With Improbable forced four-wide around both turns, Long Range Toddy tracked him down to score one for the locals Saturday in the first division of split runnings of Oaklawn Park's Grade 2, US$750,000 Rebel Stakes.
Under jockey Drayden Van Dyke, Improbable swung past fellow California shippers Extra Hope and Galilean off the turn, looking like a winner until Long Range Toddy delivered his strong closing kick to win by a neck.
The multiple stakes winner by Take Charge Indy also became a graded stakes winner with Jon Court in the irons. Trained by Steve Asmussen for Willis Horton Racing, Long Range Toddy completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.49. He was off at 8-1.
The victory puts the colt solidly into the 2019 Kentucky Derby field on points with payouts to the Top 4 finishers on a 37.5-15-7.5-3.75 scale.
Galilean ran on for third with Extra Hope fourth.
“The horse is doing extremely well," Asmussen said. "He stepped up. Jon gave him a beautiful trip today, and I love how he earned it late. The horse is extremely kind. Jon worked him the other day and his comment was that he was push button."
What led to the upset? From the outside, No. 9 post, Improbable never saved any ground -- but the chestnut trained by Bob Baffert also didn't look nearly as dominant coming off a three-month layoff as in his prior two stakes victories.
"When we turned for home, Drayden looked like he was full of punch with the final finish, so I kept my eye on him -- targeted him to run down the stretch -- and it worked out well," said Court, who also won the 2013 Rebel aboard Willis Horton's Will Take Charge
Galilean was off a step slow but went on to set the pace with longshot Classy John. They traveled the half mile in 47.58 seconds before a middle move by Extra Hope made it a three-wide battle for the lead.
Improbable continued in the clear and drove to the lead only to be overtaken late by the tactical Long Range Toddy, who looked like a pace factor early only to back off and save himself.
"The horse was away well and got a good spot," Asmussen said. "They went about their business and he relaxed down the backstretch. You could tell coming into the stretch he was loaded. He waited until they all lined out, didn’t waste any ground and wheeled him out late like he should and got rewarded for it.”
Long Range Toddy improved his record to 4-1-1 in seven starts.
Following a win in the Springboard Mile in December, Long Range Toddy ran second in the Smarty Jones Stakes and third in the Southwest (G3), both of those at Oaklawn, before punching his ticket to Churchill Downs in the Rebel.