Trends That Tend To Win The Rebel

This Saturday is the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile event known for producing the occasional Kentucky Derby Winner- SMARTY JONES (2004) and 2015 Triple Crown Winner AMERICAN PHAROAH.

History tells us a lot about the Rebel, which along with a $1 million purse, also awards Kentucky Derby qualification points to the top five finishers on a 50-20-15-10-5 basis.

Looking over the last 10-15 editions reveals some recurring trends helpful for predicting future Winners.

If you’re looking to play the Rebel this Saturday here are some historical trends to guide your handicapping:

Favor Pacesetters And Speed Horses: It’s difficult to Win the Rebel with a sweeping rally from off the pace. Case in point- each of the last 10 Winners raced within two lengths of the lead after the opening half-mile. Plus, five of those Winners led after half a mile, reiterating the power of early speed. History suggests not to lean toward late runners as your Win bet.

Avoid Betting Major Longshots To Win: Only two of the last 10 Rebel Winners started as the betting favorite, but that doesn’t mean major longshots Win the Rebel every time. Last year UN OJO surprised most of Hot Springs as a 75-1 Winner, but the other nine Winners since 2014 started at single-digit odds, including seven who started at less than 5-1.

That said, don’t overlook the possibility of a longshot grabbing 2nd place.  Last year ETHEREAL ROAD  (16-1), HOZIER (19-1 in 2021), EXCESSION (83-1 in 2020), and SONNETEER (112-1 in 2017) have all been second best in recent years, adding Value to the Exactas.

Bet Bob Baffert (Or Horses Formerly In His Barn): Since 2010 Baffert has saddled 16 starters in the Rebel Stakes. The results have been staggering: eight Wins, four 2nds, and one 3rd. Five of Baffert’s Winners (NADAL, AMERICAN PHAROAH, SECRET CIRCLE, THE FACTOR, and LOOKIN AT LUCKY) started as the favorite, but the remaining three Winners (CONCERT TOUR, CUPID, and HOPPERTUNITY) started at 2-1, 3-1 and 6-1- not longshots but not Post Time favorites either. Baffert is a polarizing figure these days, but the numbers here are hard to ignore.

Shippers Typically Outshine The Locals: Home-court advantage doesn’t mean much in the Rebel Stakes. Over the last decade, only one Rebel Winner (LONG RANGE TODDY) prepped for the race at Oaklawn Park. Among the others, five prepped in California, two came from Florida, one shipped down from New York, and one (the California-based HOPPERTUNITY) exited a race at Fair Grounds.

Favor Last-Out Winners: Horses entering off a Victory have the best chance to Win the Rebel. Seven of the last 10 Rebel Winners Won their previous race, while the three horses who defied this trend (UN OJO, LONG RANGE TODDY, and HOPPERTUNITY) entered off defeats in Graded Stakes races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, making their shortcomings more forgivable.

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