LOOKIN AT LUCKY (Smart Strike) and NOBLE'S PROMISE (Cuvee) will make their sophomore debuts on Saturday in Oaklawn Park's $300,000 Rebel S. (G2), the final prep before the April 10 Arkansas Derby (G1). This will be the third straight match-up between the two rivals, with Lookin at Lucky finishing in front each time.
Named the 2009 champion two-year-old male following a season that saw only one narrow loss on his six-race line, Lookin at Lucky will be trying a traditional dirt surface for the first time in the Rebel. The Bob Baffert charge captured his first four tries, including the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Norfolk S. (G1), before just missing by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) following a troubled trip. He quickly returned to the winner's circle with a three-quarter length victory in the CashCall Futurity (G1) on December 19, and all of his starts to date have come on the synthetics in California. Baffert will add blinkers in order to keep the colt more focused and Lookin at Lucky will keep regular rider Garrett Gomez in the saddle.
Noble's Promise was a half-length behind Lookin at Lucky in third on Breeders' Cup Saturday and finished strong in the CashCall Futurity to be second in his juvenile finale. The bay colt is also looking to test his mettle on a dirt surface following a two-year-old campaign that encompassed turf, Polytrack, Tapeta, Pro-Ride and Cushion Track. Trained by Kenny McPeek, he broke his maiden on Ellis' turf course and would go on to score a half-length win in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. Noble's Promise could hold a fitness edge over Lookin at Lucky considering the fact that he has been training extremely well at Gulfstream since February. Robby Albarado will be taking the reins for the first time.
The Rebel drew a field of seven, and Hopeful S. (G1) hero DUBLIN (Afleet Alex) will be breaking from the far outside in the 1 1/16-mile event. The chestnut colt tailed off badly in his final two starts last year, running fifth in the Champagne S. (G1) and seventh in the Iroquois S. (G3), but has already shown new life as a three-year-old. Based at Oaklawn with Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, he returned on February 20 to miss by three parts of a length in the Southwest S. (G3), and has recorded back-to-back bullets in two workouts since. Corey Nakatani has been tabbed to ride.
CARDIFF GIANT (Yankee Gentleman) and UH OH BANGO (Top Hit) both have a shot at the win based on recent performances. Conditioned by R. Kory Owens, the dark bay Uh Oh Bango has raced exclusively on dirt tracks so far in his career, racking up an eight-length maiden victory and a 10 1/2-length trouncing in the Prairie Meadows Freshman S. He was tested against graded rivals in the Iroquois and Delta Jackpot S. (G3), and held his own each time, just missing by a length and a neck, respectively. Cardiff Giant, on the other hand, followed the California circuit during his juvenile season, but tried dirt for the first time in the Southwest last out, running a decent third.
Stakes scorers ROYAL EXPRESS (Royal Academy) and PLEASANT STORM (Pleasant Tap) round out the Rebel field.