The respective 2021 season openers from last year’s champion male sprinter Whitmore and Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Shedaresthedevil are among the highlights of the Rebel Stakes Day undercard at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. Here’s a rundown of the four features in chronological order.
Azeri S. (G2) — Race 5 (3:03 p.m. ET)
Kentucky Oaks heroine Shedaresthedevil will break outside in a select field of five for the $350,000 Azeri S. (G3) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Also victorious last term in the Indiana Oaks (G3) and Honeybee (G3), Shedaresthedevil has not been out since finishing a tiring third in the Spinster (G1) on Oct. 4.
Vying for favoritism will be Letruska, who has a recency edge in her favor having captured the Rampart (G3) in December and the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) in late January after shedding blinkers. The former Mexico mainstay has won 12 of 16 starts lifetime.
Letruska is a speed type who might have to tussle early on with Motion Emotion, who most likely has distance limitations against this kind of company. Looking to pick up some pieces late will be Envoutante, who ended her three-year-old campaign with big wins in the Remington Park Oaks (G3) and Falls City H. (G2), while the Brad Cox-trained, deep closer Getridofwhatailesu joins stablemate Shedaresthedevil after a last-out win in the Pippin S.
Essex H. — Race 7 (4:08 p.m. ET)
Night Ops is back to defend his title in the $500,000 Essex H. for older horses over 1 1/16 miles. The Brad Cox trainee was likely short in the Jan. 23 Fifth Season S. when nearly fourth lengths behind Silver State in his first race since early July, but could come on from that tightener.
Looking to rebound from dull runs in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) are multiple graded stakes winner Tax and Harpers First Ride, who captured the Pimlico Special (G3) and several other stakes on the Maryland circuit last season.
Temperence Hill S. — Race 9 (5:13 p.m. ET)
The $150,000 Temperence Hill S. over 1 1/2 miles features Campaign, who rallied to miss by a neck as the favorite in the 2020 edition of the race and has since made only one outing, a caboose trip in the Thunder Road (G3) over a mile on the turf.
Graded stakes veterans Tenfold and Plainsman have sufficient back class to make an impact in this marathon, while You’re to Blame could prove sneakily effective at this trip in his second start since joining the Ron Moquett barn.
Hot Springs S. — Race 10 (5:45 p.m. ET)
The Moquett-trained Whitmore, who was voted an Eclipse Award off wins in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) in 2020, will attempt to win the $200,000 Hot Springs S. for the fifth year in succession. The six-furlong dash marks the eight-year-old gelding, who’s earned more than $4.2 million in a career that has seen him win 15 times from 38 starts to date.
C Z Rocket, runner-up to Whitmore in the Breeders’ Cup following wins in the Pat O’Brien (G2) and Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2), merits a long look as does Grade 2 veteran Flagstaff, most recently fourth behind Boldor in the King Cotton S. over this track and distance.