Baffert Transfers Reincarnate for Rebel

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won the Rebel Stakes eight times, including two of the last three editions of Oaklawn Park’s Grade 2 Kentucky Derby prep. It’s one of his reliable Derby prep stops, an easy way for him to split his deep barn of 3-year-olds trotting their way to Churchill Downs for the first Saturday in May.

This year, however, Baffert’s theme song for the 1/16-mile race isn’t “Rebel Rebel.” It’s “Exodus.”

The exodus of Baffert colts began this week, when Baffert transferred Reincarnate to former assistant Tim Yakteen in time to earn points in Saturday’s marquee Derby prep. The Rebel offers 50-20-15-10-5 Derby qualifying points to its top five finishers, points Reincarnate is now eligible to earn.

Baffert has his usual endless barn of high-priced sophomores owned by high-powered individuals or syndicates. But all his high-priced talent is ineligible to earn Derby points because of his Churchill Downs suspension in the wake of Medina Spirit’s positive medication violation after the late colt won the 2021 Derby.

Last year, Baffert moved Taiba and Messier to Yakteen after the pair went 1-2 in early April’s Santa Anita Derby. This year, Churchill Downs officials turned the screws on the Hall of Fame conditioner, mandating his horses move to other trainers by Feb. 28 or forfeit any chance at Derby points.

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Suspension Forces Baffert’s Move

 So after breezing five furlongs in 1:00.80 Sunday as a farewell workout for Baffert, Reincarnate reappears in Yakteen’s barn in time to headline the 11-colt Rebel field.  The Good Magic progeny arrives at Oaklawn Park with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in tow and a two-race winning streak riding shotgun. After opening his career with three consecutive seconds, Reincarnate broke his maiden at fourth ask in November at Del Mar.

He followed that with a neck victory in the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita the first week of the year. Reincarnate hasn’t missed the exacta in five starts. He’s 35-1 on Caesars Kentucky Derby Future Board.

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Cox Looks for Bounce Back  

If one of Baffert’s horses isn’t putting out a Rebel yell, Brad Cox’s is. He’s won four of Oaklawn Park’s last 10 Derby points races, including the Smarty Jones with Victory Formation on New Year’s Day. The 9-5 favorite in last week’s Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, Victory Formation finished a disappointing fifth.

This time, the two-time Eclipse Award winning trainer sends out Verifying and Giant Mischief. A product of the first crop of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify and 30-1 at Caesars, Verifying took apart a one-mile optional-claiming allowance at Oaklawn Park by 5 ¼ lengths last month. That not only came with a 97 Beyer Speed Figure, but came out of what became a key race. That, after runner-up Gun Pilot—entered in the Rebel—and show horse Two Eagles River won their next races.

Giant Mischief (26-1 at Caesars) won his first two starts, before bobbing at the start and finishing a gritty second as the 4-5 favorite in December’s Springboard Mile at Remington Park. And Cox isn’t making any mischief with the son of standout sire Into Mischief.  He’s handing the reins to Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who comes in from his winter Florida base at Gulfstream Park.

Asmussen in Mix at Rebel

 That takes us to high-powered trainer, Part the Third: Steve Asmussen. Coming out of winning his 10,000th career race over the weekend, Asmussen sends out three, led by Gun Pilot out of his two-length allowance win February 4 at Oaklawn Park. Making his stakes debut, Gun Pilot won two of his first three starts, pressing the pace in his maiden-breaking debut and coming off the pace in that allowance win.

Asmussen also fields Red Route One and Powerful. Making his stakes debut, Red Route One finished 5 ½ lengths behind Baffert’s standout Arabian Knight in the Rebel prep race, the Southwest Stakes. The third-place Southwest finisher, Frosted Departure, also joins the Rebel fray.

So does Bourbon Bash, who finished second to Gun Pilot in his allowance score.

As for Powerful, he makes his 2023 debut 2 ½ months after winning the Listed Ed Brown Stakes at Churchill Downs. That came after he finished 11th in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity.

If you’re looking for another trend besides Baffert and Cox, look to horses like Powerful, who come into the Rebel off a victory. Seven of the last 10 Rebel winners came to Oaklawn from a winner’s circle visit.

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