Although the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park dates back to 1961, its significance as a Prep Race for the Kentucky Derby has increased by leaps and bounds since the turn of the century
Held annually in the middle of March, the Rebel awards Kentucky Derby qualification points to the top four finishers in a 50-20-10-5 basis, which essentially guarantees the Winner a spot in the gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
The Rebel first rose to prominence in 1980, when the Victorious TEMPERENCE HILL went on to Win the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Three years late SUNNY’S HALO used his Win in the Rebel as a stepping stone to Victory in the Kentucky Derby, which certainly contributed to the Rebel achieving Grade 3 status in 1990.
Beginning in 2004, the Rebel underwent a series of lucrative purse increases, climbing quickly from $125,000 to $1 million dollars by 2020.
The jump in prize money, coupled with a boost to Grade 2 status in 2008, prompted more and more talented horses to utilize the Rebel as a springboard toward the spring classics.
The most famous name on the list of distinguished past Rebel Winners would be AMERICAN PHAROAH. In 2015 he not only took the Rebel Stakes but went on to Win the Triple Crown– becoming the first horse to do so in 37 years.
All told, the Rebel has produced 23 Kentucky Derby starters during the 2010s, averaging 2.3 per year. The race is—and will surely remain—one of the most important stops on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
On Friday the Daily Racing Blog will take a look at the field for this years edition of the Rebel Stakes. So stop back and see who we like.