HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (WKYT) -- Nadal lived up to his 4-5 odds and gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his seventh Rebel Stakes (G1) victory in 10 years with his front-running win in the $1 million milestone on the road to the Arkansas and Kentucky Derbys.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Nadal grabbed the lead early and proceeded to duel with fellow California shipper American Theorem through early fractions of :22 4/5 and 46 for the first half mile. As his rival faded, Nadal held a comfortable advantage entering the stretch and had just enough left to hold off longshot Excession for the victory in 1:44 4/5 for 1 1/16 miles over a sloppy track. Basin finished third.
Nadal secured 50 points towards Kentucky Derby eligibility and is now ranked third on the top 20 leaderboard. Excession is ranked 13th with 20 points and Basin is 25th with 10 points.
The Rebel is the last local prep before the $1 million Arkansas Derby April 11. Co-owner George Bolton indicated his colt would likely return for that race. Baffert wanted to get the horse back to California before making a firm decision.
In remaining undefeated in three career starts, Nadal returned $3.80, 4.00 and 3.20. Excession paid 37.00 and 10.60. Basin paid 4.40 to show.
“We were hoping for that outcome," said Baffert. "We knew he was a good horse, but until they go two turns and then the way it set up, the speed duel and all. Pretty impressive when they can just keep going like that. Only the really good ones can do that. I was just fortunate that you guys even ran the race, right now with the way things are. Crazy.”