It’s Post Time by Jon White: SPLIT REBEL ENTICES POWERFUL BAFFERT DUO

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.

MY REBEL STAKES ODDS

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

REBEL STAKES SELECTIONS

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

MY CURRENT KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10

  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.

THE NEXT 40 ON MY KENTUCKY DERBY RANKINGS

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

GAME WINNER & IMPROBABLE EACH 6-1 IN FUTURE WAGER

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

BELLAFINA FAVORED IN KENTUCKY OAKS WAGER

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.

MILK CARTON HORSE UPDATE

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?

THIS WEEK’S NTRA POLLS

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

It’s Post Time by Jon White: SPLIT REBEL ENTICES POWERFUL BAFFERT DUO

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