Road to the Kentucky Derby Picks and Best Bets for February 24: Rebel Stakes

In what will be the richest Kentucky Derby prep run so far this year, the Rebel Stakes drew a field of 13. Timberlake is a standout according to the morning-line, but Robert Criscola sees upset potential in a pair of 15-1 shots this Saturday at Oaklawn.

Feb 23, 2024 • 11:10 ET • 4 min read
Brad Cox horse racing
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

A field of 13 looking to make their stamp on the Kentucky Derby odds will crowd the starting gate for Saturday's Grade II, $1.25 million Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park this Saturday.

The final local stepping stone to next month's Arkansas Derby at the Hot Springs, AR oval is led by Timberlake, the 6-5 morning-line favorite trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Cristian Torres.

Is the heavy chalk unbeatable? I don't think so, and my free betting picks will target a pair of 15-1 shots with legitimate hopes of winning the Rebel Stakes on Saturday, February 24.

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Rebel Stakes odds, prediction and best bet

  • Race: Oaklawn Race 11
  • Post time: 6:23 p.m. ET
  • TV: FS2
Post Horse Track odds DraftKings FanDuel bet365
1 Carbone 15-1 +1,500 +1,500 +1,000
2 Northern Flame 5-1 +500 +500 +1,000
3 Common Defense 30-1 +3,000 +3,000 +4,000
4 Tejon Pass 30-1 +3,000 +3,000 +3,300
5 Magic Grant 50-1 +5,000 +5,000 +6,600
6 Dimatic 8-1 +800 +800 +1,200
7 Timberlake 6-5 +110 +110 +137
8 Next Level 30-1 +3,000 +3,000 +2,500
9 Lagynos 20-1 +2,000 +2,000 +1,000
10 Mena 15-1 +1,500 +1,500 +2,500
11 Just Steel 7-2 +350 +350 +400
12 Woodcourt 20-1 +2,000 +2,000 +1,600
13 Time for Truth 15-1 +1,500 +1,500 +900

Odds as of February 23, 2024.

No. 1 Carbone (15-1) misfired in the Southwest Stakes earlier in the month over this course, but I believe this son of Mitole deserves a second chance on the Kentucky Derby trail. Carbone was part of a Southwest pace that fell apart completely, and the muddy track may not have been to his liking.

There are legitimate pace concerns in the Rebel with No. 2 Northern Flame, No. 4 Tejon Pass, No. 8 Next Level, No. 9 Lagynos, and No. 13 Time for Truth all capable of showing speed, but I believe there's a reason Carbone was favored to win the Southwest. The speed figures he earned over his first two starts on fast dirt would make him a serious threat to take the Rebel. 

No. 7 Timberlake (6-5 morning-line favorite) has not raced since settling for fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, replicating the speed figure he put up to win the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont, albeit in the slop. The 2023 Juvenile has been a mixed bag in terms of next-out success stories, with Muth (second) representing the only next-out winner of the group. Notably, race winner Fierceness was a dull third in the Holy Bull in his sophomore debut.

However, Timberlake is working exceptionally well ahead of his 2024 unveiling, and the potential for a pace meltdown only helps his chances. 

No. 13 Time for Truth (15-1) would rate a higher chance with a better post draw and a softer pace scenario, but this son of Omaha Beach out of a Lookin at Lucky mare should not be dismissed trying a route for the first time.

He ran one of the fastest figures in the field in his debut victory on fast dirt, then took a small step back in the mud in his lone try vs. winners. Trainer Ron Moquett has a decent 14% strike rate with horses stretching out, and Rafael Bejarano rides once more. Bejarano is one of the few jockeys sticking with his charge from race-to-race as this field was largely subject to the horse racing version of "musical chairs" due to out-of-town commitments. 

No. 11 Just Steel (7-2) rounds out my top selections after settling for second behind a horse in Mystik Dan that freaked in the mud in the Southwest. Just Steel ran his race, which would put him in the hunt in the Rebel, but it just wasn't good enough last time out. 

My main concern with this D. Wayne Lukas trainee is that he's the most experienced runner of the bunch (nine starts, tied with No. 12 Woodcourt), and therefore his ceiling may be limited while others may have yet to reach their full potential.

Best bet: $2 exacta box 1/7/11/13, $3 exacta box 1/7 ($30)

Road to the Kentucky Derby

Race Date Track Result
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile November 3, 2023 Santa Anita Park Fireceness
Smarty Jones Stakes January 1, 2024 Oaklawn Park Catching Freedom
Jerome Stakes January 6 Aqueduct Drum Roll Please
Lecomte Stakes January 20 Fair Grounds Track Phantom
Southwest Stakes February 3 Oaklawn Park Mystik Dan
Withers Stakes February 3 Aqueduct Uncle Heavy
Holy Bull Stakes February 3 Gulfstream Park Hades
Robert B. Lewis Stakes February 3 Santa Anita Park Nysos*
Sam F. Davis Stakes February 10 Tampa Bay Downs No More Time
Risen Star Stakes February 17 Fair Grounds Sierra Leone
Sunland Derby February 18 Sunland Park Stronghold
Rebel Stakes February 24 Oaklawn Park TBD
Fountain of Youth Stakes March 2 Gulfstream Park TBD
John Battaglia Memorial March 2 Turfway Park TBD
San Felipe Stakes March 2 Santa Anita Park TBD
Gotham Stakes March 2 Aqueduct TBD
Tampa Bay Derby March 9 Tampa Bay Downs TBD
Louisiana Derby March 23 Fair Grounds TBD
Jeff Ruby Steaks March 23 Turfway Park TBD
UAE Derby March 30 Meydan (Dubai) TBD
Arkansas Derby March 30 Oaklawn Park TBD
Florida Derby March 30 Gulfstream Park TBD
Santa Anita Derby April 6 Santa Anita Park TBD
Blue Grass Stakes April 6 Keeneland TBD
Wood Memorial April 6 Aqueduct TBD
Lexington Stakes April 13 Keeneland TBD
Kentucky Derby May 4 Churchill Downs TBD

*winner trained by Bob Baffert and is ineligible for the Kentucky Derby.

Not intended for use in MA.
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