A large field, led by California shipper The Factor and Southwest (gr. III) winner Archarcharch, is expected for the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) March 19 at Oaklawn Park.
Entries for the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, which is final local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I), will be drawn on Thursday, March 17.
Bob Baffert’s speed demon The Factor could draw favoritism in the Rebel off of his impressive win in the Feb. 20 San Vicente (gr. II). This will be the War Front colt’s first try at two turns, something that racing fans are anxiously awaiting. If The Factor runs well, Baffert is likely to keep him on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) trail. If not, he could stick to sprinting. The Factor is expected to arrive on a plane from California on Wednesday.
The runner-up from the San Vicente, Sway Away, may also ship to Arkansas for trainer Jeff Bonde. Sway Away closed very well into a hot pace in the San Vicente, finishing 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Premier Pegasus.
Archarcharch pulled a 14-1 upset in the one-mile Southwest. The William Fires trainee came out of that race in great shape and turned in a sharp final work for the Rebel on March 15 when breezing four furlongs in :47 3/5 at Oaklawn, the best of 31 moves that morning.
“I am really happy with the way all three went,” said Fires. “Arch knew he was going to work. He was feeling good."
Fires is also preparing Bluegrass Jam for the Rebel. It would be the stakes debut for the son of Bluegrass Cat, who was third in an optional claimer on Feb. 11.
Also expected from the Southwest are the second, third, and fourth-place finishers, J P's Gusto, Elite Alex, and Picko's Pride. Ramon Dominguez will keep the mount on J P’s Gusto, while Calvin Borel stays aboard the closer Elite Alex.
Trainer Donnie Von Hemel is expected to run a pair in the Rebel. Caleb's Posse won the Jan. 17 Smarty Jones Stakes before finishing a troubled sixth in the Southwest. Alternation has won three in a row, including a dominating performance in a Feb. 21 allowance race at Oaklawn.
Possible for the race is Louisiana-based Prime Cut, a maiden winner in four starts for trainer Neil Howard, and Saratoga Red, a debut maiden winner on Feb. 24 for D. Wayne Lukas.
Astrology was being considered for the Rebel but will not run. The Steve Asmussen trainee has still yet to make his season debut after winning the Iroquois (gr. III) and finishing second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) as a juvenile. In his place, Asmussen could enter Nehro, a 4 1/2-length maiden winner Feb. 21 at Oaklawn.