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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Baffert, Lukas Ready to Roll after Rebel One-Two Punch

3/18/2012

With a third straight Rebel Stakes victory, Bob Baffert says he can't wait for the Grade I Arkansas Derby.

Secret Circle showed a new style for the 1 1/16th-mile, Grade II Rebe. He stalked the pace from more distance than any of his previous starts.

“The win was exciting, and the way he did it was promising,” said Baffert Sunday. “It was a good schooling for him, and I think he should get a lot out of it, although my guys tell me he was hardly blowing when he got back.”

Secret Circle races for Watson, Pegram and Weitman, the same owners behind the first of Baffert’s consecutive Rebel victors with champion Lookin At Lucky in 2010. Baffert followed up last year with The Factor then kept the roll going last month when he and Rafael Bejarano swept both divisions of the Grade III Southwest Stakes.

“He’s run well there and likes that track,” said Baffert. “If everything is good over the next few weeks, we will definitely come back.”

Baffert will point Castaway, the other Southwest division winner, to the $800,000 Grade III Sunland Derby next Sunday.

Still Needs Work

Baffert said he sees things about Secret Circle that need work.

“He keeps shutting it down too early,” he said. “He kind of pulls himself up and throws out an anchor. I thought he was just going to blow by (Scatman), but he waited a little bit. We can fix that with competition and try and work that out of him.”

This latest Rebel win brings Baffert’s career record at Oaklawn to 13 wins in 21 starts. In the last three years, Baffert is 10-for-13 with three Rebel wins, three Southwest victories, an Azeri Stakes tally and two other six-figure stakes wins.

All Well for Most Other Starters

Nearly every runner in the Rebel returned in good order according to their handlers on Sunday morning.

The exception is Adirondack King, who developed colic late Sunday morning.

After the race, Pegram acknowledged that Optimizer almost caught Secret Circle, to which D. Wayne Lukas offered congratulations and playfully said, “You know the races get longer from here.”

That enthusiasm was still in evidence Sunday morning in the Lukas barn.  The Arkansas Derby is in their sights.

Mike Lauer said he was disappointed. Scatman took a clear lead into the stretch, only to flatten out in the final furlong.

“It felt like we were going to run away once we put them away,” said Lauer, who reported the colt was fine overnight. “He ran good, but he didn’t run great. He kind of gawked a bit and didn’t finish. We will give him a week, see how he does and see where we go from here.”

“The whole time has been very good,” said owner James O’Grady, whose nom-du-course is JEOG Racing LLC. “The people here have been great, they’ve got a good track and the hospitality is special. We’ll head back home to check the messages on the phone. We need a service because this horse has gotten us so many calls.”

Trainer Allen Milligan described the fourth-place finish of Jake Mo as “awesome,” and declared the son of Giacomo likely to take a swing in the Arkansas Derby.

“I thought he ran a great race to finish where he did. We just came from too far out of it,” said Milligan. “He had to steady a little bit, but he finished strong. Talent-wise, he seems like he’s a notch below a great horse, but then everything we’ve thrown at him, he’s done. We thought about maybe going somewhere a little easier, but he keeps doing enough to give it another shot.”

Cyber Secret continues to confound trainer Lynn Whiting with an inability to relax in his races. Immediately after the fifth-place finish, Whiting said he would consider taking blinkers off. His assistants reported the colt was fine Sunday morning.

Trainer Danny Peitz reported that his sixth-place finisher Najjaar was “doing fine” Sunday morning, and that if things kept going well the next month, they’d take a serious look at the Arkansas Derby.

Atigun had “really no excuses” according to assistant trainer Philip Bauer Sunday morning. Aitgun finished eleventh. “We’ll wait a couple days and see if anything pops up,” said Bauer, who works for Ken McPeek. “We’re obviously disappointed in that effort. Maybe he fooled us into thinking that he was ready after missing the (Southwest). We’ll regroup and see what the next step is.”

Mitch Dennison, assistant to Steve Asmussen, said that team was disappointed by the eighth-place finish by Sabercat in his first start of the year and the last-place result for Unbridled’s Note. He said there were no apparent problems with either colt Sunday morning.

Trainer Kenny Smith ordered Dream Walkin’ Farms’ Reckless Jerry scoped following that runner’s tenth-place finish. The son of Cactus Ridge was second in the Smarty Jones Stakes and third in a Southwest division in his last start.

Adirondack King was doing well after finishing seventh, according to trainer John Servis, but he began to show signs of colic around 8:00 a.m. and was treated with the usual medications to relieve the condition.

--Edited Oaklawn release

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