Lukas: Ethereal Road Headed For Grade 2 Rebel - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Lukas: Ethereal Road Headed For Grade 2 Rebel

D Wayne Lukas

After watching Ethereal Road work five furlongs from the gate Tuesday morning at Oaklawn, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said the eye-catching maiden winner earlier in the meeting will make his next start in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds Feb. 26.

A son of Quality Road, Ethereal Road finished seventh, fifth and third in his first three starts before storming home to break his maiden by four widening lengths at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 29 under Luis Contreras.

The performance was noteworthy because Ethereal Road hesitated and bobbled at the start, according to footnotes from the official race chart, and trailed by 16 lengths after a quarter mile and 12 ½ lengths after a half mile before he began picking off rivals on the second turn.

Five-wide turning for home, Ethereal Road mowed down five horses in the final three-sixteenths of a mile to win going away at odds of 19-1. The final time over a fast track was 1:46.82.

Lukas said he doesn't know why, under extraordinary circumstances, it finally clicked for Ethereal Road, a $90,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sales graduate who is owned by Aaron Sones.

“If I knew that, I would be a better trainer,” Lukas said. “Man, you talk about left. He was in another area code.”

Because Ethereal Road is a large horse – he stands 16.3 hands and weighs around 1,300 pounds – his poor break was magnified when compared to a smaller horse, Lukas said.

“It takes them three-eighths of a mile to get that momentum again to get going,” Lukas said. “But when they get going, if they've got ability, again, I emphasize that – they've got to have ability – when they get going, they pass horses if they've got the ability. What he did on the turn, if you just took the video and ran it up the half mile and said, 'Oh, here, let's watch this,' – from the half mile (pole) to the wire, that was spectacular. Every jump he passed a horse.”

Ethereal Road had his penultimate work for the Rebel Tuesday morning, covering five furlongs out of the gate in 1:01.80.

Lukas said Contreras will ride Ethereal Road in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, which is Oaklawn's third of four Kentucky Derby points races. It figures to draw a large field, with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert scheduled to be represented after winning the Rebel a record eight times, including the last two runnings with Nadal in 2020 and Concert Tour last year.

Lukas won the Rebel in 1989 with Manastash Ridge and again in 2013 with Will Take Charge, who captured an Eclipse Award that year as the country's champion 3-year-old male.

In addition to Ethereal Road, other locally based Rebel candidates include Dash Attack for trainer Kenny McPeek, Barber Road (John Ortiz), Ben Diesel (Dallas Stewart) and Chasing Time (Steve Asmussen).

Dash Attack won the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1, a 1-mile race that was Oaklawn's first Kentucky Derby points event. Baffert collected Oaklawn's second, the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 29, with unbeaten Newgrange. Barber Road finished second in the Smarty Jones and Southwest. Ben Diesel was seventh in the Smarty Jones and third in the Southwest. Chasing Time was a 7 ¾-length first-level allowance winner at 1 mile Jan. 14. Favored in all five career starts, the Rebel will be his stakes debut.

Lukas said Ignitis, who finished third in the Smarty Jones, is under consideration for the Rebel. Ignitis ran 11th in the Southwest. Call Me Jamal also is under consideration for the Rebel, trainer Mike Puhich said Tuesday morning.

“There's an allowance race the same day,” Puhich said. “I'm going to keep the door open.”

Call Me Jamal broke his maiden at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 18 – Ethereal Road was third – and ran seventh in the Southwest. Call Me Jamal was beaten eight lengths.

“People don't realize what kind of trouble he had, either,” Puhich said. “I thought he was going to run dead last on the far turn.”

The Rebel closed Feb. 11 with 111 nominations. It offers 85 points toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5). Post positions will be drawn Monday.

Barber Road also breezed Tuesday morning, going 5 furlongs in 1:00.40. Barber Road worked in company.

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