Before I turn this over to Brian, a couple of quick Road to the Roses reminders: Don’t forget to activate your power horses before tomorrow’s races, and Monday starts the first supplemental draft, when you can add three horses to your stable. Good luck! –Teresa
Things really begin to heat up at Oaklawn Park with the Grade II Rebel, where juvenile heroes Lookin At Lucky and Noble’s Promise return to meet rising star Dublin. Though it’s just a prep for the Grade I Arkansas Derby next month, it’s easy to label this as the most important and definitive 3yo race to date. Let’s take a look.
Oaklawn Park: The Grade II, $300,000 Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles
1. Cardiff Giant: Ran quite nicely in the local Southwest last month, and being that that was his first dirt start and first start outside of California, it was a fine run indeed. He drew well for this return assignment, but the cast is much, much deeper, so he’ll need to improve once again if he’s to factor; logical for the bottom of the exotics.
2. Lookin At Lucky: The Derby Future Book favorite makes his much anticipated 3yo debut and in doing so he heads outside of California and to the main track for the first time, all while adding blinkers. Got a lot done last summer and fall, but now it’s a whole new ballgame and he’s getting a late start to boot. His works have been a little spotty, and even though he was a bigshot last year, it’s not like he was ever really that overwhelming, was he? Point being, he’s going to be 4-5 and there are as many questions as there are answers, so it’s a good time to try and knock him off; seems like a beatable favorite.
3. Royal Express: The probable pace-setter has had himself a nice little year, but he’s in deep, deep water in his graded stakes debut. Blew a 3-length lead at Delta in his last, which marked his first two-turn run, and that doesn’t bode well against this tough crew; stop and fade seems likely.
4. Uh Oh Bango: The wildcard makes his first start since getting necked out by Rule in the pricey Delta Jackpot in December, and though he’s a relative unknown, there seems to be some serious talent in this corner. Has the speed to be just off what projects as an honest pace and get the jump on the closers, so there’s a chance he’s in an enviable position on the far turn. The obvious question is whether or not he’s good enough to handle a field like this, but the good news is that you’ll get a nice price if you want to find out; the logical choice if you’re not siding with the favorites.
5. Pleasant Storm: Got exposed a bit in the Southwest when his late rally never made a dent in the stretch, so if he couldn’t threaten there, he’s in for a long afternoon here. The pace seems like it will be honest, but Conveyance went 46 1/5 in the Southwest and this guy was nowhere near him at the wire. Even with the longer stretch run (the finish line was at the 1/16th-pole in the Southwest), he’s up against it; passing.
6. Noble’s Promise: The last of the star 2yo’s that makes his 3yo and dirt debut was a synthetic specialist going long last fall in GI company, including a close second to ‘Lucky in the CashCall in December. How any of that translates to this race is anyone’s guess, but at least you know he’s got the talent to compete. Look for him to be right off the early lead and make his move on the far turn, but even with that solid juvenile form and the flashy works on display, he’s got his work cut out for him; worth trying to beat.
7. Dublin: All things considered, his return in the Southwest was absolutely perfect. He made his first two-turn start, first start since surgery (he displaced in the Ky. Jockey Club) and first start in over three months; and all he did was rally from eighth and 12 lengths behind to come flying at Conveyance late at the aforementioned short finish line to finish second. Visually it stamped him as a premier 3yo and major Derby player, and today he finally gets a few things actually going his way. Figures to stalk midpack and make his run late, and it should carry him right to the winner’s circle; stamps himself as the horse to beat come May 1.
2. Lookin At Lucky
3. Noble’s Promise
Check out Brian’s handicapping for NYRA races at horseplayernow.com. He’ll be participating in “Countdown to the Crown” live chats every Friday at 2 pm, accessible from the main page of the site, chatting for an hour about anything and everything for three-year-olds.