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Weekend Lineup: Derby, Oaks Points On Offer At Oaklawn – Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

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A pair of prep races for the first weekend in May are the highlight of this weekend’s live racing action, both scheduled for Saturday’s card at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. The Grade 3 Honeybee and G2 Rebel will each offer the winner 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks and the Road to the Kentucky Derby, respectively.

The Rebel drew a field of 11 3-year-olds, led by a pair of Brad Cox trainees and a recent transfer from embattled trainer Bob Baffert. Cox’s entrants, Verifying and Giant Mischief, are the 2-1 and 5-2 first and second choices on the morning line. Reincarnate, winner of the G3 Sham while in Baffert’s care but now entered from the barn of former Baffert assistant Tim Yakteen, is the 7-2 third choice.

A well-matched dozen will meet in the Honeybee, including the first five finishers from Oaklawn’s earlier Oaks prep, the Martha Washington.

Earlier on Saturday, a field of 13 international contenders will take on the $20 million Saudi Cup. Baffert will send out a pair in search of his first win in the race, Taiba and Country Grammer, but they face a strong challenge from six Japanese entries as well as last year’s winner, locally-trained Emblem Road. Perhaps the best of those is Panthalassa, the dead-heat winner of last year’s G1 Dubai Turf. It may seem that a turf horse taking on the dirt would be at a disadvantage, but the King Abdulaziz dirt course has historically been extremely kind to turf runners; case-in-point, the inaugural Saudi Cup was won by European-trained turf horse Mishriff.

Other American-trained runners taking their shots in Saudi Arabia include:

  • 1351 Turf Sprint – Casa Creed (Bill Mott)
  • Saudi Derby – Havnameltdown (Baffert)
  • Riyadh Dirt Sprint – Elite Power (Mott), Gunite (Asmussen), and Meraas (Chad Summers)

Other significant stakes action around the country on Saturday includes the $100,000 Gander and $125,000 Gander Stakes at Aqueduct, the $125,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes, the $125,000 Wintergreen Stakes at Turfway Park, and a pair of $75,000 Louisiana-bred stakes at Fair Grounds.

Saturday

12:35 p.m. – Grade 1, $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack

The field is headed by last year’s winner Emblem Road (USA), who bids to become the first horse to win the Group 1 contest more than once. He will be ridden by Panamanian Alexis Moreno, and comes into the contest after an impressive victory when last seen.

The challenge from Japan looks stronger than ever with six likely contenders, including Dubai Turf winner Panthalassa (JPN), and Jun Light Bolt (JPN), the winner of the Group 1 Champions Cup. Other runners from Japan are Cafe Pharoah (JPN), Crown Pride (JPN), Geoglyph (JPN) and Vin De Garde (JPN).

Trainer Bob Baffert will be hoping his Country Grammer (USA) can go one better than last year, while he’ll also saddle Taiba (USA), the dominant winner of the Group 1 Malibu Stakes when last seen.

Saudi Cup Entries

5:43 p.m. – Grade 3, $300,000 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park

An evenly matched field of 12 is entered in the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3), which will offer 100 points (50-20-15-10-5, respectively) to the top five finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks.

Honeybee program favorite Grand Love will be making her first start since finishing sixth, beaten six lengths by eventual Eclipse Award winner Wonder Wheel, in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 4 at Keeneland. The speedy Grand Love races for her breeder, Three Chimneys Farm (Goncalo Torrealba), and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who is seeking his record-tying sixth Honeybee victory.

The Honeybee brings back Wet Paint, Taxed, Defining Purpose, Take Charge Briana and Olivia Twist, the 1-2-3-4-5 finishers, respectively, from the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28. The Martha Washington was Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Oaks points race.

Honeybee Entries

6:23 p.m. – Grade 2, $1 million Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park

A group of 11 sophomores has been entered in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes, which will offer 100 points (50-20-15-10-5, respectively) to the top five finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Brad Cox is scheduled to send out the top two program choices, Verifying and Giant Mischief.

Verifying, a half-brother to champion and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Midnight Bisou, exits a powerful 5 ¼-length entry-level allowance victory at 1 mile Jan. 14 at Oaklawn in his 3-year-old debut. From the first crop of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, Verifying’s time of 1:37.23 was then a meet best and the race produced two next-out winners in Gun Pilot (second) and Two Eagles River (third).

Giant Mischief will be making his first start since finishing a troubled second in the $400,000 Remington Park Springboard Mile Stakes Dec. 17 at Remington Park. A son of Into Mischief, Giant Mischief has won 2 of 3 starts after being purchased for $475,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Giant Mischief has worked five times this year at Fair Grounds in advance of the Rebel, which has been scheduled 3-year-old debut for two months.

Reincarnate, from the first crop of champion Good Magic, has won his last two starts, including the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) at 1 mile Jan. 8 at Santa Anita. Reincarnate was recently transferred from Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has won the Rebel a record eight times, to another Southern California-based trainer, Tim Yakteen.

Lightly raced Gun Pilot (2 for 3) makes his stakes debut for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. After winning his career debut on Churchill Downs’ Nov. 26 “Stars of Tomorrow 2” program, the son of Gun Runner finished second to Verifying in his two-turn debut. Gun Pilot returned to beat Bourbon Bash by two lengths in an entry-level allowance at one mile Feb. 4 at Oaklawn.

Asmussen is also scheduled to send out another son of Gun Runner, Red Route One, who exits a second-place finish behind unbeaten Arabian Knight in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Jan. 28. Red Route One fell far back early in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest before rallying to finish 5 ½ lengths behind Arabian Knight in Oaklawn’s second Kentucky Derby points race.

Rebel Entries

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