Not Nominated to TC, Hillbilly Royalty Pointed to Rebel
Unbeaten 3-year-old Hillbilly Royalty is under consideration for the Rebel Stakes on March 14 following his front-running 4 1/2-length allowance win at 1 1/16 mile last Friday.
Trainer Donnie Von Hemel said it’s likely Hillbilly Royalty will make his stakes debut in his next start – whether it’s the Rebel or a race like the Sunland Derby on March 22 – because he doesn’t see an appropriate allowance race for 3-year-olds going in the interim.
“The Rebel is most likely because we’re here, but you’ve got to look and see what’s coming, too. Basically if you’ve won two races, you’re either going to run in a stake or you’re not going to run right now,” Von Hemel said, citing the condition book.
Bred and owned by Toby Keith's Dream Walkin Farms, Hillbilly Royalty wasn’t an early Triple Crown nominee. He debuted Nov. 22 going a mile at Remington Park and was a 2 1/2-length winner. The gelding had a steady series of local works leading up to his 3-year-old debut, but Von Hemel said none were spectacular.
“He showed that he was probably all right in the morning,” Von Hemel said. “The two races, I think I’ve been surprised both times.”
Von Hemel praised Keith for allowing him to take his time with the son of Langfuhr.
“Kudos to them,” Von Hemel said. “They’ve never said, ‘When are you going to run? Run him here.’ He’s great to train for. He enjoys it. But as far as when and where to run – all that stuff – he leaves it up to you.”
The early Triple Crown nomination period closed Jan. 17. The late period, which has a $6,000 nomination fee, runs through March 23. Von Hemel said Hillbilly Royalty will be a late nominee, if it’s warranted.
“If you’re going to spend $6,000, you wait until the deadline,” Von Hemel said.
Edited Oaklawn Park release