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Malagacy wins Rebel Stakes

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It may have been a different horse, but trainer Todd Pletcher got the same result when he sent an undefeated, yet unproven 3-year-old from South Florida to Oaklawn for the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2). One month after One Liner won the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) in his stakes debut Feb. 20, his stablemate Malagacy was equally as impressive when he pressed the pace and then drew off to win Saturday’s race by two lengths.

With 11-races on the card under picture-perfect weather conditions, Oaklawn had a Rebel Day crowd of 36,000. Total handle for the day was $10,752,313.15, a Rebel Day record.

Sumaya U.S. Stable’s Malagacy, under jockey Javier Castellano, sat just off of Smarty Jones winner Uncontested as he led the field through opening fractions of :23 and :47 for the first half mile. The winner made his move late in the turn for home and edged away from 10 other foes to win the 1 1/16 mile race in 1:43 over a fast track. Sonneteer, a $112.30-1 longshot from California, had been shuffled back early, but steadily advanced up the rail after entering the stretch to narrowly get second by a nose over Untrapped. It was another nose back to Petrov in fourth.

“He showed today that he can definitely go around two turns and I am very proud of him,” trainer Todd Pletcher said by phone from his Florida base. “He showed good tactical speed yet he rated very kindly, which we thought he would do. We were trying a new distance and he was stepping up in class against some nice, seasoned horses so I was very, very pleased with and proud of his effort.”

Silver Dust, fourth in Southwest, had another troubled trip in the Rebel after breaking last and was fifth. He was followed by Lookin at Lee, Appalachian Gem, Uncontested, Royal Mo, American Anthem and Silver Bullion.

American Anthem, the 8-5 favorite, never seemed comfortable in the race as he sought to give trainer Bob Baffert his seventh Rebel victory in eight years.

“He slipped really bad leaving there in behind and stayed that way the whole race,” jockey Mike Smith said of American Anthem. “He just struggled for whatever reason. I was OK as long as we were all slow. As soon as we had to pick it up, I would give him his head and his legs just went everywhere.”

The Rebel Stakes was the third race in Oaklawn’s series culminating in the $1 million Arkansas Derby April 15. Pletcher said the 1 1/8-mile race would likely be the next start for Malagacy.

“The Arkansas Derby would be the logical next step,” Pletcher said. “We’ll bring him home to Palm Beach Downs and see how he bounces out of it. The Arkansas Derby timing wise would be good, and getting a mile-and-an-eighth race under his belt would also be beneficial. That would be Plan A, but in this business we all know that sometimes you have to call some audibles. Right now that’s what the thinking is.”

Malagacy, a chestnut son of 2011 Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford, is now a perfect three for three and has now earned $586,800. The victory earned him 50 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Debry and places him fourth of the list of 20 possible starters in the race.

Sonneteer earned 20 points for second, Untrapped earned 10 for second and Petrov earned 5 for fourth. Untrapped, who previously had 24 points, now sits seventh on the list with 34 and Petrov is now 17th with 13.

Live racing resumes Sunday at Oaklawn with a 1:30 p.m. first post. After this tomorrow there are just 16 more racing days remaining before the season ends April 15 on Arkansas Derby Day.

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