The Grade 2 Rebel drew an intriguing field topped by leading Kentucky Derby contender Nadal, who gets his first two-turn test as he seeks valuable qualifying points. He will also receive the most significant class test of his career, as he meets a pair of accomplished Steve Asmussen runners, in addition to additional key contenders.
The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, but that characterization really depends upon the tactics Joel Rosario decides to employ on Nadal. No Parole (#5) seems likely to speed off to the front, since that’s what he’s done in all three of his starts to date. Nadal can either contest the lead, ensuring an honest pace, or take back. Horses like Basin (#3) and American Theorem (#8) figure to be in close pursuit, with others rallying from farther back.
Nadal (#1) is all upside at this point, and that’s likely going to result in him being wildly overbet. He’s done nothing wrong in two career starts, but he hasn’t yet proven he’s the second coming of Justify. His maiden score was solid, and the 120 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned in the San Vicente is among the best numbers achieved by any 3-year-old in the current class. Yet he’s hardly a standout and may need to produce the best effort of his career to defeat this solid group. I’m using him prominently, but he’s unlikely to offer any value from a wagering standpoint.
Asmussen’s two main contenders each have their merits. Basin (#3) is more of a wild card as he returns from a lengthy layoff in this graded stakes, something Asmussen doesn’t do quite as often as one would assume. He showed potential last summer at Saratoga and is certainly bred to handle added ground, so he’ll be somewhere on my tickets. Yet Silver Prospector is the more trustworthy option, having just recently achieved an impressive 118 TimeformUS Speed Figure in winning the Southwest over this course and distance. He did work out an absolutely perfect trip that day, but he figures to get another favorable setup here.
I want to get slightly more creative, so I’m taking a shot with the returning AMERICAN THEOREM (#8). This grey colt won his debut at Del Mar last summer despite racing greenly and lugging in through the lane. He corrected those habits second time out when finishing a distant second to Eight Rings in the Grade 1 American Pharoah going this distance. While he was no match for the winner, he nevertheless put forth an encouraging effort in his first start at a route distance. Trainer George Papaprodromou gave him plenty of time off after that, electing to skip the Breeders’ Cup, and it appears his decision may now yield dividends. American Theorem appears to be working very well for his return, easily reeling off some visually impressive six-furlong drills in preparation for this start. I like his outside post position and won’t be surprised if this maturing son of American Pharoah is able to take a significant step forward.
Exacta Key Box: 8 with 1,3,4,6
Trifecta: 8 with 1,4,6 with 1,3,4,5,6
Trifecta: 1,4,6 with 8 with 1,3,4,5,6