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Split Rebel Entices Powerful Baffert Duo

by Jon White

March 14, 2019

Talk about a major detour on the Kentucky Derby trail.

Game Winner, who is No. 1 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10, and Improbable, ranked No. 2, were supposed to have clashed in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park on March 9.

However, Santa Anita on March 5 announced that it had pulled the plug on racing indefinitely as a result of a spike in equine fatalities since the meeting had commenced on Dec. 26. Consequently, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who trains both Game Winner and Improbable, suddenly had to come up with a Plan B for the two highly ranked colts.

Baffert’s Plan B actually became Plan R, meaning the Rebel, as in Rebel Stakes.

Game Winner and Improbable have been rerouted from the canceled San Felipe to this Saturday’s Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The 1 1/16-mile race was split into two divisions after attracting 19 entries.

Even before the Rebel is run, it will make history. It is the first time in the history of racing in the entire world that an event with an original purse of $1 million or more will be run in two divisions.

Before being split, the Rebel offered 85 qualifying points (50-20-10-50) for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. Now each division has a purse of $750,000 and 63.75 qualifying points (37.5 for first, 15 for second, 7.5 for third and 3.75 for fourth). The revised qualifying points represent 75% of the original purse.

Whereas Game Winner and Improbable would have had to face each other in the San Felipe, that will not be the case in the Rebel. Baffert is happy about that inasmuch as he would just as soon not have Game Winner and Improbable meet until the Kentucky Derby.

Grade I winner Improbable heads the first division of the Rebel, which has a field of nine. Eclipse Award winner Game Winner gets top billing among the 10 entered in the second division.

Oaklawn and Los Alamitos both deserve kudos for stepping up to help out after Santa Anita temporarily halted racing.

When six Rebel candidates stabled at Santa Anita -- Extra Hope, Galilean, Game Winner, Gunmetal Gray, Improbable and Omaha Beach -- all were in need of a final workout before the Rebel, they were unable to do so at Santa Anita. But in a classy gesture, Los Alamitos welcomed the six horses with open arms. Thus, all six had their final pre-Rebel drill at Los Al, as listed below:

Extra Hope (six furlongs in 1:12.00 on March 9)
Galilean (four furlongs in :48.40 on March 11)
Game Winner (five furlongs in :59.80 on March 10)
Gunmetal Gray (six furlongs in 1:12.60 on March 9)
Improbable (five furlongs in :59.20 on March 10)
Omaha Beach (six furlongs in 1:10.60 on March 9)

Oaklawn announced last week that the Rebel would be split if it drew 20 or more entries.

“Oaklawn stands ready to help horsemen around the country,” Louis Cella, the track’s president, said in a press release. “From a financial standpoint, splitting the race makes no sense whatsoever. If we split it, it will be strictly on the basis of sportsmanship and what is best for the sport and best for the top 3-year-olds trying to get to the Kentucky Derby.”

When the Rebel drew 19 entries, Cella could have stuck to his guns and saved a whole lot of money by not splitting the race. But in a classy gesture a la Los Al fulfilling the need for workouts, Oaklawn went ahead and split the Rebel even though there were fewer than 20 entries.


First Division

2-5 Improbable
4-1 Galilean
10-1 Extra Hope
10-1 Long Range Toddy
15-1 Classy John
20-1 Easy Shot
30-1 Corruze
30-1 Ninth Street
50-1 Proud Nation

Second Division

4-5 Game Winner
5-1 Omaha Beach
6-1 Gunmetal Gray
6-1 Our Braintrust
12-1 Laughing Fox
15-1 Jersey Agenda
20-1 Captain Von Trapp
20-1 Market King
30-1 Kaziranga
30-1 Parsimony


First Division: 1. Improbable, 2. Galilean, 3. Extra Hope, 4. Long Range Toddy

Second Division: 1. Omaha Beach, 2. Game Winner, 3. Our Braintrust, Gunmetal Gray


1. Game Winner
2. Improbable
3. War of Will
4. Code of Honor
5. Mucho Gusto
6. Bourbon War
7. Roadster
8. Omaha Beach
9. Galilean
10. Instagrand

Instagrand had been No. 4 last week. I moved him down to No. 10 this week after he finished third in Aqueduct’s Grade III Gotham Stakes at one mile last Saturday. He stayed on the Top 10, albeit just barely, because he lost the Gotham by only 1 1/2 lengths while making his first start since last Aug. 11. It also was Instagrand’s first race beyond six furlongs. He could conceivably get knocked off the Top 10 next week depending on what happens in the Rebel.


