From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:
Concert Tour and Hozier were to be flown back to their Southern California base Sunday, a day after finishing 1-2, respectively, in Oaklawn’s $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds, continuing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s stranglehold on the major Kentucky Derby prep race.
Accompanied by Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s main assistant, Concert Tour and Hozier departed the barn area at approximately 9 a.m. (Central) and vanned 57 miles to Little Rock’s Clinton National Airport for a Tex Sutton Equine Air Transportation flight.
Both horses exited the 1 1/16-mile Rebel in good order, Barnes said before training hours Sunday morning outside the Royal Glint barn, which house horses for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Baffert’s horses normally ship into Lukas’ barn at Oaklawn.
Concert Tour ($5.40) remained unbeaten in three lifetime starts with a front-running 4 ¼-length victory under regular rider Joel Rosario. It was Baffert’s record-extending eighth Rebel victory and 16th in a Kentucky Derby prep race at Oaklawn – all since 2010.
“To me, it was kind of an American Pharoah-type run,” Baffert, via phone, said about 20 minutes following the race. “He was doing it with ease, with plenty left.”
American Pharoah, of course, is the measuring stick for Baffert’s growing list of Rebel winners, taking the 2015 edition by 6 ¼ front-running lengths in his 3-year-old debut before sweeping the Triple Crown. Baffert also won the Rebel in 2010 (Lookin At Lucky), 2011 (The Factor), 2012 (Secret Circle), 2014 (Hoppertunity), 2016 (Cupid) and 2020 (Nadal).
Baffert has had at least one Rebel starter every year since his first in 2010. He has compiled an 8-4-1 mark from 15 starters, with his horses earning an eye-popping $3,971,000 in prize money.
“It’s amazing,” Barnes said. “Our horses, they suit this track. They run well over it. We just took it to them yesterday, early. If they were going to beat us, they were going to have to pass us.”
Concert Tour, who was making his two-turn debut, was able to clear speedy even-money favorite Caddo River from post 7 going into the first turn and set comfortable fractions of :23.42 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.53 for a half-mile and 1:12 for three-quarters. Caddo River, after breaking from the rail, was glued to Concert Tour’s flank on the outside down the backstretch and made a bid for the lead late on the second turn. But Concert Tour had another gear, opened up four lengths in midstretch and coasted home under little urging. Winning time over a fast track was 1:43.18.
“Very confident,” Rosario said. “I just looked at his ears and knew he was very happy what he was doing. Every time that horse came to him, he just took off. Very nice horse.”
Concert Tour, a homebred for Gary and Mary West, received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 94 – equaling a career high – for his Rebel victory. The son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense also received a 94 Beyer for his half-length victory in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2) Feb. 6 at Santa Anita in his previous start.
Concert Tour earned 50 points for his Rebel victory to vault to No. 4 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, according to Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters, with starting preference given to horses with the highest point totals earned in designated races like the Rebel. Hozier, exiting a Feb. 15 maiden victory at Santa Anita, is No. 12 with 20 points. The Rebel was Oaklawn’s third Kentucky Derby points race.
“These horses are just starting to come around at the right time,” Baffert said. “That’s what you want.”
Baffert was noncommittal on whether Concert Tour and/or Hozier would return to Oaklawn for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 10. Baffert has won the Arkansas Derby three times – Bodemeister in 2012, American Pharoah in 2015 and last year’s second division with Nadal.
“We’ll get them back here and see how they are,” Baffert said. “I don’t make that call until about two weeks before.”
The presence of another top prospect in Baffert’s barn, Life Is Good, will undoubtedly impact the decision. Life Is Good, like Concert Tour, is 3 for 3, a two-time graded stakes winner and bred by the Wests.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Barnes said.
Next-race plans are pending for locally based Caddo River and Keepmeinmind, their respective trainers said Sunday morning.
Caddo River, a homebred for John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs, finished fifth after a front-running 10 ¼-length victory in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 22. The Smarty Jones was Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races.
“He seems to be OK,” trainer Brad Cox. “At the 3, 3 ½ (pole), it looked like he kind of ranged up, but couldn’t get by. Just not good enough. I don’t have a whole lot of excuses right now.”
Cox said he will talk with Anthony before making any decision about Caddo River’s next start. Anthony has won the Arkansas Derby a record three times (1980, 1987 and 1992).
Trainer Robertino Diodoro said Keepmeinmind (sixth) will be considered for the Arkansas Derby and the $800,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G2) April 3 at Keeneland. Keepmeinmind was making his 3-year-old debut after concluding 2020 with a last-to-first victory in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs.
“Not making excuses, but I was concerned about the track,” Diodoro said. “It started drying up during the week. You see Thursday’s times, you see Friday’s times and yesterday, and even watching training, it was getting to be like the interstate. I think one horse, C Z Rocket, who exploded down the lane (Saturday’s $200,000 Hot Springs Stakes), other than that, I never saw a horse win if they weren’t within three lengths of the lead Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Very disappointed. I know he’s a better horse than what he showed yesterday.”
Diodoro said a decision about Keepmeinmind’s next start should come in the next couple of days.
The Arkansas Derby will offer 170 points (100-40-20-10, respectively) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. Keepmeinmind (18) ranks No. 14 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
The Baffert-trained Spielberg, runner-up in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 27 at Oaklawn, has 17 points to rank No. 15. Caddo River (10) is No. 24.