There is one big Kentucky Derby prep race Saturday and one, well, one that is not.
The Rebel will be run at Oaklawn Park and boasts a field featuring legit Derby contenders. The Jeff Ruby Steaks – formerly know as the Spiral – will be run at Turfway Park and features a field of also-rans.
The headliner in the Rebel is Solomini (3/2) out of the Bob Baffert barn. Solomini has not run since crossing the line first in the Los Alamitos Futurity on December 9 only to be disqualified and placed third. Before then he was a solid second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in early November.
The works for the return have been sizzling, including three bullet works in his last four works.
Magnum Moon (7-2) is the second choice for trainer Todd Pletcher. The horse has two starts and has won both, the latest coming in an optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs in mid-February. He does appear a notch below Solomini, but this is the time of the Derby campaign when horses can begin to excel.
Sporting Chance (5/1) is an experienced stakes runner for D Wayne Lukas, with his last two starts a first in the Hopeful at Saratoga last September and most recently, a third in Southwest over the Oaklawn track in February. He’s had a steady work tab since the return and there is every reason to expect improvement.
Combatant (8/1) is a Steve Asmussen runner and is one to watch as he has posted three straight, second place finishes, all in stakes races, the last which was in the Southwest, closing hard on winner My Boy Jack.
Title Ready (8/1) is another Asmussen entry that has yet to run in a stakes race but has created some buzz around the track.
If you are looking for a price horse, there are a pair worth a look.
Curlin’s Honor (12/1) is a $1.5 million horse for Mark Casse that has but two starts. He’s won both starts by a neck and has yet to face a field any where near this tough, but he could take a big step forward Saturday.
Finally, High North (12/1) was just okay in the running fifth in the Risen Star, but it was the first start after a couple of months off for trainer Brad Cox and improvement is likely. In addition, High North picks up Gary Stevens as the jockey Saturday and that is a boost.
JEFF RUBY STEAKS
This is actually a very good wagering race as there is no prohibitive favorite and it’s a full field.
At the top of the list is Ride a Comet (5/1) and Hazit (5/1). Ride a Comet is out of Casse’s barn and has won two straight, although it has been a maiden and an optional claimer.
Hazit gets the co-favorite status simply because he comes from the Pletcher barn. His last start was a second in an optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs. Before then he ran in a pair of Grade I races – the Champagne and the BC Juvenile – but he was beaten convincingly in both.
After the two favorites, there are four horses that start the odds at 6-1. In terms of Northern California interests, Jonathon Wong sends out Mugaritz. When last seen, Mugaritz was running fourth in the El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields, another lightly thought of prep race.
Archaggelos, Pony Up and Blended Citizen are the other three at 6-1.
Blended Citizen was third in the El Camino Real for trainer Doug O’Neill. It was a decent run for a horse that shipped up from Southern California for the race. Kyle Frey rode the horse in the El Camino and is making the trip east to keep the mount.
Archaggelos is coming off two starts at Woodbine for trainer Michael Dickinson, most recently finishing fourth in a $100,000 stakes race in early December.
Pony Up is another Pletcher runner and was a badly beaten fifth in the Holy Bull.
By Dennis Miller