Rebel Rebel by the late David Bowie has been in my head since I starting ‘capping the Grade II Rebel. Maybe this great guitar-driven song is now stuck in yours as well — I hope you like it, in that case.
But now it’s time to put the music aside and start analyzing this key Derby prep. It’s getting late into the season and the serious contenders are forming into shape. Let’s look at the contenders for this race:
Title Ready: Won an allowance over the track impressively which earned him his shot in the Rebel. Makes his second start of the year and adds Jose Ortiz. A contender — if a bit slow so far — and maybe the value of the race because of his lack of stakes experience.
Solomini: Returns to the track for the first time in 2018. Won the Los Al Futurity, but was disqualified and placed third behind two very good horses — McKinzie and Instilled Regard. He’s been competitive in every race, with some strong seconds behind division leaders. It’s also Baffert at Oaklawn, a place he owns with 3YO’s. 3/2 morning line promises a small payout — have to hope for another 2nd.
Magnum Moon: 2 for 2 for this Todd Pletcher trainee. Won at 1-9 last time stretching out at Tampa. Relatively untested, today will tell a good deal about this horse. His maiden win shows he has the speed to win, but he has to duplicate it in a large field of quality 3YO’s to win. Hard to knock this horse, but prefer a bit more experience for this sort of test.
Sporting Chance: Won the hopeful last year and then disappeared from September to February where he ran in the GIII Southwest here at Oaklawn. He would need to improve 2nd time off the layoff to be competitive here.
High North: Gary Stevens rides for Brad Cox on this horse which improved greatly on his 3YO return in the Grade II Risen Star. He’d likely need some pace and some improvement, but both aren’t out of the question.
Combatant: No bad races for this horse, with 3 seconds against solid competition. Ran blistering fast for this field over the Oaklawn track at a mile, in finishing second to Mourinho. If you throw out the mud start in the Southwest, he is right up there with the favorites speed-wise.
Analysis: Both Combatant and Title Ready are 8-1 on the morning line, with reasons to believe that they can win the race. If forced to choose, I’d go with Combatant. Solomini is the most likely winner. I’ll use Combatant and Title Ready in the P4 (and possibly throw in Solomini as a saver depending on cost.)