Will the running of the Rebel at Oaklawn Park on Saturday be a Kentucky Derby prep where the winner earns points, or will it be another stop on the “Bend them over Bob” World Tour?

Bob Baffert, the world class trainer with a history of Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown wins is facing a unique situation this year.

After winning the Kentucky Derby last year with Medina Spirit, Baffert, who along with Todd Pletcher, Brad Cox, and Steve Asmussen form the Holy Grail of big race trainers, is sitting on a suspension from the Derby after Medina Spirt tested positive for a banned substance following the Derby recent.’

It took nearly a year, but Medina Spirit, who passed away on the track in December of last year, was stripped of the Kentucky Derby win and Baffert was officially suspended for 90 days.

In the months leading up to the decision, Churchill Downs was busy denying Baffert the chance to run any horses at the Derby this year.

His usually talented group of 3-year-olds are allowed to run in Derby preps, but they are not allowed to earn points. In other words, his horses can run, but if they run in the top four spots, those points are vacated, and no runner can claim them.

Since the first of the year, Baffert runners have been spoiling the potential Derby party in races where he has sent his horses.

There was Newgrange (a horse running in the Rebel) winning the Southwest at Oaklawn, denying 10 points to any other horse. Then there was the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita where Baffert horses Messier and Wharton were first and third, keeping 12 potential points from other horses.

Next was the El Camino Real where Baffert sent benchwarmer Blackadder to Golden Gate Fields where the horse got the win, and another 10 points went into a Black Hole.

This figures to be a pattern repeated at both Santa Anita and Oaklawn leading right up to the Derby.

My fear moving forward is other California trainers and owners will seek other preps for their horses than the San Felipe (Mar. 5) and the Santa Anita Derby (April 9), thus leaving depleted fields like the five that went to post for the Lewis.

In addition, figure Baffert will send 3-4 runners to Pimlico for the Preakness – a track where Baffert is allowed to run horses – and blow up any chance for a Triple Crown.

Let’s move back to Saturday and the Rebel. The race is the 11th on the Oaklawn card and is set for 3:22 p.m. (PST) post.

Baffert’s soldier here is the aforementioned Newgrange. The horse is the overwhelming favorite at 9/5 and with good reason.

Three starts, over three tracks, and three wins. The last start was in the Southwest where the horse, under the guidance of John Velazquez – he’s been up in every start – found some reserve in the lane and pulled off to win by over a length.

The horse had one maintenance work, then came back and blew out a bullet work on February 19 to show how ready he is do “Bend them over Bob’s” work.

Can anyone in the field drop the horse from the unbeaten ranks? Certainly, but it will take big effort from one of the following.

Barber Road (John Ortiz, Reylu Gutierrez, 9/2) is the second choice was second in the Southwest, his second straight race at Oaklawn. Before then, he was second in the Smarty Jones, to Dash Attack, a horse also entered here. In his early races he showed a propensity to be on the pace, but in the last two he came from well back. There’s not a ton of pace here so it will be interesting to see the tactics the connections chose.

Ben Diesel (Dallas Stewart, Jon Court, 6/1) is the third choice and was the third-place runner in the Southwest. That came after a 7th place run in the Smarty Jones. Personally, I think this horse should have higher odds.

Dash Attack (Kenneth McPeak, David Cohen, 8/1) this would be my second choice, but is getting no love following running fifth in the Southwest. He broke over the track, the came back in his second start and won the Smarty Jones. Had the bad effort in the Southwest but then has thrown out a pair of sharp bullet works, and I think everything points to a big effort here. If you can get anywhere near 8/1 take a shot here.

Chasing Time (Steve Asmussen, Tyler Gaffalione, 8/1) is making his first stakes start, but thee last was an impressive 7-length win in an optional claimer over the Oaklawn track in his last start. Could make it interesting by going out and either setting or pushing the pace.

That wraps up what seems to be the legit contenders for this spot. Good luck to all players on Saturday!

By Dennis Miller