A game Secret Circle outdueled Scatman in the stretch to win the second division of the $250,000 Southwest Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) , giving trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Rafael Bejarano a sweep of the President’s Day features at Oaklawn Park.
JEOG Racing’s Scatman jumped out to an early lead in the two-turn mile contest for 3-year-olds but was soon joined closely by Secret Circle, the 3-5 favorite who was making his second start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint at the end of his 2011 season.
After Scatman and jockey Luis Quinonez led through a quick pace of :46.81 for the first half-mile, Bejarano and Secret Circle engaged the leader and those two dueled to the wire, with Secret Circle getting up to win by a facile half length.
The winner paid $3.20, $3.20, and $2.40, while Scatman was worth $6.40 and $4.60. Adirondack Kid finished third, returning $3.60. Pee H Dee ran fourth, followed by Cyber Secret , Z Rockstar, Chalybeate Springs, King Corral, Apprehender, and Big Wednesday.
The final time for the two-turn mile was 1:37.08, nearly a second faster than Castaway’s time in winning the first division.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Secret Circle is a 3-year-old son of Eddington produced from the Dixieland Band mare Ragtime Hope. Bred in Kentucky by Willmott Stables, he was purchased by Smack Down Farm for $165,000 from the Flying Fish consignment to the 2011 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March 2-year-olds in training sale.
The winner of four of five career starts with a second in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) to his credit, Secret Circle has bankrolled $518,990, and with $170,000 in graded stakes earnings is now 13th on that list which is used to determine the starting field for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
“This horse tries every time,” Weitman said. “I was a little nervous at the end, but he dug in and got there. It’s always fun to come here. It’s one of my favorite places. We’ll leave his next start up to Bob (Baffert). He’s the coach.”
“When I asked him to run, he had more left than I expected,” said Bejarano. “He showed a lot of heart today and I’m very pleased with his effort.”
Baffert, who was not at Oaklawn for his Southwest sweep, complimented his stable employees. “What a week,” Baffert said via Twitter. “Won all my races this week. I have a great team.”
“I’m glad and I’m sad,” said Michael Lauer, who trains Scatman. “He ran a big race, but he just got beat. Turning for home I thought we were alive. We knew he’d have to step up to run well in here, but we wanted to stay here. There was no reason to really look elsewhere. We felt he had a big chance. Now we’ll get him back and reevaluate to see what the next step is.”
“It was a good race,” said Quinonez. “He tried really hard, gave 110%. I kind of thought we’d pull it out, but the other horse came up on us at the end of the race.”