Shadwell Stables' Najjaar, in his first workout since a sixth-place finish in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II), breezed five furlongs in 1:01 flat at Oaklawn Park March 30.
Trainer Dan Peitz and jockey Calvin Borel, who was aboard for the work, said they are happy with the way the fast-finishing Jazil colt is progressing toward the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I) April 14. The work was the third fastest of 14 at the distance on the morning. Peitz said Najjaar galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.
Najjaar has won twice at the Oaklawn meeting but disappointed when a poor start in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel March 17 left him too far out of it to make much of an impression.
"Doesn't every trainer say it was just what I asked for?" asked Peitz. "I told Calvin I was looking for about 1:01 with about :37 in the first part and come home in :24 for the second part. He didn't quite hit those, but close enough and he galloped out really strong. You always like to see that. So pretty much it was exactly what we asked for."
Najjaar, who emulates his grade I Belmont Stakes-winning sire with his closing style, has raced around two turns his whole career. He tried turf and synthetic first, and then exploding late in a maiden race in his dirt debut at Oaklawn in January. He could have raced in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III), but Peitz opted to wait for a longer allowance race and it paid off with a stylish victory.
After breaking from the gate poorly two weeks later in the Rebel, he ran a similar race, but could only close enough ground to finish less than six lengths behind the victorious Secret Circle .
"He breezes pretty much like he runs," said Peitz. "He doesn't show you a whole lot of speed in the first part, and we haven't really tried to change that."
Peitz plans another workout next weekend, depending on the weather, as a final tune-up before the Arkansas Derby.
Trainer Bob Baffert is expected to send Secret Circle back to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby, along with stablemate Bodemeister .
Also breezing at Oaklawn was Rebel fourth-place finisher Jake Mo, who went four furlongs in :51 1/5 for trainer Allen Milligan. The Giacomo colt, owned by Stephen R. Brown, ran second in a division of the Southwest Stakes prior to the Rebel.
In Southern California, Midnight Transfer and I'll Have Another worked handily in preparation for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 7.
Midnight Transfer, the third-place finisher in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) in his two-turn debut March 10, drilled six furlongs in a bullet 1:11 4/5 at Santa Anita Park for trainer Carla Gaines. The son of Hard Spun , owned by Warren B. Williamson, won the San Pedro Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs Jan. 22. His work was the fastest of 15 on the morning.
I'll Have Another continued his excellent string of works for trainer Doug O'Neill since taking the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) in a 43-1 shocker Feb. 4. J. Paul Reddam's chestnut son of Flower Alley was timed in 1:26 for seven furlongs over the Betfair Hollywood Park Cushion Track.
“It was exactly what we wanted,” O’Neill said. “He galloped out a mile in 1:39 and change and cooled out fine. We’re excited about running next Saturday.”