News and STORIES

Nadal Scores Rebel Stakes on Road to Kentucky Derby

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Monday March 16, 2020
Bob Baffert, the trainer with the most Triple Crown wins in the sport including five wins at the Kentucky Derby, is once again living up to his Hall of Fame status. 

Baffert sent out Nadal just one week after Authentic secured a spot for the Derby with a victory in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). 

Going into the race undefeated, the 4-5 favorite Nadal fought in the first two turns and was challenged in the stretch from 82-1 longshot Excession. After fending off the competition, he crossed the line first to take the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds March 14 on a sloppy racetrack at Oaklawn Park. 

The victory gave him enough qualifying points for the opening leg of the Triple Crown at Churchill Downs. 

Seven Rebel Victories for Baffert

Baffert has now won the Rebel seven times, and one of those victories was with 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharaoh. 

"He showed some guts," Baffert said. "The really good horses can do what Nadal did. He went toe-to-toe with some good horses early and held on late. He gutted it out."

The son of Blame is 3-for-3, with his career beginning on Jan. 19. He is owned by George Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman, and Mark Mathiesen. 

"I have a great group of owners who have given me some really good horses," Baffert said.

Baffert had more good news when Charlatan kept an undefeated record after taking an allowance-level win at Santa Anita Park.

With all of the lead up to the Kentucky Derby, there is no guarantee that it will run on time. While it is scheduled for May 2, it could be delayed due to the ongoing pandemic. 

In the states of Arkansas and California, where both of Baffert's victories came on March 14, there were no spectators. 

Baffert's wins came within 20 minutes of each other.

"That was quite a 20-30 minutes," the trainer said. "But it's hard to get excited if the Kentucky Derby is not run in May. It won't be as majestic and won't be the same event. They have to run it in May for the good of the sport. There's enough time to figure out ways to run it safely and not impact the wagering."

Road to the Kentucky Derby

By winning the 1 1/16-mile stakes, Nadal was awarded 50 qualifying points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. In past races, that amount of points has been enough to qualify. 

Nadal also won the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes (G2) in 1:22.59 in just his second start. 

In the Rebel, he was joined by jockey Joal Rosario. They hit the opening quarter-mile at :22.89 while American Theorem and No Parole followed.

Nadal was able to fend off the rivals, including Calumet Farm's Excession, who challenged in the stretch. He won by three-quarters of a length in 1:44.97. 

"The best part," Baffert said, "is that (assistant trainer Jim Barnes) said Nadal wasn't blowing much after the race. He really handled everything great."

Nadal was sold at The Gulfstream Sale, Fasig-Tipton's Florida select 2-year-olds in training sale, for $700,000 last year. Kerri Radcliffe Bloodstock signed the ticket from the Randy Bradshaw consignment. Nadal was bred in Kentucky by Sierra Farm out of the Pulpit mare Ascending Angel. 

At the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, he went for $65,000 to Bradshaw. 

Nadal will likely run in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 11. The race awards 100 qualifying points to the winner.