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    American Pharoah
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    The Road to the Kentucky Derby stops at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. on Saturday as a field of seven 3-year-olds take on the 1 1/16 mile $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2). The top four finishers will pick up points in Churchill Downs’ Road to the Kentucky Derby point system* to earn a spot in the May 2 Kentucky Derby (G1).

    Headlining the field and making his sophomore debut is Zayat Stable’s American Pharoah. Installed as the 1-2 morning line favorite, American Pharoah has not raced since winning the Grade 1 Front Runner Stakes Sept. 27. A foot issue prevented the colt from making the November Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and halted his training schedule. Since returning to the work tab in February, he’s recorded six sharp works, including two recent bullet works going seven furlongs in 1:23 4/5 (Feb. 27) and six furlongs in 1:10 2/5 (Mar. 6).

    Typically, a horse coming off a six-month layoff would not garner a morning line of 1-2, but American Pharoah is different. The lightly raced son of Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah has two grade one wins in only three starts. He broke his maiden in the grade one Del Mar Futurity Sept. 3. He earned a Brisnet speed rating of 103 for the effort. Plus, this is a Bob Baffert trainee and Baffert has won the Rebel four times in the last five runnings of the race. American Pharoah will break from post four under the guidance of jockey Victor Espinoza.

    Second choice on the morning line at odds of 4-1 is the most experienced in the field, Kenny McPeek’s The Truth Or Else. The son of Yes It’s True has made eight lifetime starts, but not won a race other than his maiden. He last raced in Oaklawn’s Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 22, in which he overcame rivals with a strong closing kick to lead at the top of the stretch, but failed to prevail, losing to Far Right by 2 ¾ lengths. The Truth Or Else will break from the rail under rail-rider Calvin Borel.

    Among the rest of the field, only one horse has won more than one race—Madefromlucky. After breaking his maiden for trainer John Mazza in December, Madefromlucky returned under trainer Todd Pletcher to win a $75,000 allowance at Gulfstream Park Feb.4. His sire, Lookin At Lucky, won the 2010 edition of the Rebel for Bob Baffert. Madefromlucky will break from post two with jockey John Velazquez in the irons.

    Why might so many unaccomplished horses take on a grade two race against a two-time grade one winner? Trainer D. Wayne Lukas was pointing champion 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi toward the Rebel, but a bone chip will force her to sit out. That leaves only one real obstacle standing in the way of the $750,000 purse. Ron Moquett, trainer of longshot Sakima, summed it up quite well to the track’s notes team on Wednesday.

    “With (Take Charge) Brandi out, that only leaves one ‘big’ horse,” said Moquett. “Sure (American) Pharoah looks tough but what if he stumbles? The field is small and the money is right. That is why we run the race.”

    The field from the rail out, with odds, is: The Truth Or Else 4-1, Madefromlucky 6-1, Tizwonderfulcreek 30-1, American Pharoah 1-2, Bold Conquest 8-1, Paid Admission 15-1, and Sakima 20-1. The race is the 10th on Oaklawn Park’s Saturday card with a scheduled post time of 7:06 p.m. Eastern Time. The race can be seen on HRTV and TVG. Click here for free PPs courtesy of Brisnet.

    * The Kentucky Derby points system replaced the graded stakes earnings system as the determiner of Kentucky Derby entrants. In the first phase, the Kentucky Derby Prep Season that concludes February 16, the top four finishers in the pre-determined races are awarded points of 10-4-2-1, respectively. In the first leg of phase two, the Championship Series, the top four finishers in 8 pre-determined races are awarded points of 50-20-10-5, respectively. In the second leg of the Championship Series, the top four finishers in the 7 pre-determined races receive points of 100-40-20-10, respectively. The Apr. 11 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland is a wildcard race and offers points of 10-4-2-1, respectively.

    Photo: Courtesy Oaklawn Park

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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