With just under two weeks until the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II), several leading contenders based at Oaklawn Park posted workouts March 6.
Archarcharch, winner of the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 21, was joined on the work tab by the third-place finisher in that race, Elite Alex. Others preparing for the March 19 Rebel were the Donnie K. Von Hemel-trained pair of Caleb's Posse , winner of the Jan. 17 Smarty Jones Stakes, and Alternation , a two-time allowance race victor this meet.
Robert Yagos’s Archarcharch turned in what trainer Jinks Fires described as the colt’s best workout since arriving in Arkansas. He completed a six-furlong breeze in 1:13 2/5 under regular jockey Jon Court.
“I’m very pleased with the work,” said Fires. “Jon was really happy with it and said it felt like he’s getting better. I told him ‘I sure hope he is.’”
The Kentucky-bred son of Arch worked past the wire and around the clubhouse turn, galloping out seven furlongs in 1:26 3/5.
“I sent him around both turns because I want him to get used to it and I think some horses learn where the wire is,” said Fires. “They learn that when the jockey pops up at the wire, they’re done. Then they start waiting for it.”
Moments earlier Zachney and partners' Elite Alex set off on a more elaborate piece of track work involving his regular jockey Calvin Borel and two pace-setting workmates. The son of champion Afleet Alex settled three or four lengths behind two other Afleet Alex sons, Alex's Vision and Will's Afleet.
Borel angled the Tim Ritchey-trained Elite Alex three wide coming off the turn, notable in that the colt was nearly seven-wide turning for home in the Southwest. The colt easily caught the workmates in hand, then spurted away from them in a matter of yards after a quick cross from Borel, reaching the wire more than two lengths clear and getting five furlongs in :59 3/5.
They poured it on, galloping to the turn and getting the "bullet" six-furlong time of 1:12 2/5. Will’s Afleet and Alex’s Vision were both credited with five-furlong times of 1:01.
“That was very awesome,” said Borel. “He’s just hitting everything right. He’s such a big horse, I think he’s only going to get better the farther we go."
Bracketing those two workouts were the moves by Pin Oak Stable’s Alternation, who beat Elite Alex in an allowance race Jan. 15, and Caleb’s Posse, still “angry” according to his jockey Eddie Razo Jr., over the horrible trip they got in the Southwest.
Von Hemel sent Alternation, a son of Distorted Humor , out under jockey Luis Quinonez, in company with fellow Pin Oak Stable homebred Pulpitarian. Quinonez kept his mount as many as seven lengths behind the target, but similar to his two Oaklawn allowance victories, uncoiled Alternation’s long stride, guided him through a hole Pulpitarian left by design along the rail, and finished well clear at the wire. He was credited with the bullet five-furlong move of :59 4/5. Pulpitarian earned a 1:01.
“It’s probably going to be a big field he sees next time,” said Von Hemel. “We wanted to make sure he could come through there like that, and Luis said he handled it nicely.”
McNeill Stables Caleb’s Posse was part of Von Hemel’s second set after the break and the son of Posse was a “little more relaxed” than his stablemate two hours earlier.
Razo started the drill slowly – the first quarter was 25 seconds – and kept the Kentucky homebred largely under wraps until the wire. He was clocked going five furlongs in 1:02 1/5, but Von Hemel and Razo were excited by the way he reacted past the wire.
“Right at the wire, Eddie asked him to pick it up,” said Von Hemel. “He dug right back in and was telling him he really wanted to go some more. That’s just what we needed to see."