03/19/2012 1:41PM

Kentucky Derby trail: Baffert sending Castaway to Sunland Derby

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Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography
Castaway, with Rafael Bejarano riding, wins his division of the Southwest.

Bob Baffert is heading south by Southwest. Fresh off a victory by Secret Circle in the Rebel Stakes on Saturday at Oaklawn Park, Baffert will send Castaway to Sunland Park on Sunday for the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby.

Both Castaway and Secret Circle won divisions of the Southwest Stakes last month. Secret Circle was Baffert’s lone representative in the Rebel, and he came from just off the pace for the win. Now, Castaway will try to hold up the stable’s honor in the Sunland Derby, and he will be joined by Stirred Up, a recent maiden winner at Santa Anita who worked six furlongs in 1:12.20 on Monday morning at Hollywood Park.

“He worked great,” said Baffert.

Martin Garcia worked Stirred Up, and he has the mount in the Sunland Derby. Rafael Bejarano will be on Castaway.

The Sunland Derby will also include Ender Knievel, a recent maiden winner at Gulfstream Park for trainer Todd Pletcher, who on Monday said John Velazquez would have the mount.

Pletcher had a busy day Monday. He finalized plans for the unbeaten Gemologist, who scored an easy allowance victory in his 2012 debut on Friday at Gulfstream Park, and he worked Discreet Dancer, who finished third in the Fountain of Youth in his most recent start.

Gemologist will definitely make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7, Pletcher said. Pletcher also had been considering the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby, but said the timing of the Wood Memorial is more desirable.

“We felt like we’d rather have four weeks to the big race than three,” Pletcher said. Coming back in just three weeks for the Wood was made easier, Pletcher said, because Gemologist’s race on Friday “was easy, not stressful.”

Discreet Dancer worked five furlongs in 1:01.01 at Palm Meadows in preparation for the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on April 1.

Javier Castellano has the mount on both Gemologist and Discreet Dancer for their respective races, Pletcher said.

Pletcher also will be in action on Saturday at Turfway in this weekend’s other important Derby prep, the Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral Stakes. He will send out Heavy Breathing (Castellano the rider) and Holiday Promise (Junior Alvarado).

The Rebel last Saturday had the weekend to itself as the only graded stakes for Derby runners. Baffert said Secret Circle was scheduled to fly back to California on Wednesday, but would return to Oaklawn for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 14.

Keeneland/Coady Photography
All Squared Away, a 70-to-1 longshot, prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths over favorite Summer Front in the Lexington Stakes.

“We found a new dimension that we didn’t know we had,” Baffert said. “About the half-mile pole, it looked like he wasn’t running. It looked like, at the three-eighths pole, he was going to get nothing. But he dove inside and starting running.

“He’s a quirky horse. He reminds me of Silver Charm. He’ll win, but he’s not going to show himself. I was really impressed with him. I thought he was hopelessly beaten at the three-eighths pole. He pulled it through. He just seems to get the job done.”

Both Smarty Jones, in 2004, and Lawyer Ron, in 2006, swept the Southwest, Rebel, and Arkansas Derby.

Baffert said Bodemeister, the San Felipe runner-up, also could go to the Arkansas Derby.

“I don’t have a problem running them both there,” Baffert said.

Bodemeister’s other option is the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7, but Baffert may desire another week coming off a hard race in the San Felipe.

The Arkansas Derby also is expected to include Optimizer, Scatman, and Jake Mo – who finished second through fourth, respectively, in the Rebel – as well as Delta Jackpot winner Sabercat, who finished eighth in his first start of the year.

