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The Rebel Stakes, a thoroughbred horse race restricted to three-year-old colts and geldings, has been run each year since 1961 at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs (Garland County). Over the years, it has developed into an important preparatory race not only for the $1 million Arkansas Derby, but also for the subsequent Triple Crown races. (The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes make up the Triple Crown.) The Rebel Stakes is traditionally held in mid-March.
Stakes races—so called because of the stake, or entry fee, owners must pay—are rated grade one (the highest), grade two, or grade three based on the size of the purse. (The purse is the prize money that is divided among the horses competing in the race based on their finish, with the winner receiving sixty percent of the total purse.) The Rebel Stakes was elevated to grade two in 2008. The Arkansas Derby is grade one, and the Southwest Stakes is grade three.
The purse for the 2016 Rebel Stakes was bumped to $900,000 following the previous year’s debut win of American Pharoah, who went on to win the 2015 Triple Crown. The value of the purse has tripled within a span of ten years following Lawyer Ron’s $300,000 win in 2006.
Since the race was first run in 1961, eleven horses have won both the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby. And, of these eleven, seven have gone on to win at least one Triple Crown race. A horse named Elocutionist finished second in the 1976 Rebel but went on to win the Arkansas Derby and became the first horse in Oaklawn’s history to win the Preakness Stakes. Horses that competed in the Rebel and also won one or two Triple Crown races include Temperance Hill, Sunny’s Halo, Pine Bluff, Victory Gallop, Smarty Jones, and Curlin (two-time Horse of the Year); American Pharoah won all three.
No trainer has been more dominant in the Rebel Stakes than Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert, who won six of seven editions of the one-and-one-sixteenth-mile race between 2010 and 2016. His first winner was Lookin at Lucky, who rebounded from a loss as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness Stakes and later earned three-year-old champion honors. His trainee American Pharoah made history when he became the first horse in thirty-seven years to win the Triple Crown after starting 2015 at Oaklawn.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith won the Rebel Stakes four times, leading all riders. His first victory came in 1986 aboard Rare Brick, and his last win was in 2014 on Hoppertunity—another Rebel winner trained by Baffert.
Will Take Charge
Lookin at Lucky
Phantom On Tour
Nuits St. Georges
Chop Chop Tomahawk
Our Trade Winds
Devil It Is
For additional information:
A Century of Excitement, Oaklawn 1904–2004. Hot Springs, AR: Oaklawn Park, 2004.
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming. http://www.oaklawn.com/ (accessed March 8, 2016).
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming
Last Updated 6/11/2018
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