OP Review: Timberlake All Business in Rebel

February 25, 2024

Timberlake scoring an assertive victory in the Rebel. (Coady Photography)

> Lemon Muffin Butters Up Oaks with Honeybee
> Octane Pumps It Up in Razorback
> Zeitlos Tenacious Victory in Carousel

Compiled by Robert Yates/Edited

HOT SPRINGS, AR – The most accomplished entrant, Timberlake, delivered a workmanlike performance in his 3-year-old debut.

Timberlake, the 4-5 favorite, swept to the lead with a four-wide move turning for home and posted a two-length victory in the $1.25 million Rebel Stakes (G2) before an estimated crowd of 46,000 Saturday afternoon at Oaklawn.

Earning his owners, a winner’s purse of $618,760, Timberlake surpassed $1 million in career earnings with the victory. More importantly, he collected 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Cristian Torres rode Timberlake for trainer Brad Cox and co-owners WinStar Farm (Kenny Troutt) and Siena Farm (Todd Manganaro and Ignacio Patino).

The Rebel marked Timberlake’s first start since finishing fourth in the $2 million G1-Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. A son of super sire Into Mischief, Timberlake’s signature victory last year came in the $500,000 G1-Champagne Stakes – a one-turn mile – Oct. 7 at Aqueduct.

Common Defense and Northern Flame, both trained by Kenny McPeek, ran second and third, respectively, in the 1 1/16-miles Rebel. Woodcourt finished fourth, followed, in order, by Dimatic, Carbone, Just Steel, Next Level, Lagynos, Magic Grant, Mena and Tejon Pass. Time for Truth was scratched, reducing the starting field to 12.

Breaking from post position seven, Timberlake, trailed pacesetter Carbone by 1 ½ lengths through a :47.67 half-mile. Still fifth through six furlongs in 1:12.93, Timberlake began advancing on the leaders late on the second turn and struck the front in upper stretch. Timberlake was a length clear at the eighth pole and held a ground-saving Common Defense safe in the final 100 yards.

“Beautiful trip. I got the position that I wanted. I wanted him to be nice and relaxed. He did it all. He’s a classy horse. I’m just grateful that I could get it done for Brad (Cox) and (co-owner) WinStar. It’s a dream to win these kinds of races for these kind of people. It’s a dream come true,” said Torres.

Timberlake’s winning time over a fast track was 1:44. The victory, Timberlake’s third in six lifetime starts, raised his career earnings to $1,094,350. It was his first victory around two turns.

Timberlake was the first Rebel winner for Cox, who joined Hall of Famers Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas and Steve Asmussen as the only trainers to capture all four of what are now Oaklawn’s Kentucky Derby qualifying races.

“I thought he ran a big race. He was a little wide around the far turn. Looked like he may have been getting a touch tired late, but overall, it was a great run off the layoff. Cristian (Torres) did a great job of getting him in a good position. He was able to get him to relax and finish up well,” Cox said. 

Oaklawn’s fourth and final Kentucky Derby points race is the $1.5 million G1-Arkansas Derby at 1 1/8 miles March 30. Cox has won the Arkansas Derby the last two years.  

“Really pleased with how he’s matured. He was always a little keen last year. He had a good spot. He settled today, which is nice to see,” remarked co-owner Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm.

Walden said would talk next-race plans with trainer Brad Cox. The Arkansas Derby is a possibility, Walden said.

Common Defense (green cap) gave chase but Timberlake  prevailed. (Coady Photography)
Common Defense (green cap) gave chase but Timberlake prevailed. (Coady Photography)


Second-place jockey (Brian Hernandez Jr./Common Defense): “Great trip. We just sat on the inside coming from the 3 hole. Turning for home, we got lucky when it opened up. We were just second best.”

Second- and third-place trainer (Kenny McPeek/Common Defense/Northern Flame): “Two fantastic runs by two really nice horses. Very impressive, the winner (Timberlake). Really impressive. You’ve definitely got to put him in your top tier. But my colts, look, they’re going to make their presence felt the rest of the year. Where they go from here, we’ll see. For sure (both are on the Derby trail). I think that there’s so many nice races out there that you’ve just got to pick the right ones and kind of see. Just off the top of my head, maybe Common Defense goes to Turfway and runs in the Spiral. We’ll talk about Northern Flame and see how far he wants to go and everything. He’s a lovely horse in his own right.”

Seventh-place trainer (D. Wayne Lukas/Just Steel): “You can’t overcome the 11 hole (Just Steel’s post position), 11, 12 (in route races). You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You almost have to break hard and get up there. You’re bound to be wide. I was sick to my stomach when they drew. We’ll draw a line through it.”

