02/21/2012 4:07PM

Oaklawn: Baffert will return for Rebel

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Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park
Secret Circle, with Rafael Bejarano riding, wins the second division of Southwest, giving trainer Bob Baffert a sweep in the stakes.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – After sweeping both divisions of the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on Monday, trainer Bob Baffert said he will be back for the track’s Grade 2, $500,000 Rebel on March 17. The question is with whom?

Baffert has a battery of top 3-year-olds in his care, a list that grew Monday when Secret Circle won at two turns for the first time in the Southwest, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 102, and Castaway parlayed a Santa Anita maiden win into $150,000 in graded stakes gold in the second division of the race. Baffert’s 3-year-olds also include Liaison, Fed Biz, and Bodemeister.

“I will be at the Rebel,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t know what horse. If they split, I’ll be there with two!”

Oaklawn’s president, Charles Cella, made the rare move to run two divisions of the Southwest, a stepping-stone to the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby, after the race drew 21 entries. Secret Circle, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, ran in the second division, and his time of 1:37.08 for the mile was a full second faster than Castaway’s first division, which went in 1:38.09. Castaway earned a Beyer Figure of 92 and now sits 17th on the latest list of graded earnings for the Kentucky Derby. Secret Circle is 13th, with $170,000.

Baffert committed the two horses to the Southwest about 24 hours before a flight from Southern California left for Arkansas last Tuesday.

“I was debating which horses to bring there,” Baffert said. “I waited until the day before. I actually worked Castaway and Secret Circle together, and they worked heads-up together. They both worked great.

“Everybody needs to do what Charles Cella is doing. It makes it easier to run our good horses. It was a good idea [splitting the race]. Oaklawn Park is coming center stage getting horses ready for the Kentucky Derby.”

Baffert said both Secret Circle and Castaway were to fly home later this week, and from there decisions would be made with regard to their next starts.

“I want to get them back and see how they responded to the trip,” he said.

[MORE: Dan Illman on Bob Baffert's big week]