May 20, 2022

Solomini looking to give Baffert a seventh Rebel

Solomini readying for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) (c) Cecila Gustavsson/

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won six of the past eight runnings of the $900,000 Rebel (G2), a fact that will contribute to Solomini‘s favoritism in Saturday’s renewal of the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby (G1) prep at Oaklawn Park.

FREE Past Performances for the Rebel Stakes

Virtually awarding a slot in the Churchill Downs starting gate with 50 qualifying points going to the winner, the Rebel has been won three times by the eventual winner of the classic, including Baffert’s Triple Crown-winning American Pharoah in 2015.

Like that superstar, Solomini has been carrying the colors of Ahmed Zayat in four previous starts. Now, Solomini is owned in partnership by Zayat and Coolmore, who stand American Pharoah at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

Generally considered the third best juvenile of his generation, Solomini proved second best to Bolt d’Oro in the FrontRunner (G1) and to champion Good Magic in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) before posting a hard-fought score over McKinzie and Instilled Regard in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1). However, the stewards demoted him to third for stretch interference against Instilled Regard.

Both of those rivals have franked the form of the Futurity this season, with stablemate McKinzie taking the Sham (G3) and losing the San Felipe (G2) via disqualification, while Instilled Regard (G3) came home best in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds (G3).

Winning first time off the bench has not been an issue with some prep winners this winter, but Solomini figures to get a stern test from various quarters. Three-time Rebel winner Steve Asmussen has a trio of colts to saddle including Combatant, who’s also endured a string of minor placings with seconds in the Springboard Mile, Smarty Jones, and Southwest (G3). A more contentious pace on a fast surface could aid his chances toward a breakthrough.

Asmussen also has recent allowance winner Title Ready, who has some early foot and will break from post 1 on Saturday, and the deep-closing Zing Zang, who couldn’t get going in the Southwest mud and has been compared to the barn’s 2016 Arkansas Derby (G1) and Belmont S. (G1) winner Creator.

Sporting Chance, the Hopeful (G1) winner, has shown erratic behavior in the stretch of his last two starts, but figures to move forward in his second start of the year following a distant third-place finish in the Southwest. High North, unplaced in two stakes appearances, remains well-regard by trainer Brad Cox. Fifth last time in the Risen Star, the colt was fourth two back in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), the profile of which has risen dramatically following early-season Derby preps.

Three stakes debuters will also merit attention. The Todd Pletcher-trained Magnum Moon enters the Rebel in similar fashion to Malagacy, who debuted last January and captured the Rebel in his third career start. Magnum Moon has won comfortably in both starts, first in a Gulfstream maiden and last time against an overmatched field in a Tampa Bay Downs allowance.

Higher Power missed the Southwest due to an illness, but the Pin Oak homebred has a potentially bright future if his January 13 allowance win over a mile is any indication. Racing in tight quarters down the backside, the Medaglia d’Oro half-brother to Oaklawn H. (G2) winner Alternation overcame a less-than-ideal trip to prevail over next-out winner New York Central.

Curlin’s Honor, a Mark Casse-trained son of 2007 Rebel winner Curlin, has won twice in photo finishes, both times at six furlongs. The field is rounded out by longshots Pryor and Bode’s Maker.