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Mar 14, 2014

Kobe's Back versus Tapiture in Rebel Stakes


Hot Springs, AR ( - San Vicente Stakes winner Kobe's Back and local stakes champ Tapiture headline a field of eight 3-year-olds for Saturday's $600,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Rebel is a prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 12 and offers 50 points for the winner toward a place in the Kentucky Derby.

Kobe's Back, trained by John Sadler, has drawn the far outside post with Jose Lezcano getting the mount on the gray colt for the first time.

Owned by C R K Stable, Kobe's Back made his 2014 debut a winning one with a convincing 5 1/4-length victory in last month's seven-furlong San Vicente at Santa Anita.

The gray 3-year-old opened his career at Hollywood Park by winning the 5 1/2- furlong Willard Proctor Stakes on June 15. As the 9-10 favorite, he was second in the Hollywood Prevue in November, but finished 10th the next month in the CashCall Futurity after clipping heels.

"I've said all along that he's had three bad starts," said Lee Searing of C R K Stable after the San Vicente. "He won the first one, got hammered in the second and we never had a chance out in the 12 hole last out. So finally, all the work John has put in and the right rider (has made the difference)."

Kobe's Back has taken two of his four starts for $200,250.

Tapiture will again be ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr. and break from post 3 for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, Tapiture won the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on Feb. 17 by 4 1/4 lengths in his season debut.

"It was a big step forward for him," said Asmussen following the win. "I was impressed with what he did. I saw some things we need to improve and he'll need to continue to improve with the races coming up. I think the series sets up really well for him."

The chestnut colt is on a two-race win streak which includes last November's Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. Tapiture began his career at Saratoga last August with a second-place result. He came back with a third in Churchill Downs' Iroquois Stakes on Sept. 7 and faded to third in a maiden event at Churchill on Oct. 27. He broke his maiden in the Kentucky Jockey Club by the same 4 1/4 lengths as his Southwest win.

Tapiture has two wins, a second and two thirds in five starts for $320,838.

Also coming out of the Southwest is Strong Mandate, the second-place horse. The colt, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, will start from post 4 with Joel Rosario back to ride the colt.

Strong Mandate, owned by Robert Baker and William Mack, was the even-money favorite in the Southwest. After breaking his maiden in his second start at Saratoga in August, Strong Mandate won the track's Hopeful Stakes by almost 10 lengths.

The colt finished seventh in Belmont Park's Champagne Stakes on Oct. 5 and was third after setting the pace in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Strong Mandate has earned $492,900 in six starts with two wins, a second and a third.

Here is the field for the Rebel in post position order: Jet Cat, John McKee; Ride On Curlin, Kent Desormeaux; Tapiture, Ricardo Santana Jr.; Strong Mandate, Joel Rosario; Hoppertunity, Mike Smith; Sheltowee's Boy, Joshua Navarro; Street Strategy, Calvin Borel and Kobe's Back, Jose Lezcano.

Post time for the Rebel will be approximately 7:05 p.m. ET.

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