Updated on 05/04/2012 4:13PM

Oaklawn Park: Secret Circle holds off fast-closing Optimizer in Rebel

Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park
Secret Circle looked home free in midstretch of the Rebel but had to dig in to hold off Optimizer.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Secret Circle handled the latest distance test in his escalating career Saturday at Oaklawn Park, when he beat a fast-closing Optimizer by three-quarters of a length in the Grade 2, $500,000 Rebel Stakes. In the process, Secret Circle gave his trainer, Bob Baffert, his third consecutive Rebel win in a streak that started with Lookin At Lucky in 2010 and continued with the The Factor in 2011.

Baffert said he wants to get Secret Circle back home to Southern California before making a decision on the horse’s next start. The Rebel is the local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Secret Circle ($4) was making his first start beyond a mile in the Rebel, a mile and a sixteenth race that went with a field of 12 following the scratch of Ring It Up. Secret Circle broke sharply and settled in fourth behind Unbridled’s Note and Scatman, who took the field through fractions of 23.43 seconds for the opening quarter, 47.09 for the half-mile and 1:11.42 for six furlongs, while pushed along by Cyber Secret.

Secret Circle began to pick up steam at the three-eighths pole, coming between horses then going after Scatman, who started to scoot away from the field in the stretch. Secret Circle was resilient, pushing past Scatman, then holding off the late charge of Optimizer. Secret Circle won the mile and a sixteenth race on a track rated fast in 1:44.55. Last month he defeated Scatman in the second division of the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest Stakes.

“He gave me a big kick,” said Rafael Bejarano, the regular rider of Secret Circle. “He finished really well.

“Bob made the right choice to bring this horse back for this kind of race.”

Secret Circle has now won 5 of 6 starts, all for the partnership of Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman.

“He’s moving forward,” Baffert said of Secret Circle. “He was working really well before he went there.”

Secret Circle earned $300,000 for his win in the Rebel, a race that was boosted in value by $200,000 over last year’s running. Overall, the horse has now earned $818,990. Secret Circle won the first stakes of his career in the Jack Goodman last October at Santa Anita. He proceeded to win the $454,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint at Churchill Downs, then won at two turns for the first time in last month’s Southwest at Oaklawn.

The remaining order of finish in the Rebel was Jake Mo in fourth, followed by Cyber Secret, Najjaar, Adirondack King, Sabercat, Pee H Dee, Reckless Jerry, Atigun, and Unbridled’s Note.

Handle on the 11-race card from all sources Saturday was $6,832,020. Attendance was 31,882.