All three of the favorites in this Grade 2 Rebel on Saturday at Oaklawn Park have major questions to answer. Caddo River faces the best field of his career, Concert Tour stretches out for the first time, and Keepmeinmind has to contend with a layoff.
Among those likely short prices, I would be most inclined to trust #1 Caddo River. This Brad Cox trainee showed talent right from the start, and signaled that he might be a stakes-caliber horse with that runner-up finish at Belmont last October, as he gamely battled back inside after getting cooked in a swift early pace. He’s yet to top the 108 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he earned that day, but he has nevertheless won his last two starts in visually impressive fashion. He dominated a group of maidens at Churchill two back after against setting some quick early splits, and last time never looked in danger of losing the Smarty Jones against an inferior field. While that recent stakes victory only garnered him a 106 TimeformUS Speed Figure, horses have run back to flatter the form of that race. Included among those is fourth-place finisher Moonlight Strike, who returned form that 17-length drubbing to finish third in the Tampa Bay Derby last week, improving his TimeformUS Speed Figure by 19 points.
The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, which could work against the speeds, but Caddo River has handled taxing pace scenarios in the past and is likely to be sent forward once again to secure his rail position.
#7 Concert Tour breaks from an outside post position, which should put him in a stalking position. Bob Baffert’s history of success in these Oaklawn prep races is well documented, but this colt comes into this two-turn test with something to prove. He wasn’t as visually impressive in his San Vicente victory as some might have expected, and his pedigree indicates that he’s probably not cut out for classic distances. He may win this based on sheer talent, as he does own the fastest speed figures, but I’m not willing to accept a short price on him.
#6 Keepmeinmind could work out the best trip of the main players, as he his deep closing running style could be flattered by a quick early tempo. Some might be deterred by his speed figure regression in the Kentucky Jockey Club last fall, but he was not ridden to achieve a fast number, asked to pass the entire field in the stretch. He proved that he was capable of competing at this level with his two prior efforts behind champion Essential Quality. His biggest hurdle to overcome is the layoff, since his 3-year-old debut has been delayed by weather.
I expect one of these three to win, giving slight preference to Caddo River. Yet one could make a case for some others at generous prices, especially for the lower slots in exotic wagers. The most intriguing of those appears to be #2 Big Lake, who ran a competitive speed figure last time at Fair Grounds and gets tested for class here.
Exacta: 1 with 2,6
Trifecta: 1 with 2,6,7 with 2,6,7