11. Hidden Scroll
12. Anothertwistafate
13. Vekoma
14. Tacitus
15. Country House
16. Haikal
17. Mind Control
18. Dessman
19. Signalman
20. Maximum Security
21. Nolo Contesto
22. Spinoff
23. Win Win Win
24. Harvey Wallbanger
25. Gunmetal Gray
26. Tax
27. Outshine
28. Sueno
29. Much Better
30. Dream Maker
31. Intrepid Heart
32. Long Range Toddy
33. Limonite
34. U S Navy Cross
35. Somelikeithotbrown
36. Alwaysmining
37. Standard Deviation
38. Rowayton
39. Kingly
40. Mihos
41. Roiland
42. Extra Hope
43. Well Defined
44. Gray Attempt
45. Our Braintrust
46. Laughing Fox
47. Final Jeopardy
48. So Alive
49. Hoffa’s Union
50. Sir Winston


The “All Others” option ended up being the favorite when betting concluded last Sunday in Pool Three of the 2019 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW). “All Others” closed at 9-2.

In terms of individual horses, Game Winner and Improbable sported the lowest odds, each at 6-1. Slightly more money was wagered on Improbable, whose total of $33,220 was just $575 more than the sum bet on Game Winner.

In Pool One, which closed on Nov. 25, “All Other 3-Year-Old Males” was the 6-5 favorite, with Game Winner the individual favorite at 5-2. Coliseum and Instagrand were each 10-1. Improbable was 17-1.

In Pool Two, which closed on Feb. 10, “All Others” was the 5-2 favorite, with Game Winner the individual favorite at 5-1. Hidden Scroll and Improbable were 7-1 each. Instagrand was 10-1. War of Will was 17-1.

Here were the final odds for Pool Three of the KDFW:

9-2 All Others
6-1 Game Winner
6-1 Improbable*
11-1 Hidden Scroll
12-1 Bourbon War
12-1 War of Will
14-1 Code of Honor
16-1 Roadster
17-1 Instagrand
22-1 Galilean
27-1 Mucho Gusto
29-1 Country House
33-1 Harvey Wallbanger
34-1 Win Win Win
36-1 Spinoff
37-1 Vekoma
38-1 Anothertwistafate
38-1 Signalman
43-1 Gunmetal Gray
55-1 Mind Control
56-1 Dream Maker
59-1 Tax
63-1 Intrepid Heat
216-1 Well Defined

*Actual individual favorite


The Kentucky Oaks Future Wager also closed last Sunday. Bellafina, winner of Santa Anita’s Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes and Grade II Las Virgenes Stakes this year, was backed down to 9-2 favoritism. The “All Others” option closed at 5-1.

This will be the only 2019 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager offered.

Here were the final odds:

9-2 Bellafina
5-1 All Others
7-1 Jaywalk
10-1 Chasing Yesterday
11-1 Point of Honor
11-1 Serengeti Empress
12-1 Enaya Alrabb
14-1 Restless Rider
18-1 Dunbar Road
22-1 Feedback
23-1 Motion Emotion
24-1 Brill
30-1 Mother Mother
42-1 Orra Moor
49-1 Queen of Beas
50-1 Champagne Anyone
56-1 Violencia
60-1 Jeltrin
63-1 Liora
81-1 Eres Tu
81-1 Graceful Princess
96-1 Power Gal
113-1 Marathon Queen
137-1 Tasting the Stars

For those who bet on “All Others,” I think one of those, Godolphin’s Divine Image, will have an excellent chance to win if she shows up for the Kentucky Oaks.

Trained by Charlie Appleby, Divine Image appears to be under serious consideration for the May 3 race at Churchill Downs following her scintillating 7 1/4-length victory against males in the Al Bastakiya Stakes last Saturday at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. She won the Group III UAE Oaks to earn 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks.

Divine Image is by Scat Daddy, the sire of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify.


I still have not seen any news regarding Uncle Benny, who hasn’t raced since he finished second in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs last Nov. 2. He has not had a recorded workout since his three furlongs in :39.80 at Palm Meadows in Florida on Jan. 19.

Has Uncle Benny gone into an equine witness protection program?


Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 339 City of Light (33)
2. 326 Monomoy Girl (9)
3. 315 Roy H
4. 256 Bricks and Mortar (2)
5. 198 McKinzie
6. 152 Seeking the Soul
7. 129 Sistercharlie
8. 111 Accelerate
9. 78 Battle of Midway
10. 77 Marley’s Freedom

Here is the Top 10 for this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 396 Game Winner (31)
2. 362 War of Will (7)
3. 315 Improbable (5)
4. 295 Code of Honor
5. 228 Mucho Gusto
6. 150 Tacitus
7. 113 Bourbon War
8. 88 Haikal
9. 60 Country House
10. 57 Gunmetal Gray