2023 Rebel Stakes & Honeybee Stakes Odds & Picks

Step by step we travel the two Roads, to the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. Oaklawn Park hosts two 50pt win-and-in preps on Saturday, with Brad Cox’s duo Verifying and Giant Mischief taking on former Bob Baffert trainee Reincarnate in the G2 2023 Rebel Stakes for colts, and stakes-winners Wet Paint and Defining Purpose up against G3-placed Grand Love in the distaffers G3 Honeybee.

Rebel Stakes

G2, $1,000,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo, 5.23pm CT

The 50pt, win-and-in Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying races continue with the very valuable Rebel, the highlight of Oaklawn Park’s Saturday fixture, and a race notable for the first appearance of a serious Bob Baffert runner after transfer to another trainer in order to be eligible for the Kentucky Derby.

That horse is Reincarnate (7-2), who now runs in the name of Tim Yakteen, although his new trainer won’t have had time to do much with him since he joined the barn. Reincarnate made his stakes breakthrough when causing an upset in the G3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, on the pace throughout and tough in the closing stages to hold on by a neck from a subsequent G3 winner.

He goes a sixteenth further today and will be part of a contested pace scenario, but the grey is consistent and tenacious and should be on every short-list.

The market is dominated by Brad Cox’s pair, headed odds-wise by Verifying (2-1), who already has winning course form after clearing away to land an allowance optional claimer over a mile by five and a quarter lengths from Gun Pilot (8-1), who forced the pace until unable to cope with the energy of the winner. Zero-for-two in stakes but obviously worth another try, Verifying did that on Lasix and is off the meds today.

His barnmate Giant Mischief (5-2) lost his chance at the gate on his stakes debut in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park and did very well to salvage second spot, a length and a half behind the winner. It’s arguable that he’d have won with a clean break and would therefore still be unbeaten; both Cox horses are stalkers and should have the race run to suit them.

The aforementioned Gun Pilot is the better-fancied of Steve Asmussen’s trio, and franked the Verifying form when winning an AOC here over a mile next time, running down Bourbon Bash (20-1) – both on Lasix – for a two-length victory. He has greater scope for improvement than barnmate Red Route One (10-1), who has run well without getting his head in front in four Graded stakes, latterly when runner-up to current Derby favorite Arabian Knight in the G3 Southwest over course and distance.

He was soundly beaten, five and a half lengths the margin, but finished two lengths ahead of longshot third Frosted Departure (20-1) and is likely to run his usual solid race without being quite good enough. Asmussen’s third-string Powerful (20-1) may well be another pace angle after winning a sprint stakes at Churchill Downs in November, when Frosted Departure was third and Bourbon Bash sixth, but may struggle to stay out in front.

Confidence Game (15-1) had subsequent G3 Holy Bull winner Rocket Can and G3 Withers winner Hit Show behind him when winning an AOC over a mile-sixteenth at Churchill Downs in November, but then could only get third in the G3 Lecomte behind Instant Coffee. He’s another pace threat and could be over-priced.

Rebel Stakes Odds & Betting Prediction

HorseJockeyOdds by JazzSports
VerifyingFlorent Geroux+200
PowerfulIsaac Castillo+2000
Red Route OneCristian A. Torres+1000
Gun PilotRicardo Santana, Jr.+800
Giant MischiefIrad Ortiz, Jr.+250
ReincarnateJohn R. Velazquez+350
Confidence GameJames Graham+1500
TalladegaFlavien Prat+3000
Event DetailGerardo Corrales+3000
Bourbon BashMickaelle Michel+2000
Frosted DepartureFrancisco Arrieta+2000

Brad Cox has a strong hand of Derby horses and this looks between his pair, with VERIFYING the choice over Giant Mischief after his recent easy victory at this track.

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Honeybee Stakes

G3, $300,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo fillies, 4.43pm CT

There’s an equally open look about the Honeybee, the equivalent contest on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks with 50 points on offer to the winner, and here again the interest is centred on horses trained by Cox and Steve Asmussen.

The odds-setter prefers the latter’s Grand Love (3-1), beaten favorite when third in the G3 Pocahontas at Churchill Downs in September and then sixth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland, when part of the pace set-up until emptying out in the stretch. Both races were at a mile-sixteenth and she hasn’t been getting home, but if she has learned to rate then it may be a different story, and Asmussen has won the Honeybee five times.

Cox sends Wet Paint (7-2), who made a successful stakes debut over course and distance last month, surging from last to first for a comfortable two-length score that hinted at more to come. The longshot Taxed (15-1) couldn’t find a change of gear but held on to the ‘place’ spot, with Defining Purpose (9-2) three-quarters of a length back in third as a warm favourite, running out of gas after being in front at the stretch call. Take Charge Briana (20-1) was beaten six and a half lengths into fourth when never a threat, and Olivia Twist (15-1) was another four and three-quarter lengths back in fifth after setting the fractions.

That was a thoroughly competent display from Wet Paint, although she will need to move forward on these revised terms, with Defining Purpose – who had previously comfortably beaten Take Charge Briana and Taxed in a stakes here over a mile – 7lb better off with two and three-quarter lengths to make up on the winner.

Towhead (9-2) is on a roll and on the hunt for a three-timer after wins at Churchill Downs and in an allowance optional claimer over course and distance, when she came easily away from Boss Lady Bailey (12-1), zero-for-four since winning at Ellis Park on debut, to win by three and a quarter lengths. She was on Lasix there but not today and this is a much stiffer test.

It’s a little unusual for a Todd Pletcher runner in a Graded race to be 12-1, but Gambling Girl (12-1) was put in her place when runner-up in an Aqueduct stakes over a mile-eighth last month, and her third in the G2 Demoiselle looks a little less lustrous after winner Julia Shining’s recent defeat.

Honeybee Stakes Odds & Betting Pick

HorseJockeyOdds by JazzSports
EffortlesslyelgantRicardo Santana, Jr.+2000
TowheadIsaac Castillo+450
Grand LoveJoel Rosario+300
Gambling GirlIrad Ortiz, Jr.+1200
CondensationFrancisco Arrieta+1200
Take Charge BrianaMickaelle Michel+2000
Wet PaintFlavien Prat+350
Defining PurposeDavid Cabrera+450
DoudoudouwanadanceJames Graham+2000
Olivia TwistCristian A. Torres+1500
TaxedRafael Bejarano+1500
Boss Lady BaileyFlorent Geroux+1200

This is very competitive and it’s worth taking a chance that track stakes-winner DEFINING PURPOSE can rebound, with a weight turnaround from a recent defeat.

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