After losing presumptive GI Kentucky Derby favorite Life Is Good (Into Mischief) to injury for several months, Bob Baffert may still have the Derby chalk in his barn if his undefeated 'TDN Rising Star' Concert Tour (Street Sense) can follow up his dominant GII Rebel S. score with a similar performance against just five rivals in Saturday's $1-million GI Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn.
Unveiled as an even-money favorite going six furlongs Jan. 15 at Santa Anita, the Gary and Mary West homebred scored a good-looking wire-to-wire victory and repeated with a half-length triumph in the GII San Vicente S. there Feb. 6. Stretched out to two turns for the first time in the Rebel here Mar. 13, the bay set a sharp pace and drew clear strongly in the lane for a convincing 4 1/4-length success. Pegged as the even-money favorite on the morning line with regular rider Joel Rosario, he drilled six furlongs in 1:12 4/5 (1/5) at his Arcadia home base Apr. 3.
The Rebel was billed as a clash between Concert Tour and fellow promising 'Rising Star' Caddo River (Hard Spun), but that battle never materialized, as frontrunning Caddo River was taken off the lead and got rank before finishing a distant fifth. Trainer Brad Cox has promised more aggressive tactics in the Arkansas Derby for the Shortleaf Stable homebred, who previously crushed his Smarty Jones S. rivals by 10 1/4 lengths to follow up a 9 1/2-length third-out graduation. With just 10 Derby qualifying points, he needs a top two finish to punch his ticket to Louisville.
“We're going to try and be a little bit more involved early if we can,” he told the Oaklawn notes team. “That's really the tactics we're going to take into the race. We'll see if that works any different. He's probably more of a free-running horse. I think we found that out last time. Florent took a hold of him up the backside and that didn't really seem what he wanted to do.”
The second, fourth and seventh finishers from the Rebel also re-oppose. Hozier (Pioneerof the Nile) completed a Baffert exacta that day at 18-1 and another move forward is possible in just his fourth career start.
“I just feel fortunate that I have these two after losing Life Is Good,” Baffert said. “It's pretty tough, you know, but that's why everything works itself out for the Derby. The horse will get you there.”
Late-running Super Stock (Dialed In) rallied to be fourth in the Rebel and was third to champion Essential Quality (Tapit) three back in the GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity. Get Her Number (Dialed In) was seventh with a troubled trip making his sophomore debut in the Rebel after winning the GI American Pharoah S. to close out his 2-year-old season.