04/12/2012 3:55PM

Oaklawn: Drill gets another chance at two turns in Northern Spur

Benoit Photo
Although Drill is winless in four starts around two turns, trainer Bob Baffert believes he may have been a victim of circumstance.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – There is a Grade 1-winning 3-year-old running at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, but not in the Arkansas Derby. Drill will be in action on the undercard, in the $100,000 Northern Spur.

He will face six others in the one-mile race for 3-year-olds that will begin and end at the sixteenth pole. The Northern Spur is one of four stakes on the closing-day card. Together, the races are worth a cumulative $1,750,000, making the program the richest ever run at Oaklawn.

[MORE: Get PPs and handicapping analysis on Saturday's Oaklawn card]

Drill registered the biggest win of his career last September in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs. He moved to two turns from there, and his best finish in four straight route attempts came in October, when he was second in the Grade 1 Norfolk at Santa Anita. Bob Baffert, who trains Drill for Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman, returned Drill to sprint distances this year, and in his last start the horse won the Grade 2 San Vicente at seven furlongs at Santa Anita.

“I want to give him one more chance at two turns,” said Baffert. “Every time I’ve tried two turns, I’ve put him in the deep end of the pool. He’s working really well, and we’ll just see how he handles it. It might give him more opportunities if he handles it.

“We’ll find out more about him.”

Drill, who in his last start defeated leading Kentucky Derby candidate Creative Cause in the San Vicente, will break from post 7. Rafael Bejarano has the mount on the horse, who is a son of Lawyer Ron, the winner of the 2006 Arkansas Derby.

The chief threat to Drill could be Explain, who was excluded from last weekend’s oversubscribed Illinois Derby. The horse was a $50,000 claim out of his second career start in February, a maiden sprint he won by more than eight lengths. Explain has raced once since, finishing second in a first-level allowance route at Oaklawn on March 16, earning a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 92. The horse was one of 97 nominated to Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

“With his lack of seasoning, it makes sense right now to run here rather than with the big dogs,” said Brad Cox, who trains Explain for the meet’s leading owner, Midwest Thoroughbreds.

John Velazquez has the mount on Explain.

◗ HRTV will be onsite all day Saturday at Oaklawn, with its popular Westrock Coffee First Call program to air live from the track at 11 a.m. Eastern.