2014 Rebel Stakes Picks

2014 Rebel Stakes Picks and Analysis - Taking a shot against favored Tapiture at Oaklawn Park

Rebel Stakes-G2, Race 10, Oaklawn Park, Saturday, March 15, 2014

3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16-miles, Dirt, Purse: $600,000

2014 Rebel Stakes Picks

1. Strong Mandate

2. Hoppertunity

3. Kobe’s Back

4. Tapiture

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2014 Rebel Stakes Analysis

The $600,000 Rebel Stakes-G2 is the only Kentucky Derby prep race this weekend, but it should be a good one, with more than a few angles that could produce a price on the winner.

The 2014 Rebel features a rematch between Tapiture, Strong Mandate and Ride On Curlin, the first three finishers in last month’s Southwest Stakes-G3, also run at Oaklawn Park.

Tapiture took advantage of a perfect trip inside to win the Southwest by four lengths over Strong Mandate in his first start back off a 10-week layoff for trainer Steve Asmussen. Ride On Curlin was a further six lengths back in third after an 8-wide trip in his second start off a layoff.Ride On Curlin actually made the lead on the backstretch, made a wide bid to the stretch and faded. Strong Mandate also had a tough trip in the Southwest, steadying wide out of the first turn and continuing to advance wide before a flailing rally in his first start back off a three-month layoff.

Both Ride On Curlin and Strong Mandate were forced to run much further than Tapiture in the Southwest, and they should produce better performances in the Rebel. Ride On Curlin breaks from Post 2 this time, just inside Tapiture in Post 3, and if he gets off to a good start he could go a lot further with Tapiture this time. There are also a few longshots in the Rebel, Jet Cat and Street Strategy, that could show speed and crowd things up front.

While Tapiture doesn’t necessarily need the lead to win, we’re thinking he’ll use the same tactics he did in the Southwest and try to control the pace up front. If he does get loose early, the race could be over quickly, but we’re taking a shot he’ll have more sustained pressure in the Rebel.

We’re going to play this race with Tapiture to get hooked early, and combine a few ralliers including Strong Mandate, in the exactor. Strong Mandate was favored in the Southwest and should be a lot tighter for his second start back. If he can work out a decent trip stalking a forced pace he should be the horse they have to beat late in the drive.

Strong Mandate has both weaknesses and strengths and could be a risky play, but he does have proven class, having finished third beaten only two lengths in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at the same distance as the Rebel. On the positive side, Strong Mandate’s trainer trainer D. Wayne Lukas ran 1-2 in this race last year with Will Take Charge and Oxbow. Balancing that however, is the fact that he only wins at an eight percent clip with horses making their second start off a layoff. Additionally, jockey Joel Rosario is 0/13 when riding for Lukas this year. Still, Strong Mandate has proven class both on the track and in his pedigree.

There are two more interesting rivals. Kobe’s Back arrives from Santa Anita after a romping win in the seven-furlong San Vicente-G2 for top trainer John Sadler. He will rally late with Jose Lezcano aboard. It should be noted however, that Rosario rode Kobe’s Back in the San Vicente and now shows up on Strong Mandate. Perhaps more enticing is the 10-1 morning-line on longshot Hoppertunity.

Trained by Bob Baffert, who won the Rebel Stakes three years in a row from 2010-2012 with Lookin at Lucky, The Factor and Secret Circle, Hoppertunity rallied to finish fourth beaten seven lengths in the Risen Star-G2 at Fair Grounds at the Rebel distance three weeks ago. That was his first stakes try and you have to wonder why Baffert has entered him in this race when he has other 3-year-olds in his barn that could likely win it. Hoppertunity also gets a positive rider switch to the hot Mike Smith.

We’ll take Strong Mandate to press, pounce and take the lead offTapiture and Ride on Curlin in the stretch, and hope that either Hoppertunity or Kobe’s Back can rally for second and complete a lucrative exactor.We’ll also play those two on top of Strong Mandate and play a lesser exact box combing Hoppertunity, Kobe’s Back and Strong Mandate.

Good Luck!