Calumet Farm's homebred Sonneteer made his 9th start in Saturday's Rebel Stakes as a maiden and still didn't graduate. But, he came awfully close, missing by only 2 lengths to Malagacy as the 112-1 longest shot in the field of 11. The almost black son of champion Sprinter Midnight Lute got shuffled back at the start and raced wide, but then jockey Richard Eramia move him to the inside for the stretch run and he made a huge rally up the rail to gain runner-up status.
Reflecting on the race, Julie Clark, trainer Keith Desormeaux's assistant, said,” We are definitely proud of our horse and the way he ran. I was talking with Rich and he said he's still a little green. He's still a maiden but he said he did everything right. When Rich asked him to do something, he followed through. He felt like he had a lot of horse under him. He (Sonneteer) was a little hesitant down on the rail, but he kept pushing through, and when the horse came to him about a sixteenth (of a mile) out, he pushed on. This was a big step forward for him, a giant step.
Around 6 AM on Sunday morning Sonneter departed the Oaklawn backstretch with stablemate and Essex Handicap runner Dalmore and vanned to the Little Rock airport for the flight home to Southern California.
The Bob-Baffert trained American Anthem, who was the 3-5 favorite in the Rebel field but finished next to last, and his stablemate and Essex winner Mor Spirit, plus 9th place Rebel finisher Royal Mo were on the same trip. The flight left Little Rock at 8:25 AM and touched down at Ontario, CA airport at 11:24 Am [CDT].
If all remains on schedule, Sonneteer and Malagacy, the winner by 2 lengths, may well get their rematch in the Arkansas Derby April 15.
“There's no set plans,” trainer Keith Desormeaux told drf.com. “We've got to consider them all. We'll have fun talking about it the next few weeks.”
On the morning after Rebel Stakes day at Oaklawn Park, the disappointment of how his three stakes horses performed in the pair of Grade 2 races on the card washed over the face of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
On the upside, he reported that Untrapped and Lookin At Lee, 3rd and 6th, respectively, in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2), and Terra Promessa, who was fifth in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) as the 1-5 favorite, all came out of their races in fine physical shape and looked good walking the shedrow in the morning.
Then he reflected on the day before.
“Untrapped ran okay,” said Asmussen. “He'll need a little more time between races between now and the (Kentucky) Derby, so hopefully, he'll respond to that. Obviously, he'll need to find a little more. They both need to improve.”
Mike Langford's Untrapped was third, but beaten just two lengths overall by the Todd Pletcher-trained and still undefeated Malagacy. Sonneteer, whose odds were 112-1 and was the longest shot in the field of 11 sophomores, and Untrapped appeared to hit the wire together but the photo finish determined just a short nose separated them at the conclusion of the 1 1/16 miles.
Malagacy's win vaulted him into 4th place with the 50 points earned in the Rebel, while Untrapped's 10 points for finishing third now have him in the 7th spot on the leaderboard with 34 points.
Lookin at Lee earned no points Saturday, and slipped to 19th place with his 12 points earned previously. There are 20 berths up for grabs in the Kentucky Derby starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
“We're not out of the game, but like I said, they need to improve,” Asmussen said. “I'm a little disappointed with Lookin At Lee's race yesterday. I thought he would run sharper because he had trained well.”
The plan as of now is for Untrapped, a son of Trappe Shot, to remain here and make his next start in the Arkansas Derby. Things are still up in the air for L and N Racing's Lookin At Lee and among his next possible races is the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland April 8.
“Possibly, we'll just change surfaces with him and go to the Blue Grass,” Asmussen said. “I don't think he's shown his best. We might do that but we'll see how we train out of this race,” said the trainer, who is still undecided if he will try blinkers on Untrapped next time out.”
Untrapped's owner was a little more upbeat when he went to visit his charge again at the barn in the morning.
“I came by the barn last night and he came back good,” Langford said. “He ate up and walked this morning. We didn't expect this to be his best race. We wheeled back in three weeks [after finishing second in the Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds February 25], and that's asking quite a lot of a three-year-old. Plus, he moved from there to here. That was also asking quite a lot of him. But, he responded well and this morning he's doing well. We expect to run him in the Arkansas Derby.”
Lankford, who entertained eight family members at the track Saturday afternoon, was philosophical.
“It's a process, and I think a lot of owners don't understand that,” he said. “We thought he could win the race, but we expect him to run better in his next race. We expected and hoped to get points and move forward. That's the whole thing at this stage: to move forward, and I think we're doing that. I told my son yesterday that they're going to start separating themselves now. I think we're going to be on the part that goes on. There are still lots of possibilities for us.”
Moreover, there is an added plus in the plan for Untrapped.
“With him staying here to run in the Arkansas Derby, I'll get to come over here and see him all the time,” said Lankford, who first came to Oaklawn as a small child with his father and fell in love with horses and racing from the start.
Petrov emerged in good order from his fourth-place finish in Saturday's $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds, co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Sunday morning. Beaten two lengths by unbeaten Malagacy, Petrov was part of a three-horse photo in the major 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby prep race, with two noses separating the gray son of Flatter from a fourth consecutive runner-up finish in a stakes race.
“When you think of the difference between $180,000 and $45,000 is less than a quarter of an inch, it really makes you hate to have to go around horses deep in the stretch … this is what I have to look it,” Moquett said.
Moquett then pulled out a picture of the photo on his cell phone.
“In the whole thing, we're the horse in trouble,” Moquett said.
Moquett said Petrov will be considered for the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G2) April 8 at Keeneland and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15 at Oaklawn.
“I'm going to do what's best for him,” Moquett said, adding he'd “like to stay here.”
Petrov had finished second in his previous three starts, including the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16 at Oaklawn and $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20 at Oaklawn.
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