The lone major Kentucky Derby prep on St. Patrick's Day takes place in Hot Springs, Arkansas at Oaklawn Park. The Grade 2 Rebel Stakes is final tune-up for a field of thirteen hopefuls who wish to progress to the Arkansas Derby and then on to the Kentucky Derby. Bob Baffert brings Secret Circle back to test the distance waters again at 1 1/16 miles following an impressive win in the 1 mile Southwest Stakes. Here is the analysis:
Clearly, #8 Secret Circle will be the main speed threat in this race. Granted he sat slightly off the pace of #3 Scatman in the Southwest on February 20, then rallied to get a win by a half-length. Both horses eclipsed Beyer numbers of 100 in that division of the Southwest. It could very well develop into a speed battle between these two again in the Rebel. Of course, what will be the key factor is what happens behind them. Who might come and get them if they tire late? Delta Jackpot winner, #7 Sabercat, ought to be rolling late, along with the Charles Cella-owned #4 Cyber Secret. I think there is a myriad of possibilities as far as deep closers in here, especially with the extra distance. #5 Optimizer has plenty of experience with racing in tall cotton, having finished 3rd and 8th in two previous Grade 1 tries. Steve Asmussen sends out the lightly raced #1 Unbridled's Note and #11 Najjaar is a come-from-behind horse that has won two straight at Oaklawn and gets Calvin Borel up. Isn't Calvin kind of overdue to get a big win again?
THE PICK: #11 Najjaar (6-1)
Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!