If Concert Tour was your garden-variety band embarking on a, well, concert tour, he’d be one of those hot new groups from the underground. A group people have heard of, but don’t really know about.

Concert Tour-Rebel Stakes
Concert Tour arrived at Oaklawn Park Tuesday for Saturday’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. He and Bob Baffert stablemate, Hozier, shipped in from Southern California. (Image: Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park)

He may not have broken through to the main stage yet, but Concert Tour is coming to the forefront of the Thoroughbred horse racing scene under the guidance of one of the all-time great managers in Hall of Famer trainer Bob Baffert.

And because Baffert knows how to groom horses for stardom, Concert Tour’s path toward celebrity will take him to one of Baffert’s familiar haunts, Oaklawn Park. Concert Tour’s next stop is Saturday’s Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, the lone Kentucky Derby prep of consequence this weekend.

The son of 2007 Kentucky Derby champion Street Sense, Concert Tour makes his two-turn debut as the 9/5 morning-line favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race. That alone prompts intense interest from Baffert, who uses the two-turn challenge as his litmus test for Derby contenders.

Concert Tour is ready for better dates

“It’s a good test for him going two turns for the first time against such stiff company,” Bafffert told OG News Monday. “There’s always a lot of hurdles there. But I think he’s up for it. I think he wants to go two turns. He’s always been one of my top 3-year-olds this year and, hopefully, he passes this next step.”

Concert Tour has paid his dues, albeit not in the provinces, but in smaller races in the big-time venue of Santa Anita Park. He broke his maiden in a Jan. 15 maiden special weight at Santa Anita, winning by 3 ½ lengths as the even-money favorite.

He graduated to a better gig – the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes – three weeks later. In that seven-furlong, non-Derby prep, he held off stablemate Freedom Fighter by a half-length as the 2/5 favorite.

“That second-out (race) was really important and he’s worked really well since then,” Baffert said. “I think there’s a lot of quality there, and he has a great pedigree to run on.”

Baffert rolls out a familiar Derby prep template

Concert Tour has a great template to run on. Even putting aside Baffert’s seven Rebel victories, the trainer mapped out Concert Tour’s Derby prep tour on the same time frame and venues as Nadal’s last year. Last year, Nadal broke his maiden in a Jan. 19 maiden special weight, then captured the San Vicente in early February.

Baffert shipped him to Arkansas for the Rebel, watched Nadal conquer two turns without breaking a sweat, and knew he had a star.

Both came into the Rebel unbeaten and with strong workouts on the resume. Nadal may have been a bit higher profile in Baffert’s barn of stars; he was considered first among equals with Authentic and Charlatan. Baffert’s first among equals this year is the electric Life Is Good, who blitzed the field by eight lengths in his third career race at last weekend’s Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes.

Baffert has another concern with Concert Tour

“The timing’s right for it (the Rebel). This is sort of the same path I took with Nadal,” Baffert said. “He goes two turns and has one more prep. This leaves us options for his next race in case something goes wrong … I just want him to break well and see how he’s going to handle the two turns. It could be a sloppy, off track, so you don’t know. It’s asking a lot, but I think he’s a really good horse. We’ll see how he fits here.”

Concert Tour has already shown he’s too good to be an opening act. Now, he’s auditioning for his spot in horse racing’s 3-year-old version of Coachella.

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