11/02/2013 6:17PM

Breeders' Cup Sprint: Secret Circle overcomes layoff, traffic

Tom Keyser
Secret Circle had raced only once since April 2012 prior to his Breeders' Cup win.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Secret Circle, a horse who wasn’t on anybody’s radar screen a month ago, emerged as the leading candidate to win a division championship after overcoming an eventful trip to register a neck victory over the fast-closing Laugh Track on Saturday at Santa Anita in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Secret Circle’s victory was the second of the day for the team of trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Martin Garcia, who combined earlier to win the Juvenile with New Year’s Day. It was also the second Breeders’ Cup victory for Secret Circle, who won the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint at Churchill Downs in 2011.

[BREEDERS' CUP SATURDAY: Video replays and race results]

Secret Circle had been idle for 18 months when he returned to action just three weeks ago to capture a six-furlong allowance race here on Oct. 14, earning a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure. Saturday’s victory in the six-furlong Sprint kept the 4-year-old son of Eddington’s record perfect in five starts at distances of six furlongs or less.

Secret Circle was well placed behind the early leaders, with Sum of the Parts setting a blistering opening quarter of 21.34. Sum of the Parts was replaced on the front end around the turn by Gentlemen’s Bet, who slipped through along the rail to take the field into the stretch after a half-mile in 43.72.

Secret Circle found himself in between horses and shuffled back briefly on the turn, at which point Garcia angled him six wide turning for home to get a clear run at Gentlemen’s Bet, who had drawn well clear nearing midstretch. But Secret Circle was full of run, finishing strongly down the center of the course to overtake Gentlemen’s Bet before withstanding a closing surge from Laugh Track.

Gentlemen’s Bet held on to finish third, followed by supplemental entry Majestic Stride and Justin Phillip. Trinniberg, the defending Sprint champion, raced very wide and was never a serious factor, finishing 10th in the 12-horse field.

Secret Circle is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weilman, the same team that won two Breeders’ Cup Sprints with Midnight Lute. Secret Circle covered six furlongs in 1:08.73 and paid $7 as the favorite.

“They have to be a great horse to do what he did coming back off that kind of layoff,” said Baffert. “I almost had him ready last year and then he had another little setback. So we got him back here, freshened him up. He was training really great and we were able to get the race into him. I thought he’d win or run well in his first start back, then he went [1:07.98] and came back to the winner’s circle and wasn’t really tired. After which Martin said, ‘Now he’s ready.’ So the boys here said if he’s doing good, let’s take a shot.”

Baffert said he got a little nervous about halfway through the Sprint, when it looked like Sweet Circle was getting pinched back a bit between horses.

“I was a little leery about him at the three-eighths pole,” said Baffert. “I saw the outside horse was rushing him and he didn’t look comfortable. Then turning for home, I thought we’d given up a lot of ground, but you can just see that this horse does not like to lose. Only certain horses like Midnight Lute or Secret Circle could pull something off like this, especially going six furlongs, and come back three weeks later with the bounce factor and all that. But he bounced right into the winner’s circle.”  

Trainer Mark Casse had originally given first preference for Laugh Track to the Dirt Mile before opting to run him in the Sprint.

“They run the Filly and Mare Sprint at seven eighths," said Casse. "I wish they ran this at at seven-eighths as well. But he ran a great race.”

$2 exacta (9-12), $50.40
$1 trifecta (9-12-3), $353.90
$1 superfecta (9-12-3-4) $5,238.10
$2 double (11-9), $110.20