Firmly established as a proving ground for 3-year-old thoroughbreds, the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park will be even more attractive to horsemen in 2015 for 150,000 reasons.
Half of the track’s $300,000 increase in purses for stakes races bumps the Rebel purse from $600,000 to $750,000. As a result, the winner’s share jumps from $360,000 to $450,000.
Even prior to the recent announcement, the purse for Oaklawn’s final prep race for the Arkansas Derby was more lucrative than the money offered for the lead-in races to the final Kentucky Derby preps in Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida, New York, and California. That would be the $500,000 Spiral, the Risen Star, Fountain of Youth, and Gotham at $400,000 each, and the $300,000 San Felipe.
The purse bump is a bonus. The real magnet is the 50 points and lock on a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby that goes to the winner and the successes of recent Rebel runners:
2013 — Will Take Charge, Travers winner, 3-year-old champion, and Oxbow, Preakness winner.
2011 — Archarcharch, Arkansas Derby winner.
2010 — Lookin At Lucky, Preakness winner, 3-year-old champion.
2007 — Curlin, Arkansas Derby winner, Preakness winner, Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, 3-year-old champion, two-time Horse of the Year.
2006 — Lawyer Ron, Older Male Horse of the Year.
2004 — Smarty Jones, Arkansas Derby winner, Kentucky Derby winner, Preakness winner, 3-year-old champion.
This year, Rebel winner Hoppertunity was the second choice behind eventual winner California Chrome on the morning line for the Kentucky Derby, but was scratched two days before the race because of a foot problem. A short time later, the colt underwent surgery. According to a recent report, he is returning to Bob Baffert’s barn. Don’t be surprised if he is a factor in a major race this year or next.
Perturbed about voting in Alabama, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace will have trouble digesting decisions in Nevada.
Last month in Hoover, media voted Wallace third team All-SEC, behind Auburn’s Nick Marshall, and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott.
Wallace told the media that he figured Marshall would be first team since he led the Tigers to the national championship game, but "I didn’t think I was going to be third." He said he would have been second team if his Rebels had beaten Prescott’s Bulldogs in the final regular season game of 2013.
Whether or not Wallace has the right read on the media, Prescott is among 13 players recently added to a group identified in late January as the most viable candidates for the Heisman Trophy and Wallace is not on the list.
Prescott ‘s appearance at 50-1 is based on what he might do in 12 games. Despite sitting out two games last year, Prescott threw for 1,940 yards and ran for 829.
MSU will not win enough to make Prescott a viable candidate, but being on the list is a compliment.
Other additions from the SEC include quarterback Jacob Coker, who has yet to take a snap at Alabama, LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette, and Alabama running back Derrick Henry. Henry is 25-1, Coker 50-1, and Fournette 66-1.
The addition of Henry and Coker has affected support for teammate T.J. Yeldon. Originally the 5-1 fourth choice behind Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Yeldon’s odds have soared to 20-1.
Although Mark Ingram won the Heisman in 2009 while splitting time with Trent Richardson, neither Yeldon nor Henry will get the carries necessary to post Heisman numbers in Alabama’s two-back system. In recent years, the load has been shared by Richardson and Eddie Lacy, Lacy and Yeldon, and Yeldon and Kenyan Drake.
Once 2-1, Heisman winner Winston is still favored, but his odds are 4.5-to-1.
Odds have declined on only two on the original list — Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson from 25-1 to 20-1 and my longshot pick in June, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight from 25-1 to 18-1.