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Mike Smith celebrates aboard Hoppertunity after winning the Rebel Stakes.
On Saturday, a field of 8 three-year-olds went 1 1/16 miles in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park, the major local prep for the Arkansas Derby and worth 50 points to the winner in the "Kentucky Derby Championship Series". 30,873 fans packed the historic Hot Springs oval braving intermittent rain and temperatures in the mid 60's. Southwest Stakes (G3) winner Tapiture was sent off as the 2-1 favorite over 5-2 second choice Strong Mandate, runner-up in the Southwest after finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. San Vicente Stakes (G2) winner Kobe's Back was the 3-1 choice on the board.
Down the stretch in the Rebel Stakes
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 5 Hoppertunity Smith 14.20 5.80 4.20 3 Tapiture Santana Jr. 3.80 2.60 2 Ride On Curlin Desormeaux 4.60 Winning Time: 1:43.90 $2 Exacta 5-3 54.40 $1 Trifecta 5-3-2 155.10 $1 Superfecta 5-3-2-4 383.70
Left: Hoppertunity in the winner's circle. Winning owner Mike Pegram said, "Bob (Baffert) is in charge and he knows what to do. I'm just having fun being a passenger. He looks like he'll go 1 1/4 and I wouldn't trade places with nobody. He's a nice horse and he proved it today. What you really want to see is a horse that will fight, and he showed it when he got bumped in there and held his ground. He responded. He's a fighter. We will run is some Derby. His next race will be a derby if he comes out good out of here."
Right: Hoppertunity in the post parade. Jockey Mike Smith said, "There was some bumping going on, but I was just holding my ground. He'd already pushed me out to get out, which is fine because he was looking for racing room and I totally understand that. But I wasn't just going to give him ground. I gotta hold my ground at some point. And that's all I did. I held my ground and we bumped. It caused me to lay in and that caused me to tip. If anything I'd say 60-40, 60 on the inside 40 on the out."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Tapiture in the post parade. Trainer Steve Asmussen said, "He ran well. It was a pretty roughly run race by some fast horses." Steward Larry Snyder explains why the claim of foul was disallowed: "We based our decision on the fact that Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. on Tapiture pushed his way out from behind the (Strong Mandate) as the horses were straightening out into the stretch. Jockey Mike Smith was just holding his position."
Right: Third place finisher Ride On Curlin returns after the raxce. Jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "I tell you, I fancy him. I like him a lot. At the 1/2 mile pole, I thought I could win. The only thing I didn't like was my post. I think if I had had an outside post, it would have been better. I was kind of committed from where I was. But, he was comfortable. He's like riding a 9-year-old he's so cool."
The horses break from the gate in the Rebel. D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of fourth place finisher and pacesetter Strong Mandate (#4) said, "We haven't been able to get a clean trip yet. We got roughed up more than was indicated. I don't yet what's next for him. We haven't even gotten him cooled out yet. The Arkansas Derby is a month away."
Down the stretch in the Razorback Handicap
10-1 Right to Vote battled for the early lead with 5-1 fourth choice Golden Lad through fractions of 23.21, 46.90, and 1:11.53. Entering the stretch, jockey Jose Lezcano asked Golden Lad for run and he promptly left the field in his wake, finishing 6 3/4 lengths in front of 7-1 Majestic City in 1:43.72. It was just a head back to Taptowne third, while favorite Govenor Charlie checked in fifth.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 4 Golden Lad Lezcano 12.00 6.00 4.20 7 Majestic City Rosario 7.80 4.80 1 Taptowne Arroyo Jr. 2.80 Winning Time: 1:43.72 $2 Exacta 4-7 85.80 $1 Trifecta 4-7-1 183.50 $1 Superfecta 4-7-1-2 973.10
Left: Golden Lad in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, "I thought he ran super. We are very, very pleased. I was a little concerned when the track came up wet, but he obviously handled it fine. He broke well and then got into a good stalking position. He ran a very powerful race."
Right: Golden Lad in the post parade. Pletcher added, "It was definitely a step up from allowance company into a new level for him, but anytime you've won three straight races you certainly have talent. I felt like he deserved this opportunity and he proved he did. It is possible that we may he coming back for the Oaklawn Handicap."
Left: Second place finisher Majestic City returns after the race. Jockey Joel Rosario said, "It was a good trip. I was on the outside and a little wide, but he ran good. We were second best."
Right: Third place finisher Taptowne in the post parade. Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. said, "He hadn't run in a while and that probably cost us second. Not breaking well definitely did. He just stood there. We were expecting to be on the lead and then we had to change our strategy and play by somebody else's strategy. He tried to make his run, but not breaking right just screwed everything up."
The start of the Razorback with fifth place finisher and beaten favorite Govenor Charlie (#6) in the center. The 2-1 favorite raced 6th early under jockey Mike Smith, but failed to rally finishing 5th beaten 13 1/4 lengths. The Bob Baffert trainee has a record of 2 wins, 2 seconds, and 0 thirds in 6 starts, earning $490,800 for owner-breeder Mike Pegram.
Down the stretch in the Azeri Stakes
Jockey Joel Rosario sent Close Hatches to a 1 1/2 length lead through fractions of 23.39, 47.43, and 1:12.20 while stalked by 32-1 longest shot Magic Union and On Fire Baby. At the 3/16 pole, Don't Tell Sophia, last earlyl, moved up to challenge 4 wide. However, Close Hatches easily held on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Magic Union in 1:44.34. It was another 1/2 length back to Don't Tell Sophia third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Close Hatches Rosario 3.20 3.00 2.40 2 Magic Union Lezcano 18.40 6.20 4 Don't Tell Sophia Hill 2.60 Winning Time: 1:44.34 $2 Exacta 1-2 72.40 $1 Trifecta 1-2-4 113.10 $1 Superfecta 1-2-4-7 349.40Results Chart from DRF.
Right: Close Hatches after the race. Jockey Joel Rosario said, "That was really nice. She pulled me to the front. (Magic Union) was the only other with speed and I was going faster than her. I was going to the front if she didn't."
Left: Second place finisher Magic Union in the post parade. Trainer John Sadler said, "When you're 32-1 and you run second to a horse who was second in the Breeders' Cup (Distaff), I'm happy. She ran very well. She was inside the whole way and really ran hard. This made her homecoming to Oaklawn a good one. She's got a little bit of pedigree, so this does a lot for her value."
Right: Third place finisher Don't Tell Sophia in the post parade. Jockey Channing Hill said, "She broke like she always does. She's such a nice mate she just took me there. Turning for home I thought we were the winner. She moved up nicely against some quality mares. I just couldn't get her to switch leads."
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