Two-year-old champion American Pharoah confirmed his status as a leading Kentucky Derby contender in the March 14 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, returning from a lengthy layoff with a smashing 6 ¼-length victory.
The Rebel served as the lone qualifying race last week for the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, offering points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers, and American Pharoah moved to fifth on the Leaderboard while improving his total to 60. He also earned 10 points winning his previous start, the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita last September.
The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 three-year-old Thoroughbreds and a points system determines eligibility. The complete schedule and explanation of scoring races, along with the updated standings of the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, can be found here.
American Pharoah displayed massive strides over a wet track in the Rebel, impressively accelerating away from the competition while completely in hand, and the front-running colt promises to bring exciting speed to the Kentucky Derby equation.
His jockey, Victor Espinoza, is a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, including last year’s running with California Chrome, and American Pharoah is scheduled to make his final prep race in the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11. Another convincing win could lead to him being favored three weeks later at Churchill Downs.
Owner Ahmed Zayat’s Zayat Stables hopes to break through with its first Kentucky Derby triumph after a trio of seconds in the past decade, including 2009 runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah’s sire. The other second-place finishes came via Nehro (2011) and Bodemeister (2012).
Zayat Stables is also represented by Kentucky Derby prospects El Kabeir (the current points’ leader with 75) and Mr. Z (14th with 14 points).
Three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert trains American Pharoah and the Hall of Fame conditioner is readying another top contender in the unbeaten Dortmund, who ranks third with 70 points.
Madefromlucky vaulted to 10th on the Leaderboard while making his stakes debut in the Rebel, pocketing 20 points for the runner-up finish. Rebel third-placer Bold Conquest (13th with 17 points) and fourth-placer The Truth or Else (19th with 11 points) also improved their standing, but they’ll probably need more points in order to make a 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.
Read my Kentucky Derby Report at brisnet.com for further details on the Rebel Stakes.