– additional reporting by Mary Rampellini

Douglas More than 1 year ago
castaway - isnt he clever - daddy nose best - erlder kenievel - stirred up - zack n mat : this surely cant be the $ 8 0 0 , 0 0 0 sunland derby ! where are all the colts that are needing the graded earnings for a possible birth in the kentucky derby ! i could have sworn that the sunland derby would have been completely filled with hopefulls . one this is for sure , as of now - there is no superstar name added to this group . that is sad to see , when we get nice purse money for stake races like this - that trainers/owners dont take care of business and complete these kind of stakes races that seem so important . i just dont understand . sure there are several reasons why , im sure . yet we are a good 45 days away from the roses in may , and your telling me that out of 48 possible starters that thus far only 6 are listed - no wonder we have problems taking care of business in stakes purse money . this would be one of two perfect options where the top notches are not there , sunland derby , sprital stakes
paul cervenan More than 1 year ago
Let's see, in the last three years for the Classics, Todd Pletcher, (the Butcher) has had 3 damaged good colts, who did not start after championship 2 year old seasons. Is this a phenomenon ? No, it's called: getting to the "Dance" at any cost. Can't you Millionaires find a less popular name, who is a horse trainer? Lon Wiggins made "Rachel" and Jon Sherriffs made" Zenyatta". Neither has a horse for Derby? Seems to me, three strikes and you're out !
Jerry Sabo More than 1 year ago
Baffert and Pletcher need to qualify as many as the can so they can fill the Derby field and that gives them better chance of getting LUCKY. It also keeps the beautiful people happy by being in the Derby, and they stay in the media spotlight which keeps the big money rolling in. People think they are the best trainers in the world? BS!
rcdom More than 1 year ago
i just think these 2 races, the southwest and rebel are a bunch of second tier horses that have no shot inthe derby! optimizer! please
Douglas More than 1 year ago
AMEN to that . Abunch of middle class wanna bees racing in big stakes races , and the sad thing about this is : the lack of other TOP QUALITY DERBY CONTENDERS opting to go else where to score graded earnings ! I can not believe my eyes when I see the lack of WHAT I BELIEVE ARE QUALITY DERBY POSSIBLES still on the side-line opting to go to the likes of the FLORIDA DERBY , SANTA ANITA DERBY , WOOD MEMORIAL ...... when the ARKANSAS DERBY LOOKS TO BE THE SOFTEST PLACE TO SCORE A TOP TWO FINISH ( IF YA TRULY BELIEVE IN YOUR HORSE ) . Why are so many trainers / owners not picking up on this ! My God people , lets get serious - SECRET CIRCLE RUNS HIS HEART OUT and only gets a 92 / 94 BEYER . I Would Be Shipping Him Back To California A.S.A.P. too . LETS GET A SERIOUS GROUP OF DERBY CONTENDERS IN THE ( ARKANSAS DERBY ) Baffert , Please bring BODEMEISTER . He is truly your only KENTUCKY DERBY Threat . And then , im not too sure BODEMEISTER will be conditioned for the DERBY .
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
No need to feel frustrated, try to understand how this works. Just like a coach will almost always start the #1 ace in the first game of a baseball series or the best penalty taker to take the first penalty in a sudden death soccer game, a trainer always think about the first major prep first, and the last major prep last. This has proven to work over decades. If a horse doesn't get enough $$ in the Florida Derby, you come back in the Arkansas Derby or the Blue Grass. Heck, lets go in the Derby Trial too. Check out the PPs of PP. For the record, the Rebel was not a weak race among its counterparts. Most people would rate it #2 out of the five MPDP (major preps to the Derby preps). From top to bottom, the Rebel (Arkansas Derby) is behind the #1 San Felipe (Santa Anita Derby) but above the co #3s, in my opinion, Gotham (Wood Memorial) and Risen Star (Louisiana Derby) and the almost consensus weakest was the Fountain of Youth (Florida Derby). The Rebel winning Beyer of 92 is only 3 points lower than Union Rags who is the most formidable Derby horse in most books. Even when compared to Creative Cause's 102, a 10 point difference for 3yo this time of the year is nothing, not to mention that Secret Circle had run equal or close to 102 in all his starts except for the Rebel. The 92 could easily prove to be a bounce. We will find out after the Arkansas Derby. Handicapping is far beyond numbers, rules of thumb, and what seemingly obvious. One has to be creative, conniving, boldly risk taking, and artistic as well. That's why it is so great. Another interesting note, only Creative Cause was able to run significantly faster than the older filly and mare on the same track. Tiz Miz Sue 102 vs Secret Circle 92, Havre De Grace 102 vs El Padrino 98, Awesome Maria 100 vs Union Rags 95, Hansen 95 vs It's Tricky 92 I would call it almost even. What does Creative Cause 102 vs Include Me Out 95 tell us? Weak older filly and mare division out west. Now take out Ron The Greek and make the same comparisons vs older handicap horses. We can conclude that the handicap division out west is also weak sans the Dubai bound Game on Dude. The smart move is to do what Bill Mott did with Ron The Greek, send you older horses/colts and mares/fillies out west to get the easy money. That's a no-brainer analysis, but in the land of 3 year olds, nothing is ever clear cut or easy.
Jerre George More than 1 year ago
I absolutely agree, Douglas! I think the crop of three-year-olds this year is kind of weak, but I have been really disappointed with the quality of horses running at Oaklawn in the major preps. I don't understand trainers. Is it just that California, New York, and Florida are so elite that coming to Arkansas is slumming? I don't get it.
jose mesa More than 1 year ago
Great Baffert will keep baffling handicappers including the ones that pick the 23 for the Derby future wager.Both his probable starters in the Arkansas Derby as well as his Sunland Derby starter were included in all others in pool 1.SC dosent remind me of Silver Charm in one sense his dam Bonnies Poker made over 100 starts in her career.,but as far as running style Silver Charm looked like he needed the lead heading into the Derby but he ran well within himself and would not let Captain Bodgit pass him.