By Dick Downey
Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Rafael Bejarano completed a sweep of both divisions of the Grade III Southwest Stakes, winning part 2 with favored Secret Circle.
Secret Circle, breaking from post 9, was always in contention. He followed Scatman through iniitial splits of :23.21, :46.81 and 1:11.25. In deep stretch, Scatman stayed tough, up by a head as Secret Circle drifted out a bit, but the son of Eddington surged past Scatman a few jumps from the wire and prevailed by a half-length.
Adirondack King made a belated run to finish third, beaten six lengths, followed by Pee H Dee and Cyber Secret. They were followed in turn by Z Rockstar, Chalybeate Springs, King Coral, Apprehender and Big Wednesday in the 10-horse field.
Secret Circle was timed in 1:37.08, virtually exactly one second faster than Castaway's time in the first division of the Southwest. Secret Circle, the 3-5 favorite at post time, paid $3.20, $3.20 and $2.40.
The $250,000 purse paid $150,000 to Secret Circle, $50,000 to Scatman and $25,000 to Adirondack King.
According to TVG, Baffert said before the Southwest that this could be Secret Circle's final race at two turns. Time will tell. He's owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, the same connections as Grade II San Vicente winner Drill -- who looks like he has a one-turn future himself.
Secret Circle is out of Ragtime Hope by Dixieland Band. He was bred in Kentucky by Willmott Stables.
Winning owner Paul Weitman, Secret Circle – “This horse tries every time. 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. He’s the coach.”
Winning jockey Rafael Bejarano, Secret Circle - “It went well. He showed speed. When I asked him to run, he had more left than I expected. He showed a lot of heart today, and I’m very pleased with his effort.”
Second-place trainer Michael Lauer, Scatman - “I’m glad and I’m sad. He ran a big race, but he just got beat. Turning for home, I thought we were alive. Once we came out of his last race, we knew this was the race to be in. We never thought the allowance race would go, so this would be the next logical spot. 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.”
Second-place jockey Luis Quinonez, Scatman - “It was a good race. 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.”
Third-place trainer John Servis, Adirondack King - “He ran very well. He was just the third best today. First time going two turns, Stuart mentioned he’d like to get out a little earlier so he could start easing out through the other horses. He feels comfortable here and will probably even stick around for the Rebel.”
Third-place jockey Stuart Elliot, Adirondack King - “I thought he ran a good race for the first time going two turns. I wish I had started to creep out with him a little earlier. The first two were well in front of me, but I thought he gave a good showing for himself. It’s nice to be back in Hot Springs. My horse showed his speed. He looked good and ran well.”
Jockey Lindey Wade, fourth-place finisher Pee H Dee “My horse had a good trip. I really want to thank Chris Richard and the owners. I really appreciate them giving me the opportunity to ride both horses.”
Lynn Whiting, trainer of Cyber Secret, fifth– “I thought we might have been a little close. He got pinched at the start and Channing had to use him a little bit or else he would have fallen back into a rut there. Then that meant he had to use him a little earlier. I think we might have been better served, after seeing the fractions that they put up, to maybe take back a little bit. We’ll get him back and see where we are before making a move.”
Donnie K Von Hemel, trainer of Z Rockstar, sixth - “This was just a little too tough for us today. No excuses here.”