American Anthem aims for stakes glory in Rebel

The Grade II, $900,000 Rebel Stakes, Oaklawn’s penultimate Kentucky Derby prep, is the feature at the Arkansas oval this Saturday. The 1 1/16th-mile event drew a field of 11 looking for their share of 85 Kentucky Derby points (50 to the winner). Post time for the Rebel, the 10th race of the day, is 6:06 p.m. EST. Don’t forget to check out FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game in addition to watching and wagering!

#7 AMERICAN ANTHEM represents Hall-of-Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who’s won this race six of the last seven years. That mark alone doesn’t make AMERICAN ANTHEM the one to beat, but he’s been impressive in his first two starts. He closed late to win his six-furlong debut before entering the Grade III Sham; his first try around two turns. There he was essentially forced to show speed from the rail post and nearly beat Gormley anyway. Mike Smith should be able to relax with AMERICAN ANTHEM today and work out a good off-the-pace trip.

AMERICAN ANTHEM should have plenty of pace to work with based on the presence of #1 SILVER BULLION, #2 UNCONTESTED, #4 PETROV, #6 MALAGACY, and #10 ROYAL MO. Of those frontrunners, MALAGACY is the most interesting today. He’s the lone entrant that hasn’t tried a route yet but he’s trained by Todd Pletcher, who wins at an astounding 29% clip going sprint to route. MALAGACY demolished the competition twice at Gulfstream, earning solid speed figures, and Javier Castellano will ship in to ride.

PETROV was tasked with keeping UNCONTESTED honest in consecutive starts, and though he made the lead in his last start, he’d worked too hard early to be able to hold on. PETROV should have an easier go of it today with more speed entered. Look for him to be a length or two further back than usual before Jose Ortiz makes his move.

Steve Asmussen sends two out in the Rebel; #5 UNTRAPPED and #11 LOOKIN AT LEE. UNTRAPPED appears the faster of the two and switches to Irad Ortiz Jr. today. If UNTRAPPED can work out a clean trip, which he couldn’t in the Risen Star, he’ll make a late impact.

LOOKIN AT LEE retains Ricardo Santana Jr, but he needs to step up his speed figures. Nevertheless, there could be a complete pace meltdown in the Rebel. That would open the door for LOOKIN AT LEE to earn a share.

The play: $3 exacta box 6/7, $2 exacta 7/4,5,6, 50 cent trifecta 7/4,5,6,11/4,5,6,11, 50 cent trifecta 7/4,6/4,5,6,11, ($21)

DFJ analysis: Irad Ortiz Jr. is in unfamiliar territory, but he looks like a must-use on Saturday. He rides UNTRAPPED in the Rebel and heavily-favored Terra Promessa in the Azeri, the other graded stake on the card. Both are trained by Asmussen, who named Ortiz Jr. on three other contenders throughout the card (a 5-1, 6-1 and 8-1 shot, respectively).

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