04/08/2011 4:53PM

Oaklawn Handicap: Misremembered looks to build on 2011 debut

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The $7,000 that trainer Bob Baffert spent to acquire an old broodmare he remembered as a racehorse has not only produced the best runner he has ever bred but also one of the leading handicap horses in North America.

Misremembered actually sits atop the older male rankings of Daily Racing Form national handicapper Mike Watchmaker after his smashing seasonal debut in last month’s Santana Mile at Santa Anita. He will be making his second start of the year Saturday in the Grade 2, $350,000 Oaklawn Handicap.

The 1 1/8-mile race opens the Racing Festival of the South, when nine stakes are run over the final six dates of the meet, capped by the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 16. The races are worth a collective $2.7 million, and such prize money tends to lure some of racing’s top horses. An appearance by Misremembered is a fine start to the festival. He will face five others, including local favorite Win Willy.

Baffert avidly followed the racing career of Misremembered’s dam, Beyond Perfection, who won three California stakes in 1990 and 1991. She turned up at a dispersal sale many years later, and he purchased the mare who on a mating to Candy Ride produced Misremembered.

“I used to watch his mother run,” Baffert said. “I was a fan. She won the Del Mar Debutante by 10 lengths. She could really, really run.”

Baffert took a chance on Beyond Perfection as a broodmare prospect, even though she was 17 at the time of the dispersal.

“She was old and open,” he said. “I got lucky.”

Misremembered, 5, has won 6 of 12 starts and $1.2 million, with his latest performance perhaps his most impressive. He put up a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 106 winning the $80,000 Santana Mile by three lengths in a blazing 1:33.40. The March 6 race also was his first start in exactly a year, since his 2010 win in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.

“He kept coming up with the little things that were not serious,” Baffert said of the layoff. “I wasn’t in a big rush with him. His comeback race was just unbelievable, the way he ran. He did it so effortlessly. He could have easily broken the track record. It was very encouraging.

“I just hope he doesn’t react from the huge race he ran. I don’t see it in his works.”

Misremembered has worked back sharply, among his drills six furlongs in 1:09.60 at Santa Anita on March 29.

“I would have liked to have taken him to the Dubai World Cup,” Baffert said. “We were a couple of weeks late. We’re just going to see how he runs and take it from there. I don’t want to run him too many times . . . at the end of the year there’s the Breeders’ Cup.”

Calvin Borel will ride Misremembered, whom Baffert trains for his wife, Jill, and George Jacobs.

Win Willy won the $75,000 Fifth Season at Oaklawn in January, then was second in the $100,000 Essex Handicap and third in the Grade 3 Razorback. Trainer Mac Robertson is hoping for an honest pace as the horse, who is a deep closer, has had little help this meet in the way of honest fractions.

“My horse can beat anybody if he gets pace, and anybody can beat him if he doesn’t,” Robertson said. “It is what it is. When he gets pace, I’ve seen him run by anybody. That’s his game.”

Razorback winner It Happened Again will be seeking his fourth win of the meet in the Oaklawn Handicap. Grade 3 winner Winslow Homer also is entered.