Lemon Muffin Butters Up Oaks with Honeybee

Lemon Muffin rolls to the win and Oaks points in the Honeybee. (Coady Photography)
Under Keith Asmussen Lemon Muffin rolls to the win and Oaks points in the Honeybee. (Coady Photography)

Two of the most iconic names in Thoroughbred history – Lukas and Asmussen – teamed for the biggest upset in Honeybee Stakes history.

With a maiden.

Lemon Muffin took command in midstretch en route to a 3 ½-length victory over Tapit Jenallie in Saturday’s $400,000 Honeybee (G3) at 1 1/16 miles, Oaklawn’s second of three Kentucky Oaks qualifying races.

Keith Asmussen, 25, rode Lemon Muffin ($58.20) for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 88, who collected his record seventh Honeybee victory.

“I think I’m the oldest guy to ever win the Honeybee,” Lukas half-jokingly said.

“I felt good about her. She was dying to go two turns and I knew it. I kind of handicapped her. I kept her short a couple of times.” 

Tapit Jenallie finished a half-length ahead of even-money favorite West Omaha. Neom Beach finished another neck farther back in fourth for Asmussen’s father, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, a five-time Honeybee winner.

“She broke ultra-alert. Settled very comfortably in the first turn,” Asmussen commented.

“Down the backside, I had the biggest smile on my face because she was like a wave, and she was begging me to push the button. I was trying to be as patient as possible. When I turned her loose, she exploded.”

Lemon Muffin, who is owned by Aaron Sones, earned 50 points toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks, the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies. The gray daughter of Collected had finished second in her previous four starts before breaking her maiden in the Honeybee, which marked the first career graded stakes victory for Keith Asmussen.

“I’ve got to give credit to the owner (Aaron Sones). Aaron Sones called me and said, ‘Would you have the guts to put her in the Honeybee?’ And, I said: ‘Yes. I think that’s where we ought to go.’ So, he pushed me in that direction. I followed up on it and I loved it,” Lukas added.

Lemon Muffin’s winning time over a fast track was 1:45.60. She has a 1-4-0 record from six lifetime starts and earnings of $305,250.

Octane Pumps It Up in Razorback

Octane revving it up in the Razorback. (Coady Photography)
Octane revving it up in the Razorback. (Coady Photography)

Florida-based Octane surpassed $1 million in career earnings with a three-quarter length victory over Magic Tap in the $600,000 G3-Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn.

Julien Leparoux rode Octane for trainer Juan Alvarado and owner Alan Cohen.

I just wanted to break sharp. The other horse (Promise Keeper) really wanted to be on the lead. I just wanted to be outside, in the clear. He relaxed good and at the end, he finished up strong,” said Leparoux.

Octane ($13) covered 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:43.57. The 5-year-old Brethren gelding was exiting a runner-up finish in the $75,000 Sunshine Classic Stakes for older Florida-breds Jan. 20 at Gulfstream Park.

The Razorback, Octane’s first career graded stakes victory, bumped his earnings to $1,011,355. He has won 8 of 18 starts overall.

Zeitlos Tenacious Victory in Carousel

Ears flat on a mission Zeitlos spins a win in the Carousel. (Coady Photography)
Ears flat on a mission Zeitlos spins a win in the Carousel. (Coady Photography)

Heavily favored Zeitlos wore down Backyard Money in deep stretch to win the $150,000 Carousel Stakes for older female sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn.

Ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, Zeitlos finished 1 ½ lengths ahead of Backyard Money, with Mucho Macho Girl another 1 ½ lengths farther back in third. 

“The race didn’t really set up the way I was expecting it to. I thought there would be a little more pace. We were kind of in a strange position about an eighth of a mile out of the gate,” said Gaffalione.

“I decided to take her back and get her by herself, get her comfortable. She responded really well when I asked her. She finished the job well down the lane. She’s a talented filly.”

Zeitlos ($3.40) was making her stakes debut for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and co-owners Stonestreet Stables (Barbara Banke) and Peter Leidel. Stonestreet also bred Zeitlos. The winning time over a fast track was 1:10.97.

“Zeitlos, the patience that Stonestreet and the Leidels have shown with her to allow her to get to this level is very exciting. Today is the best she’s ever looked,” remarked Asmussen.

A 4-year-old daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Zeitlos raised her career earnings to $419,085 following her fourth victory from 10 lifetime starts. The Carousel was her third consecutive victory.

Zeitlos represented the record-extending eighth Carousel victory for Asmussen and his 110th career Oaklawn stakes victory, also a record.

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