By Alan Carasso
For all he's accomplished in a relatively short period of time, trainer Brad Cox yet to unsaddle a winner of the third leg of Oaklawn's 3-year-old series, the $1-million GII Rebel S. But he'll have two strong chances to right that wrong in an extremely contentious renewal Saturday afternoon.
Verifying (Justify), a half-brother to champion Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute), rounded out the exacta behind Blazing Sevens (Good Magic) in a sloppy-track running of the GI Champagne S. at Aqueduct Oct. 1 and never truly threatened in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile after getting pinched back at the break. The $775,000 Keeneland September purchase could not have been more impressive in a first-level allowance going a mile on sophomore debut here Jan. 14, as he widened through the short stretch to treat Gun Pilot (Gun Runner) to a 5 1/4-length beating.
The 2-1 morning-line favorite figures to be tested by stablemate Giant Mischief (Into Mischief), who makes his seasonal debut off a remarkable runner-up effort in the Springboard Mile in December. A Keeneland allowance winner sprinting in his prior appearance, the bay made a mess of the break and trailed, then made a quick, wide move on the turn before falling just short as the odds-on favorite.
“I expected him to run big that night and he did,” Cox said. “I never expected him to break like that. Just rocked back a step right before they popped him. He's a good horse as well. We're looking forward to giving him another run around two turns.”
A Rebel 'yell' for several of the remaining nine entrants would not come as a surprise. Red Route One (Gun Runner) raced detached from the rest of the field in the GIII Southwest S., but rallied strongly over a rain-affected strip he may not have loved to be second to tearaway winner 'TDN Rising Star' Arabian Knight (Uncle Mo).
Reincarnate (Good Magic) ships in from California and is to be saddled for the first time by Tim Yakteen. A maiden winner at fourth asking at Del Mar in November, he more or less made all the running in the GIII Sham S. Jan. 8, holding off next-out GIII Robert B. Lewis S. hero Newgate (Into Mischief) by a neck.
And a case can even be made for Gun Pilot, who franked the form of the Verfying allowance with a two-length success Feb. 4 in which he overcame some trouble on the turn to best Bourbon Bash (City of Light). Trainer Steve Asmussen is a four-time winner of the Rebel.
A total of 100 points (50-20-15-10-5) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby are up for grabs Saturday.
Wet Paint Can Keep Ball Rolling in Honeybee
Godolphin's Wet Paint (Blame), undefeated in a pair of starts going two turns on dirt, looks to negotiate the hike into graded stakes company as the one to beat in the GIII Honeybee S.
Like her stable companion Giant Mischief, Wet Paint broke her maiden at Indiana Grand last fall and, following an allowance second going a mile on the Turfway all-weather in December, finished with good energy to defeat the re-opposing Taxed (Collected) and Defining Purpose (Cross Traffic) in the Jan. 28 Martha Washington S.
Olivia Twist (Mshawish) is a fair bet to take tons of action off what feels a very overlaid morning line of 15-1. A $230,000 OBS June acquistion, the bay took her two-turn bow by 15 lengths at Remington Nov. 21 and was the two-length winner of the Dec. 17 Trapeze S. in Oklahoma City. The 21-10 second pick in the Martha Washington, she gave way readily after six furlongs over a wet-fast track and deserves the benefit of the doubt, particularly if underbet.