Edited Press Release
Following a flurry of recent additions and subtractions, the field for the $900,000 Rebel (G2) next Saturday at Oaklawn is coming into sharper focus. The race is the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16.
The projected field grew to 13 Saturday morning with lightly raced Cupid and Z Royal opting to scratch out of races later in the day at Santa Anita and Oaklawn, respectively, in favor of the Rebel.
Cupid was entered in the $400,000 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita, but is now booked on a flight originating Tuesday in Southern California to run in the Rebel, a race the colt’s Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, has won five times since 2010, including last year with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
Cupid, a $900,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sales purchase, earned a career-high 97 BRIS Speed rating in a February 7 maiden victory at Santa Anita. The 1 1/16-mile race was the colt’s third lifetime start and first around two turns. Cupid is a gray son of Tapit.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is scheduled to be represented by two horses in the Rebel after scratching Z Royal from the seventh race at Oaklawn, a second-level allowance. Lukas said Ramon Vazquez will have the mount in the Rebel on Z Royal, who is coming off a troubled eighth-place finish in the $500,000 Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn February 15.
Lukas said an iffy racing surface Saturday (Hot Springs has had persistent rain since Tuesday) factored into his decision to point Z Royal to the Rebel.
“The track conditions today aren’t perfect,” Lukas said before training hours Saturday morning. “I thought we would give him a chance to find out where we’re at. He’s doing really well.”
Z Royal races for his breeder, Zayat Stables (Ahmed Zayat), who also campaigned American Pharoah.
Lukas was already scheduled to be represented in the Rebel by Gray Sky, fifth in the $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn January 18. He said he has yet to secure a rider for Gray Sky, second in a February 13 allowance race at Oaklawn.
Additionally, trainer Dallas Stewart said he plans to start Fair Grounds-based Spikes Shirl in the Rebel. He also said jockey Jesus Castanon will likely ride the Speightstown colt, who has been second in two allowance races in New Orleans this year.
The additions of Cupid and Z Royal offset the recent defections of Mo for the Money, Dazzling Gem and Vorticity.
The Rebel is limited to 14 starters, with starting preference given to horses with the highest earnings. Cupid ($47,500), Spikes Shirl ($41,902) and Z Royal ($40,911) are 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively, among horses confirmed for the 1 1/16-mile Rebel.
Also scheduled to run in the Rebel are Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore, American Dubai, Discreetness, Ralis, Cutacorner, Creator, Cherry Wine and Siding Spring.
Suddenbreakingnews (first), Whitmore (second), American Dubai (third), Siding Spring (fifth), Discreetness (seventh) and Cutacorner (ninth) also exit the Southwest.
Ralis, also booked on the Tuesday flight from Southern California, will be making his three-year-old debut for trainer Doug O’Neill. He won the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) at Saratoga last September.
Creator, another gray son of Tapit, was a dazzling February 27 maiden winner at Oaklawn for six-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen.
Florida-based Cherry Wine will be making his stakes debut for trainer Dale Romans after winning his last two starts by a combined 15 1/4 lengths.
Post positions for the Rebel will be drawn Wednesday.
(Suddenbreakingnews photo: Coady Photography)