Mountain Valley winner Afleet Alex goes for two-in-a-row in Saturday's Rebel Stakes.

Mountain Valley winner Afleet Alex goes for two-in-a-row in Saturday's Rebel Stakes.

Jeff Coady

Big Three Square Off in Rebel Showdown

The March 19 Rebel Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park promises to deliver some major fireworks when Afleet Alex, Rockport Harbor, and Greater Good lock horns in the 1 1/16-mile race, which drew a field of six.

Afleet Alex, brilliant winner of the Mountain Valley Stakes March 5, drew the rail under jockey John Velazquez, and under the conditions of the race, will be getting two pounds from Rockport Harbor (119), who breaks right outside him in post two, and five pounds from Greater Good (122), who drew post six.

With Rockport Harbor not having run since his victory in the Nov. 27 Remsen Stakes (gr. II) and battling a series of foot maladies that cost him valuable training time, Afleet Alex looks to have a big advantage here. Greater Good, who turned in his usual strong stretch run to win the one-mile Southwest Stakes, will be a force once again in the final furlong, but will be up against much classier foes this time.

Also entered are Copy My Notes, Jazzy Gallop, and Batson Challenge, none of whom have been nominated to the Visa Triple Crown.

The blueprint of the Rebel looks fairly simple, with Rockport Harbor on or near the lead, Afleet Alex in the middle of the small pack, and Greater Good likely bringing up the rear. Afleet Alex, owned by Cash is King Stable, runs with machine-like consistency and has earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures at two and three. The son of Northern Afleet  should be razor-sharp coming off the Mountain Valley, in which he blazed the six furlongs in 1:09 2/5, then galloped out seven furlongs in 1:22 3/5. The only question surrounding him in the Rebel is whether or not he'll move forward or take a step backward coming back in only two weeks, in his second race off a layoff.

"I thought he would run that kind of race," trainer Tim Ritchey said. "I didn't realize they would go quite that fast in the race. But what set that up were very fast early fractions of :21 and change and :44 and change. And my instructions to Jeremy (Rose) were just let him break, let him settle, relax, and really only ask him the last three-eighths of a mile. And he came on very well which is what we were looking for a building race two weeks before the Rebel."

A much bigger question is what we're going to see from Rockport Harbor. It's a minor miracle the son of Unbridled's Song, owned by Fox Hill Farm, is even running in the Rebel after twice dodging a bullet in the form of a foot bruise that threatened to derail his journey to Louisville. But each time, the colt healed quickly and bounced right back in training.

Rockport Harbor was one of the most brilliant 2-year-olds in the country, winning all four of his starts, the first three in easy fashion, including a 6 1/4-length romp in the Nashua Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct. He culminated his campaign with a gutsy victory over the previously unbeaten sensation Galloping Grocer in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes (gr. II), in which he suffered a severe gash on the back of his hind foot that as trainer John Servis said, "has come back to haunt him."

But here he is, finally ready to get to the starting gate, although Servis said he probably will only be about 75% fit. Right now, all his connections want is to get this race in him and be able to move forward into the Arkansas Derby (gr. II).

Greater Good, owned by Lewis Lakin, is pretty much a simple study. He likes to take back, some 10-15 lengths off the lead, then pour it on in the final furlong. What he also likes to do is win, which is a bit unusual for a horse with his running style who is so dependent on pace. But Greater Good, a son of Intidab, has managed to win four of his six career starts, including victories in three two-turn stakes – the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II), Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III), and Southwest.

His pedigree is inundated with sprinters, but so far he looks anything but a sprinter. He doesn't look like one physically, and he doesn't run like one. The big question with him is whether he's fast enough to catch horses like Afleet Alex and Rockport Harbor. We'll know the answer to that on Saturday.

Rebel Stakes field:

PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight

1. Afleet Alex - John Velazquez - 117
2. Rockport Harbor - Stewart Elliott - 119
3. Copy My Notes - Tim Doocy - 117
4. Jazzy Gallop - Donnie Meche - 117
5. Batson Challenge - Calvin Borel - 117
6. Greater Good - John McKee - 122