#8 Secret Circle (KY) – Make no mistake about it…this horse race revolves entirely around Secret Circle. He’s the best horse in the race, and if he can get the distance none of these are going to beat him. BUT, can he get the distance? I have him as my top selection so obviously I believe he can. It was really impressive to see him sit off the lead a bit in the Southwest, and patiently wait to make his move. His price is going to be short, but I’m willing to play him at low odds. He’s far from a lock though, so let’s go through the horses that will be there to pick up the pieces if Secret Circe decides a mile and one-sixteenth is not for him.
#12 Adirondack King (KY) – His race in the Southwest was good, and there is no question that he wanted more distance. Well he’s going to get it in the Rebel, and trainer John Servis says he’s instructed jockey Stewart Elliott to sit a little closer to the pace this time. I feel like this horse is a push button type horse; you can place him anywhere and when you ask him to go, he’ll fire for you. Hopefully he gets a decent stalking trip from that outside post; that’s a real worry for me. It would be great to see him within a couple of lengths turning for home. With the right trip he’ll be a big time player.
#3 Scatman (KY) – In the Southwest Scatman ran an incredible race, and ALMOST defeated Secret Circle at a mile which is really saying something. Now the question is can he duplicate that effort? His breeding suggests that the extra distance shouldn’t be much of a problem, so really it’s just a question of will he bounce. I gave this horse no credit before the Southwest, but now I’m taking him serious. One bad thing is I believe Unbridled’s Note is going to scratch so Scatman will be on the rail. I’d like to see him stalk the lead instead of set the pace, but from the rail he’ll need a sharp break and to get out in front so he won’t be shuffled back. Look for him to be in the mix from the opening moments to the very end.
#5 Optimizer (KY) – Laugh all you want, but I’m STILL not giving up on this horse. Jon Court getting the ride on him is a great thing. Court is mainly a speed rider, and I feel like Optimizer needs to be closer to the pace than he has been. To me he looks like more of a grinder than a big run closer. Sit him close to the pace and hopes he grinds them down at the end. I’m looking for that kind of trip for him, and if he gets that I think hitting the board is very possible.
#6 Jake Mo (KY) – Even though he finished second in the first division of the Southwest, I’m still not overly excited about him. He showed nice closing speed in that race, but also got a ground saving trip, where many of the horses he passed did not. Still, you have to keep an eye on him in this one. He could hit the board, but that’s probably his limit.
#7 Sabercat (KY) – If you are the owner of a three-year old this time of year, Sabercat would be a great horse to have. He already has plenty of graded earnings, so there is no pressure on him to perform big in his two prep races. Sabercat will most likely be the second favorite in this race, but I’m not in love with him. He hasn’t run since November, and even though he won the one million dollar Delta Jackpot, I’m not high on the horses he beat. Those factors have me taking the wait and see approach on him.
#1A Pee H Dee (KY) – There is no doubt in my mind Pee H Dee is a cut below the top horses in this division, but any time Chris Richard sends one to the track you have to be aware. Pee H Dee ran hard in the second division of the Southwest, and did not embarrass himself when he finished fourth. Richard claims that he is progressing nicely, and I feel like he would not have entered him unless he thought he had a chance to make a little noise. Don’t bet the farm on him, but don’t ignore him!
#4 Cyber Secret (KY) – He’s been a Jekyll and Hyde act so far at Oaklawn. He opened up with a horrible allowance race, then a sharp allowance win, and then a very average run in the Southwest. So if you believe in the every other race theory, this would be the race he shines in. Picking up Robby Albarado as a jockey is a positive sign as well. I think he’ll improve off that Southwest race, and wouldn’t be the worst longshot to play.
#10 Reckless Jerry (KY) – Here is one that has been frustrating the locals. Reckless Jerry has looked great in the mornings, and has plenty of hype from his trainers and local Oaklawn pundits, but has finished third in both the Smarty Jones and Southwest Stakes. In both races I’ve felt like he’s gotten terrible trips, and I think trainer Kenny Smith agreed. He’s called on a new jockey as Joe Rocco will be in to ride from Gulfstream. I love the move and I do think the change will help Reckless Jerry move forward. But, is he talented enough? I’m starting to think he might be a lot like Elite Alex was last year at this point…lots of hype, but little performance. His odds should be decent in this one, so if you want to take another crack at him I wouldn’t blame you.
#11 Najjaar (KY) – This guy is a real wild card in my eyes. Najjaar has had two huge closing runs this year at Oaklawn, as he won a maiden and an allowance impressively. His running style requires a decent pace, and I think he’ll get that in the Rebel so he has that going for him. You worry about a deep closer finding running room in a field of 13, and he’s running on fairly short rest so there are some warning signs. He’s got a great come from behind rider in Calvin Borel so that will help his chances. If the pace falls apart up front, this guy can definitely come up and pick up the pieces. Very interesting player in this thing.
#2 Unbridled’s Note (KY) – There is a very nice allowance race here on friday that Unbridled’s Note is also entered in, and I think he will run in that race. If he does run in the Rebel, it’s hard to believe he’d make much of an impact. The colt is extremely talented, but his race in the Southwest was not good at all. Plus, he’s drawn the rail, which will make things even rougher on him.
#9 Atigun (KY) – I really like this colt, but he’s had some foot problems and hasn’t run since opening weekend at Oaklawn. I look for him to make some noise before the Oaklawn meet is over, but he may need a race before he does.
#1 Ring It Up (KY) – This is another horse that is cross entered in that allowance race on Friday, and I think he’ll run in it as well. Even though Chris Richard trains this one, I still think he’s throw out. Richard has openly admitted that Ring It Up is a little behind Pee H Dee at this moment. Nice horse, just not ready for this deep of water.