HOT SPRINGS, AR – Eight is not enough for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who bids for his record-extending ninth victory in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) when he sends out unbeaten Newgrange in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds Saturday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the Rebel, which goes as the 11th of 12 races, is 5:22 p.m. (Central). First post Saturday is 12 p.m. Saturday’s card also features the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.
The projected 11-horse Rebel field from the rail out: Kavod, Francisco Arrieta to ride, 117 pounds, 12-1 on the morning line; Newgrange, John Velazquez, 122, 9-5; Cairama, Geovanni Franco, 117, 15-1; Un Ojo, Ramon Vazquez, 117, 12-1; Texas Red Hot, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117, 12-1; Stellar Tap, Cristian Torres, 117, 10-1; Ben Diesel, Jon Court, 117, 6-1; Chasing Time, Tyler Gaffalione, 122, 8-1; Barber Road, Reylu Gutierrez, 117, 9-2; Ethereal Road, Luis Contreras, 117, 12-1; and Dash Attack, David Cohen, 122, 8-1.
The Rebel is Oaklawn’s third of four Kentucky Derby points races, with 85 allotted to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5). Because Baffert is banned from Churchill Downs, a suspension stemming from his 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit being disqualified because of a medication violation, Newgrange is ineligible for qualifying points. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters. Starting preference is given to horses with the highest point totals, if more than 20 enter.
Newgrange returns to Oaklawn after a 1 ½-length victory in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 29 – Oaklawn’s second Kentucky Derby points race – for a high-profile ownership group that includes SF Racing (Gavin Murphy), Starlight Racing (Jack Wolf), Madaket Stables (Sol Kumin) and Stonestreet Stables (Barbara Banke).
“I wasn’t really sure if I was going to bring him back or not,” Baffert said. “I had a couple of more I was thinking about, but he sort of tipped me off that he came out of that race really well. He looks good. He looks like he came out of the race well. Shipped well and I like the fact that he’s got a great mind and he’s a good horse and he’s undefeated. So, he traveled well. He’s been great on the road.”
Baffert said the son of Violence (3 for 3) was scheduled to arrive Wednesday. Newgrange has two published workouts since the Southwest at his Santa Anita base, including a 5-furlong bullet move (:58.60) Feb. 19. The Southwest marked the first start outside California for Newgrange, who won the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) Jan. 1 at Santa Anita in his 3-year-old debut.
“He’s kept his form,” Baffert said. “He didn’t regress. Sometimes, you ship, you might regress a little bit. But he came out of it well. He’s easy on himself, so he’s pretty easy to train. I was impressed with his last win because he was sort of stop and go the whole way and still found a way to win. That’s the sign of a good horse. I’m happy with the way he’s coming into this race.”
Newgrange, as the 1-2 favorite under Velazquez, broke from post 10 in the Southwest. The colt drew more favorably for the Rebel, which is the final major local prep for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 2.
“We have to break well,” Baffert said. “So, that’s the key, no matter what post you have. But it should maybe be easier on him. Had to use him up outside last time. But that’s something I don’t really worry about. That’s up to Johnny V. He has to work that out.”
Baffert is seeking his third consecutive Rebel victory. He won the race in 2010 (Lookin At Lucky), 2011 (The Factor), 2012 (Secret Circle), 2014 (Hoppertunity), 2015 (American Pharoah), 2016 (Cupid), 2020 (Nadal) and 2021 (Concert Tour).
In addition to Newgrange, the Rebel brings back Barber Road, Ben Diesel, Kavod and Dash Attack, the 2-3-4-5 finishers, respectively, from the Southwest. Barber Road is seeking his breakthrough victory after finishing second in his last three starts – all stakes – including the $250,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 1. The 1-mile Smarty Jones was Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race.
Barber Road already has collected eight qualifying points for his runner-up finishes in the Smarty Jones and Southwest and would likely secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby with a top two finish Saturday for trainer John Ortiz.
Barber Road, who switches back to Gutierrez, has had three works in company since the Southwest, when he dropped much farther behind than Ortiz expected. The gray son of multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Race Day drew outside again Saturday
“I’m not really too concerned,” said Ortiz, who trains Barber Road for former Walmart executive William Simon. “I’m worried about my horse running his best race. We’ve competed against the top horses in here already. We’re just going along for the ride. The speed is on the inside. I think Reylu, he’ll have the right plan. It’s all in his hands.”
Dash Attack won the Smarty Jones before suffering his first career loss in the Southwest for trainer Kenny McPeek. The speedy Kavod also ran fourth in the Smarty Jones for 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman.
New shooters include Chasing Time, a 7 ¾-length entry-level allowance winner in his Jan. 14 two-turn debut for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and Ethereal Road, an eye-catching maiden special weights winner at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 29 for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
All 11 projected starters will be racing without Lasix, meaning they are eligible for Kentucky Derby qualifying points under that stipulation.
Oaklawn Park Press Office
Photo: The field turns for home in the Southwest Stakes/Coady Photography