Another Year, Another Baffert
Solomini Not Without Competition
Another year, another favorite for Bob Baffert in a major 3-year-old race at Oaklawn Park.
Solomini, one of 11 horses entered in the Rebel Stakes, is the 3-2 program favorite for Baffert, who has won the Rebel a record six times – all since 2010 – and has 13 victories in Kentucky Derby preps at Oaklawn, the last coming with the ill-fated Mourinho in the Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 15.
“He’s been doing really well,” Baffert said. “Glad to get him back. He’s been training really well, so we’re just hoping for a good run.”
The Southern California-based Solomini has recorded two consecutive bullet workouts at Santa Anita in advance of the Rebel, including a five-furlong move in :59.00 last Saturday.
One of Baffert’s six Rebel victories came in 2015 with American Pharoah, who would capture the Triple Crown, but he declined to make any comparisons.
“They’re all different,” Baffert said. “It’s hard to really compare any of them. He is not going to wow you in the mornings, watching him train. But he shows up in the afternoons. He just likes to gut it out. He has a big heart. Everything I’ve brought up there is different.”
Solomini races for Zayat Stables, LLC and the Coolmore partners of Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, who purchased an interest in the colt following the Los Alamitos Futurity.
The Rebel brings back Combatant, Sporting Chance and Zing Zang, second, third and fifth in the muddy Southwest Stakes on Feb. 19. The race also features the stakes debuts of two-for-two Magnum Moon; the intriguing Higher Power, perfect in two career starts around two turns; and two-for-two Curlin’s Honor, who will be making his two-turn debut.
Lukas Talks Gate
D. Wayne Lukas said he would have preferred more of an inside draw for Sporting Chance but that he should be OK from post 7.
“I’m always more concerned who’s around me,” Lukas said. “If the gate opens and you get a nice gap, then you can do what you want away from the gate. You’re either clear early or you’re the clean speed. It always makes a difference. Sometimes we overanalyze the gate position. Everybody says, ‘What about the gate? What about the gate?’ Well, unless you’ve got a crystal ball, you don’t know how it’s going to play out when it opens.”
Higher Power, a half-brother to millionaire and 2012 Oaklawn Handicap winner Alternation, will be making his first start since winning a first-level allowance/optional claimer on Jan. 13 at a mile. The son of Medaglia d’Oro had been under consideration for the Southwest before missing about a week of training because of a minor illness, trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said.
“The 5 post, anywhere in the middle, you’re probably happy with you’ve got,” Von Hemel said. “I think Richard just has to get a break here and there in a competitive race.”
Luis Saez previously rode Sporting Chance but stays on Magnum Moon, an easy first-level allowance/optional claiming winner on Feb. 15 at Tampa Bay Downs in his last start for trainer Todd Pletcher. John Velazaquez will ride Sporting Chance.
Curlin’s Honor stretches out from six furlongs after clearing his first allowance condition by a neck Feb. 25 at Fair Grounds for trainer Mark Casse and co-owner John Oxley. Casse and Oxley won last year’s Arkansas Derby with Classic Empire.
Pryor, a Feb. 19 maiden graduate, and Smarty Jones fourth Bode’s Maker are also entered in a first-level allowance/optional claiming race Sunday.
The connections of Pryor were leaning toward the Rebel Friday morning. Bode’s Maker is expected to scratch in favor of the allowance race.
The Rebel field from the rail out: Title Ready, Jose Ortiz to ride, 117 pounds, 8-1 on the morning line; Curlin’s Honor, Florent Geroux, 115, 12-1; Solomini, Flavien Prat, 115, 3-2; Magnum Moon, Luis Saez, 115, 7-2; Higher Power, Richard Eramia, 117, 20-1; Pryor, David Cabrera, 115, 30-1; Sporting Chance, John Velazquez, 117, 5-1; High North, Gary Stevens, 115, 12-1; Zing Zang, Corey Lanerie, 115, 20-1; Combatant, Ricardo Santana Jr., 115, 8-1; and Bode’s Maker, Jareth Loveberry, 115, 50-1.
Edited Oaklawn Park release