April 10, 2014
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Secret Circle Scratches from Count Fleet Sprint Handicap
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was forced to scratch Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle, the prohibitive favorite for today’s $300,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, after he discovered the horse was given a tranquilizer after becoming fractious prior to boarding the Tex Sutton flight from California to Hot Springs Wednesday morning. The scratch was necessary because the medication would not have cleared the horse’s system in time.
"I am so upset,” said Baffert. “I am livid. I can't believe this is happening to me. I've been doing this for all of these years and shipping horses all over, and I can't believe it. None of my crew was aware of it. This horse is a two-ime Breeders' Cup winner and the owners (Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitmnan) are on a private jet and on their way there. I just cannot believe this. The shippers are usually reliable. I just cannot believe this is happening, especially when they know we are shipping to run. They know how to get a hold of me and they didn't. They said they dropped the ball. This is not good. Every-body there, the state vet or the track vet, has been nice. But it takes 48 hours (for the medication to clear the system), and I am not going to roll the dice."
Top Arkansas Derby contender Bayern Takes First Spin over Oaklawn’s Track
Arkansas Derby (G1) contender Bayern, the 2-1 second choice on the morning line, got his first feel for the Oaklawn Park racing strip on Thursday morning after arriving Wednesday with the contingent of California horses competing in Oaklawn’s Racing Festival of the South.
The Bob Baffert trainee galloped once around the oval right after the break and was scheduled to school in the paddock on Friday afternoon
“We’ve got plenty of action,” said Jim Barnes, Baffert’s top assistant who will also saddle two other horses in supporting stakes over the weekend.
Kaleem Shah’s Bayern has only had two starts, but he has created considerable buzz by winning them both with ease. In his seven-furlong maiden effort at Santa Anita he kicked clear by 3 ¼ lengths and then came back to make light work of a first level allowance at one mile with a 15 length score.
“You don’t really know how good he is until you run in this kind of race,” Barnes said. “He needs to con-tinue on. If he does carry on in his third race like he has in his first two, he’s pretty good. It’s time for him to step up now, but he had his two-turn race and he handled that. This is our next step.”
Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens was aboard for the first two races and he will be reunited with Bayern when they break from post #8. At first glance, the race doesn’t seem to have an abundance of early pace, but anything can happen when the gates open.
“I’m sure that Bob will talk to Gary and tell him what he wants him to do. We have a good post to work with and that will help a lot because they won’t have to overcome too much, hopefully. Gary knows this horse and he’ll know what to do as the race develops to be in the right spot.”
Baffert, who won the 2012 Arkansas Derby with Bodemeister, has a stunning record of success in Oaklawn’s graded stakes. Since 2010, he has sent out 20 horses, which have combined for 12 wins, four seconds and four those in those graded races.
Bayern, who has yet to rack up any qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, now has the chance to prove he deserves to Run for the Roses. The Arkansas Derby is in the Championship Series of qualifying races and offers 170 points, with 100 for first, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for a fourth place finish.
Apple Blossom Contenders Settling In
The $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap is the other of Oaklawn’s Grade 1 affairs and although the race attracted only five fillies and mares aged 4 and up, the competition is certainly salty.
Multiple Grade 1 winner and likely post time odds-on favorite Close Hatches, the victress of the Azeri Stakes (G2) here Mar. 15 in the first start of her 4yo campaign, will be challenged by Rose to Gold, Stanwyck, defending champion On Fire Baby, and Let Faith Arise.
Stanwyck and Let Faith Arise were among the California horses to arrive and get settled in on Wednesday afternoon.
Jerry and Ann Moss’ homebred Stanwyck has brought trainer John Shirreffs back to Oaklawn for the first time since he led multiple champion and 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta into the Apple Blossom winner’s circle in 2008 and 2010.
“It’s pretty exciting to be back,” said Shirreffs. “I have such great memories of the Apple Blossom and Oaklawn Park. A few of the people here remember me and have welcomed me, so that’s always nice.”
Stanwyck, who walked the shedrow in the morning and was scheduled to school in the paddock in the afternoon, ran third when Let Faith Arise was second in the Santa Maria (G2) at Santa Anita two starts back, and then was third again when Let Faith Arise won the Santa Margarita (G1) on Mar 15.
Might the tables be turned on her rival Friday afternoon?
“That would be nice,” said Shirreffs. “Stanwyck is coming into the race really well. She’s a filly that’s improving. It seems like in each of her last four races, she’s gotten a little bit better. The distance suits her and she doesn’t have to take her racetrack with her. She’s run on the turf, she’s run in New York and California, so she’ll be fine. Oaklawn’s always been a pretty fair track and horses can win on the lead or come from behind.”
With the front-running On Fire Baby and Close Hatches in the race, the pace should be mighty lively.
“I’m hoping that those two go out together,” said Shirreffs. “On Fire Baby had a good prep race in the Azeri and I’m sure she’s ready to fire, and of course, Close Hatches won on the lead that day. My filly is doing so well that we decided to bring her.”
Shirreffs won the 2008 Oaklawn Handicap with the Moss’ Tiago and Giacomo won the Kentucky Derby for the same connections in 2005. Set Them Free is the dam of Tiago, Giacomo and Stanwyck, who was sired by Empire Maker.
“She’s well bred. She’s got the pedigree,” said Shirreffs.
Let Faith Arise’s trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, wasn’t scheduled to arrive in Hot Spring until Thursday night, but the Santa Margarita Stakes (G1) winner was settled in nicely after her trip from the West Coast.
“This filly ships better than any horse I’ve ever seen,” said Edgar Hernandez, who handles travel ar-rangements across the country for Hollendorfer’s horses and was looking after her in the interim. “She’s a very, very nice filly. If you look at her last race she performed very well. Sometimes, it’s not only that they won, but how they performed.”
Tommy Town Thoroughbreds’ Let Faith Arise galloped one mile on Thursday morning and then stood at the gate. She was scheduled for a lesson in the paddock in the afternoon.
Rose to Gold, winner of the Fantasy (G3) and the Honeybee (G3) Stakes here a year ago, is another coming into the Apple Blossom in fine fettle after wintering with trainer Sal Santoro at his South Florida base.
“On paper, this race looks very, very tough,” Santoro said. “The fillies in here are all really nice and they’ve got a lot of speed. Out of the gate and for the first half-mile, it might look like a Quarter Horse race, but from there, they’ll figure it out. Rose always does good when she’s under a little bit of pressure, and we’ve got Calvin Borel riding her again. Calvin’s always good for at least five lengths.”