LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 15, 2019) – Each week, the NTRA will provide a guide to the best stakes races in North America and beyond. Races are listed in chronological order (all times Eastern). Full previews when available can be found through the link for each race.
This weekend’s slate of racing sees Oaklawn Park take center stage in hosting two divisions of the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes as well as a salty edition of the Grade 2 Azeri Stakes. Live television coverage of both editions of the Rebel will anchor a 2 1/2-hour broadcast of “Fox Sports Saturday At the Races ” from 5-7:30 p.m. presented by America’s Best Racing, Runhappy and Claiborne Farm on FS2.
Saturday March 16
5:21 p.m.—$350,000 Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park on TVG
An early showdown between some of the powerhouses in the distaff division is on tap with four Grade 1 winners entered in the Azeri field. The Bill Mott-trained Elate is set to make her first start since finishing a narrow second to champion Abel Tasman in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga last August 25. Among those waiting to welcome her back to the fray are reigning champion female sprinter Shamrock Rose, multiple grade 1 winner and Eclipse Award finalist Midnight Bisou, and fellow top-level victor Eskimo Kisses.
5:37 p.m.—$200,000 Grade 2 Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream Park on TVG
Dorothy Alexander Matz’s Tequilita is scheduled to seek her second graded-stakes success of the 2018-2019 Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park in the seven-furlong Inside Information. The 5-year-old daughter of Union Rags will shoot for her third overall graded-stakes victory at Gulfstream and may well be making her final career start before starting her broodmare career.
5:57 p.m. —Division 1 $750,000 Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on TVG and FS2
With the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes being cancelled due to the temporary suspension of racing at Santa Anita Park, Oaklawn stepped up to split the Rebel Stakes into two divisions to accommodate the number of horses re-routed to Arkansas. The first division of the 1 1/16-miles test features the first of two expected heavy favorites from the barn of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert in unbeaten Improbable. The son of City Zip breaks from the outside post in the field of nine in his first competitive outing since winning the Grade 1 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity last December 8 but figures to be tested by the likes of California Cup Derby winner Galilean.
6:29 p.m. — $350,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park on TVG
While not graded, the 1 1/16-miles Essex features a number of proven performers including morning-line favorite Giant Expectations. The son of Frost Giant will be seeking his first win since he bested a field that included future champion Accelerate in the 2017 Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes. Fellow graded stakes winner Hence is also entered along with Dalmore and Snapper Sinclair.
7:06 p.m.— Division 2 $750,000 Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on TVG and FS2
Game Winner, the reigning juvenile male champion and current leader on the NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll, makes his anticipated seasonal bow against nine other challengers in the second edition of the Rebel. The son of Candy Ride (ARG) was last seen winning the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last November 2 to cap off a 4-for-4 2-year-old campaign. The Bob Baffert trainee will break from post 5 in the Rebel and has morning-line second choice Omaha Beach to his outside in post 6.