The top three finishers in the April 14 Arkansas Derby (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park were resting comfortably in their stalls the morning after each secured a spot in the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Bodemeister , impressive winner of the Arkansas Derby, and runner up Secret Circle, a dual stakes winner this season, will join Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) winner Mamma Kimbo and third-place finisher Jemima's Pearl on a flight to Churchill Downs the morning of April 16. The latter two have dates in the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). All four are from the Bob Baffert stable.
Jim Barnes, assistant trainer to Baffert, returned to California early the morning of April 15 with Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) winner Plum Pretty and Northern Spur Stakes runner-up Drill . Baffert shipped six horses to this year’s Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn and came away with three graded stakes victories (including two grade I’s), two runner-up finishes, and a third-place result.
“We took some really nice horses there,” said Baffert April 14. “They all ran well and had been training well.”
On that same flight will be Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Sabercat, who bounced back from a disappointing seasonal debut in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) last month to finish third in the Arkansas Derby for trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Corey Nakatani. As the winner of the lucrative Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III) late last year, Sabercat already had secured enough graded stakes earnings to make the Kentucky Derby field, but the son of Bluegrass Cat was under pressure April 14 to prove that spot was deserved.
“I was very pleased with it; it was encouraging,” said Asmussen April 14. It was an otherwise spectacular day for the trainer and Nakatani, as they combined to win five times and secure a fourth career Oaklawn training title.
“It was the step in the right direction we were expecting and looking for--the move forward we needed," Asmussen added of Sabercat. "It looked like a very good experience for him. We needed to see improvement and at this time of year, that’s the important thing in each start.”
April 14 was closing day at Oaklawn. Live racing resumes Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, for a 56-day meet.