09/28/2011 11:16AM

Hoosier Park: Baffert sends A Z Warrior in for Indiana Oaks

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Tom Keyser
A Z Warrior should appreciate the two turns of Saturday's Indiana Oaks.

ANDERSON, Ind. – The sight remains fresh from the 2010 Indiana Derby: Bob Baffert and Mike Pegram giddily floating down a flight of stairs toward the Hoosier Park winner’s circle, thrilled with the way Lookin At Lucky had just stamped himself as one of the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in a highly impressive victory.

No such scenario will play out here Saturday when the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby is run for the 17th time. Baffert thought about sending in Coil for Pegram and partners before opting to keep him home at Santa Anita for the Goodwood instead. Same goes for Prayer for Relief, his West Virginia Derby winner owned by Zayat Stables; the colt, one of four that Baffert nominated to the Indiana Derby, “needs to be freshened up,” the Hall of Fame trainer concluded Wednesday from California.

Still, Baffert sent A Z Warrior here for Zayat to run in the main undercard event, the $200,000 Indiana Oaks, a 1 1/16-mile race Baffert won last year with the ill-fated Always a Princess. A Z Warrior has had a stop-and-start campaign since winning the Grade 1 Frizette last fall, racing just three times, with her latest being a useful outing when fourth in the Grade 3 Victory Ride, a six-furlong race on the Aug. 27 Travers undercard at Saratoga.

“That race was just too short,” said Baffert, who intends to watch the Oaks via simulcast from Santa Anita. “She’ll like the two turns a lot better. She’s had three nice works back here, so she bounced out of that last one real well.”

Lookin At Lucky, the eventual 3-year-old champion, ran fourth as the 9-2 second choice in the BC Classic last year.

Albarado picks up mount on Caleb’s Posse

Rajiv Maragh was aboard Caleb’s Posse in winning the Amsterdam and King’s Bishop at Saratoga, but Robby Albarado will assume the reins Saturday when the colt preps for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in the Indiana Derby.

“Rajiv was committed to ride Tizway” in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday at Belmont Park, said trainer Donnie Von Hemel. “By the time we found out Tizway wouldn’t run [because of missed training due to a fever], we’d already gotten Robby.”

Von Hemel said the versatility Caleb’s Posse has shown in winning stakes at a variety of distances this year “had us looking at both the Sprint and the Dirt Mile for the Breeders’ Cup” on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs before the decision was made to point to the Dirt Mile.

“Once we came to that consensus, there were quite a few factors that took us to the Indiana Derby: distance, timing, straight 3-year-olds, a good purse,” said Von Hemel, who will arrive here by air Friday from Oklahoma City. “Obviously we’re hoping it’ll set us up just right for the Breeders’ Cup.”

Little Drama had trouble in West Virginia Derby

One of the fringe contenders in the Indiana Derby is Little Drama, whose latest race in the Aug. 6 West Virginia Derby was fraught with trouble. By turning his head sideways just as the gates opened, Little Drama immediately spotted the field a few lengths, then went very wide when making an eye-catching run in the final turn before fading late to finish sixth of nine.

Trainer David Fawkes will watch the Indiana Derby from Belmont Park, where he will send out Little Drama’s older half-brother, Big Drama, in the Vosburgh. Big Drama won the BC Sprint last year.

Little Drama was scheduled to arrive here Wednesday and be stabled with Tony Granitz, who will saddle the colt for Fawkes.

* Hoosier officials have announced a purse increase, effective Tuesday and through the end of the meet. Non-conditioned claiming purses are being raised $2,000 to $3,000, depending on the category.

Already, purses at this slots-fueled racino exceed those for most comparable races in surrounding states, most notably Kentucky and Illinois.