Castaway, the least experienced of two Bob Baffert trainees shipped to Oaklawn Park for the two divisions of the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO), rolled to a convincing 3 3/4-length triumph in the first division of the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) prep on the Feb. 20 President’s Day card.
A son of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Street Sense out of the Storm Cat mare Priceless Storm, Castaway was confidently ridden by California-based jockey Rafael Bejarano as they stalked the early pace set by Majestic Stride, who was making his third career start and first in stakes competition after breaking his maiden at Oaklawn Jan. 22.
After getting the first quarter in :23.56 and a half in :48.08 while taking the field around the first turn and down the backside, Majestic Stride was joined by Castaway and those two were head to head as they entered the second turn. Before the field emerged into the stretch, Castaway had taken a slight advantage that he extended throughout the stretch, stopping the timer in a flat 1:38 for the two-turn mile.
As Castaway pulled away, Majestic Stride was overtaken by a wall of horses, with Jake Mo getting second, followed by Reckless Jerry, owned by country music singer Toby Keith. Ring It Up finished fourth, followed by Majestic Stride. Longview Drive, the winner of half his six starts going into the Southwest and the 3-1 favorite, finished in a rare three-horse dead heat for sixth with Junebugred and No Spin. Unbridled's Note, Laurie's Rocket, andRed Jack. rounded out the order of finish.
Sent off at 6-1 odds, Castaway paid $15.40, $9.40 and $7.20. Jake Mo paid $19 and $7.40, while Jerry Reckless paid $4.20 to show.
In the second division, Baffert and Bejarano teamed for the Southwest sweep as Secret Circle rolled to victory at 3-5 odds.
“Everyone said we drew bad when we got the 11, but I wasn’t that bothered by it,” said Baffert’s assistant, Jimmy Barnes. “You put them in from the rail out, so they’re not in the gate that long. Rafael (Bejarano) did a good job getting him out of the gate and getting over to the rail. I knew we brought two good horses and this one had been getting over the track great all week.”
“I thought he won pretty easy,” Bejarano said in an understatement. “I was right where I wanted to be, especially at the end.”
Allen Milligan, who trains Jake Mo, said his horse had problems during the race that compromised his chances.
“We had sort of a bad trip, got shuffled to the back,” Milligan said. “(Jockey) Cliff (Berry) did everything we could ask him to do.”
Unbridled’s Note, the second choice for trainer Steve Asmussen, was never in the race, finishing ninth in the 11-horse field.
“When we left the gate, he slipped from behind, so we were way far back and we didn’t want to be there,” said jockey Julien Leparoux. “It’s always tough to come back from that because they didn’t go that fast up front.”
The victory was the second in a row for Castaway, who races for the Coolmore Stud connections of Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith. Castaway broke his maiden in his sixth career start in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight test over a wet-fast track at Santa Anita Jan. 21. The $150,000 winner’s purse increased his career bankroll to $209,930.
Bred in Kentucky by Hertrich/McCarty Livestock, Castaway was purchased by Demi O’Byrne for $435,000 from the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale.