tables on Baffert, and here’s an HRTV video you might find interesting where McPeek talks the chances of The Truth Or Else in this race and his narrow loss in the 2010 Rebel.
Bold Conquest comes into this race for trainer Steve Asmussen with a 1-2-1 record in five starts, including a second-place finish in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) and a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1).
In the Southwest, Bold Conquest ran pretty decent considering he hadn’t raced in over five months and he closed willing to finish fourth, just 3½ lengths shy of the win. He’s been training well for the Rebel and I look for him to be competitive in his second start of the season.
Honorable mention goes to Sakima (30-1) who looks like he could, perhaps, be competitive. He has the breeding to be a factor but he’ll need to improve his game in order to secure the win.
The Rebel Stakes (G2) is part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series consisting of 16 races. Winners in those races will receive 50 points, the second-place finisher will receive 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 5 points.
Halfway through this series beginning with the UAE Derby (G2), Florida Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 28, the points will increase to 100 points for the winner, 40 points for second place, 20 points for third and 10 points for fourth place.
Calculator, ranked 5th in the January 24 Kentucky Derby point standings, is sidelined with an injury for six months and he’s off the Derby trail. Leave the Light On, ranked 13th, is also off the trail.
Recently, the sidelined Texas Red returned to the work tab and he’ll be training for his next start in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers
2015 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. El Kabeir, 75, John Terranova II, $620,792
2. International Star, 71, Mike Maker, $490,979
3. Dortmund, 70, Bob Baffert, $630,000
4. Carpe Diem, 64, Todd Pletcher, $870,000
5. Itsaknockout, 50, Todd Pletcher, $240,500
6. Upstart, 36, Rick Violette Jr., $615,680
7. War Story, 24, Tom Amoss, $120,000
8. Far Right, 22, Ron Moquett, $385,906
9. Ami’s Flatter, 20, Josie Carroll, $99,200
10. Prospect Park, 20, Cliff Sise, Jr., $80,000
*Tiz Shea D, 20, Bill Mott, $80,000
11. Mr. Z, 14, D. Wayne Lukas, $518,326
12. Frosted, 13, Kiaran McLaughlin, $176,200
13. Classy Class, 13, Kiaran McLaughlin, $85,000
14. Texas Red, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $1,176,000
15. Keen Ice, 12, Dale Romans, $106,520
16. Ocho Ocho Ocho, 10, Jim Cassidy, $660,250
17. American Pharoah, 10, Bob Baffert, $360,000
18. Daredevil, 10, Todd Pletcher, $339,600
19. Far From Over, 10, Todd Pletcher, $150,000
20. Metaboss, 10, Jeff Bonde, $126,000
*Tiz Shea D is not nominated to the Kentucky Derby.