For Saturday’s renewal, the Hall of Famer will rely on Nadal to serve up an ace in the highly-regarded colt’s two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep.
Nadal opened his account to rave reviews with a 3 3/4-length debut win at Santa Anita on Jan. 19 going 6 1/2 furlongs. His follow-up was tougher, but the result was the same as the colt proved best in the 7-furlong San Vicente (G2) by three parts of a length. Nadal will break from post 1 and will race without blinkers for the first time in the Rebel.
Trainer Steve Asmussen seeks a fifth win in the Rebel himself and is taking two shots at doing so. Silver Prospector has a pair of Derby prep wins to his credit already, including a last-out, one-length score in the Southwest (G3), while Basin makes his first start since a 6 1/2-length win over a sloppy Saratoga track in the Hopeful (G1) on Labor Day.
Forecasted rain could result in an off track, which both Asmussen runners have handled in the past. No Parole has also proved proficient in the mud, albeit in a Louisiana-bred allowance at Fair Grounds in January. The son of Violence subsequently won a state-bred stakes at Delta Downs, and steps up in class here for trainer Tom Amoss.
Three Technique, owned by former NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, finished second as the favorite in the meet-opening Smarty Jones S. contested in the mud. American Theorem, a son of 2015 Rebel and Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, makes his first start since finishing a distant second in the Grade 1 named for his father at Santa Anita in late September.
Longshots Coach Bahe and Excession round out the field of eight.
The Rebel offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers.