Submitted by Noel Michaels on Friday, March 14, 2014 at 12:00 AM
Tapiture, Strong Mandate Renew Rivalry in Rebel Stakes
Southwest Stakes (G3) winner Tapiture and runner-up Strong Mandate renew their rivalry Saturday in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) as each colt looks to solidify their position as a leading Kentucky Derby hopeful. The Rebel, which is slated as the 10th of 11 live races at 6:04 p.m., drew a field of eight for the 1 1/16-mile race, the last local prep before the $1 million Arkansas Derby April 12 and subsequent Triple Crown races.
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred Tapiture ended his juvenile campaign by breaking his maiden when winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill by 4 ¼ lengths Nov. 30 and picked his winning ways right back up when he made his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest and won by the exact same margin. He tuned up for the Rebel with an easy half-mile workout in :50 1/5 Monday and will be reunited with regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr. With five more weeks remaining in the meet, Santana Jr. has already won six stakes, including four for Tapiture’s trainer Steve Asmussen.
“We’re excited about the horse he is and his chances,” Asmussen said Wednesday morning.
Robert Baker and William Mack’s Strong Mandate will be looking to turn the tables in the Rebel after having to fight traffic and a wide trip in the Southwest. He too was making his seasonal debut after closing out his 2-year-old season with a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Early in his career, he actually beat Tapiture when breaking his maiden at Saratoga last August and then returned one race later to win the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes. He races for the same connections as Dublin, third in both the 2010 Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby. Jockey Joel Rosario, winner of last year’s Derby aboard Orb, returns for the mount.
“This is round two and hopefully we’ll move forward,” Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. “Hopefully he’ll have a better trip than he did in the Southwest when he was compromised. It should be a good prep.”
Hoping to knock off the top two, while also picking up the 50 Kentucky Derby points allotted to the winner, are two California shippers and Southwest Stakes third-place finisher Ride On Curlin. San Vincente Stakes (G2) winner Kobe’s Back from the barn of John Sadler and Risen Star Stakes (G2) fourth-place finisher Hoppertunity from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert arrived from California Wednesday morning.
Ride On Curlin, who won his 3-year-old debut at Oaklawn July 12 against allowance company, picks up a new jockey in three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent Desormeaux. Jockey Calvin Borel, aboard Ride On Curlin for his last two starts, has elected to ride impressive maiden winner Street Strategy, a son of his 2007 Kentucky Derby winning-mount Street Sense. Longshots Sheltowee’s Boy and Jet Cat round out the field.
The complete field for the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2), in post position order, with riders: Jet Cat, John McKee; Ride on Curlin, Kent Desormeaux; Tapiture, Ricardo Santana Jr.; Strong Mandate, Joel Rosario; Hoppertunity, Mike Smith; Sheltowee’s Boy, Joshua Navarro; Street Strategy, Calvin Borel, and Kobe’s Back, Jose Lezcano.