An intriguing field that includes GI Hopeful S. winner Ralis (Square Eddie) is beginning to take shape for Oaklawn’s $900,000 GII Rebel S. Mar. 19. The Rebel will be the first start of the season for the Reddam Racing colorbearer, who was last seen finishing last of 14 in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland Oct. 31.
“He’s doing really well,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “We gave him some well-deserved time off after his last couple that he didn’t just fire in and we’re trying to get him back to his Hopeful form, winning a Grade I at Saratoga. We’re trying to get back to those days.”
Ralis has six published works since returning from vacation, most recently breezing five furlongs in 1:01.80 (28/45) at Santa Anita Mar. 4.
“After his last breeze, we said: ‘You know what, we think he’s good enough and ready enough to try the Rebel,’” O’Neill said. “We know it’s not going to be an easy race, but we think it’s a great Derby prep. It’s going to be a good test to kind of see where we’re at. If we run good there, we’re on our way to Kentucky.”
Steve Asmussen will also saddle a Rebel contender in WinStar Farm’s Creator (Tapit), who produced a powerful late rally to score by a dominant 7 1/4 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile Oaklawn test Feb. 27. The gray had five previous starts under his belt since September and he finished second in four of those outings.
“We’ve always liked the horse, and Steve [Asmussen]’s always been very high on him,” WinStar CEO Elliot Walden said. “We were disappointed that he hadn’t gotten his maiden broken yet, but we continued and then when he ran well like that–he has plenty of experience.”
Walden added, “I think he just needs a decent, honest pace in front of him, like he got the other day, and we’ll see what happens.”
“TDN Rising Star” Cherry Wine (Paddy O’Prado) has been rerouted to the Rebel by trainer Dale Romans after he had to be scratched late from the GII Fountain of Youth S. Feb. 27 due to a fever. Romping by 9 1/4 lengths at fifth asking at Churchill Nov. 28, the gray made it two in a row with an equally decisive victory in a Gulfstream allowance Jan. 9. The Frank Jones, Jr. And William Pacella runner most recently breezed a half-mile in :47.26 (2/78) at Gulfstream Mar. 5.
Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas may have two runners in the starting gate for the Rebel, which he last won in 2013 with eventual champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge (Unbridled’s Song). Robert Baker and William Mack’s Gray Sky (Tapit) earned his diploma at fifth asking in Louisville Nov. 28 and finished fifth in Oaklawn’s Smarty Jones S. Jan. 18. Second behind recent Rebel withdrawl Dazzling Gem (Misremembered) last time in a Hot Springs allowance Feb. 13, the gray worked five panels in 1:01.60 (9/30) over the local strip Mar. 7.
Zayat Stable’s Z Royal (Eskendereya) is entered in an Oaklawn allowance Saturday, but is under consideration for the Rebel, according to Justin Zayat. Winning at second asking in Louisville Nov. 14, the homebred finished fifth in the GIII LeComte S. Jan. 16 and was eighth in the GIII Southwest S. last time Feb. 15.