02/25/2010 12:00AM

Oaklawn roundup

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Trainer Bob Baffert sent Conveyance to Oaklawn for last weekend's to learn something about the horse. After Conveyance turned in perhaps the best performance of his career, Baffert now knows Conveyance ships like a pro and handles real, live dirt.

"That puts him right in the Derby picture," Baffert said shortly after the Southwest. "That's what we were looking for."

Conveyance, who is based in Southern California, ran an outstanding race to remain undefeated. He was saddled with post 9 in the one-mile stakes, which started and ended at the sixteenth pole, and had to use his speed to get position into the first turn. After running the opening six furlongs in 1:10.67, he held off a serious bid from Grade 1 winner Dublin.

In addition to setting a demanding pace, Conveyance spotted almost all of his rivals weight in the Southwest per the allowance conditions of the race. He carried 122 pounds, compared with 117 by Dublin and 115 by third-place finisher Cardiff Giant.

Conveyance was composed before the race in the sunken indoor saddling area, with many in the crowd of 20,171 looking down on the horses. It's a scene that can be unnerving for some, but not for Conveyance, who along with the other Southwest starters moved to the infield, where it was riders up. But it was not that simple for Conveyance. He had to be taken back to the indoor paddock to be resaddled and again was well-mannered while being led there.

Conveyance set a measured pace to win in his two-turn debut and stakes debut at Santa Anita last month. He showed that same ability to rate last week in a local work, which had to be scheduled after the Southwest was delayed five days. Conveyance proved to be quite responsive to his rider in a move that was key, Baffert said.

"Calvin Borel played a big part working him for me," Baffert said. "That was huge."

Martin Garcia was aboard Conveyance for the Southwest, while Borel rode Dryfly.

The next-race plans for Conveyance, a good-sized gray son of Indian Charlie, are still being determined. He is owned by Zabeel Racing International.

TRACK TRENDS

The surface sped up considerably last week, with meet-best times for two popular distances, one mile and six furlongs, both being achieved on the card of Feb. 18. First up was Tidal Pool, who ran a mile in 1:36.40 to take a second-level allowance against fillies and mares. Then came Riley Tucker, who edged Early Return and Posse Cat to win a six-furlong allowance for older horses in 1:09.60. Tidal Pool earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102, and Riley Tucker a 94.

The trend continued into the weekend, with Conveyance turning in the fastest Southwest time since 1995, with a one-mile time of 1:36.80.

It is difficult to predict if the quick times will continue, as forecasters were calling for temperatures to dip into the low 30s late in the week. They reached the 50s last Sunday. Less water is used to maintain the surface when it's cold, which could lead to a slower track.

WHO'S HOT

Poindexter Thoroughbreds won five races last week at Oaklawn to move to the lead in the owner standings. All of its winners were trained by either Allen Milligan or Lynn Chleborad. Abel Castellano Jr. was aboard three of the Poindexter winners from last week, all trained by Milligan.

Poindexter's biggest day so far this meet came Feb. 18, with a three-bagger. And the horses paid generous prices of $12.80, $13, and $10.40. Overall, Poindexter has had 9 wins from 34 starters through Feb. 21. The second-leading owner, Westrock Stables, was 6 for 21 through Feb. 21.

Jockey Corey Nakatani, who had another strong week to maintain his position atop the standings, is an equal-opportunity rider. Of his 26 wins through Feb. 21, 13 were in sprints and 13 were in routes. Broken down, he has had 42 route mounts and 70 sprint mounts. Nakatani is 2 for 9 in stakes, his latest coming last weekend aboard One Smokin' Lady in the $60,000 Spring Fever.

ON THE STAKES DOCKET

The $60,000 Mountain Valley on Saturday is for 3-year-olds of a different kind - sprinters. Nominees to the six-furlong race include Comedero, the winner of the Old Hickory at Fair Grounds, and Perfect Drive, who set the pace in the $200,000 Springboard Mile last fall at Remington Park.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Activity Report, the fourth-place finisher in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club who won a first-level allowance here in January, is being pointed to the Mountain Valley. Backwater Blues, another local allowance winner, is being considered for the race, too, trainer Cindy Jones said.

Notable past winners of the Mountain Valley include Top Avenger in 1981, Polar Expedition in 1994, Valid Expectations in 1996, Smoke Glacken in 1997, and Afleet Alex in 2005.

TALES FROM THE TRACK

Jockeys at Oaklawn can be fined if they ride to the second finish line in one-mile races, which end at the sixteenth pole, without permission granted from the stewards. But such errors are small in comparison to the mistake a pair of jockeys made on a half-mile oval in another jurisdiction one afternoon in the 1960s, retired Daily Racing Form columnist Don Grisham said.

"It was like a mile and a half race," Grisham said, "and the rider on the lead lost track of how many times he had been around and kept riding. And the guy that was second thought, 'Maybe I ought to stay with him just to be on the safe side.' So those two are whipping and driving and everyone else is pulled up and were in the act of unsaddling. Meanwhile, they went around another time!"

Grisham said stewards had to make a special decision on punishment for the occasion, and he believes the judgement was a fine of $50.

HORSES TO WATCH

Tidal Pool

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Last race: Feb. 18, 2nd

Finish: 1st by 8

Put on an absolute show when she overcame older rivals and the outside post to win a one-mile allowance for fun. Covered the distance in a meet-best time of 1:36.40, and earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 102. She is now a candidate for the Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 26. Earlier this year, Tidal Pool was third to future Grade 3 Silverbulletday winner Jody Slew in the Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds. She is a daughter of Yankee Gentleman.

Henshin Hero

Trainer: Bret Calhoun

Last race: Feb. 20, 7th

Finish: 1st by 7 1/4

He put a nice field away on the front end in a first-level allowance sprint, racing clear through rapid fractions of 21.61 seconds for the opening quarter and 44.85 for the half-mile. He pulled away through the lane to cover the six furlongs in 1:10. A 3-year-old by Dance Master, he earned a Beyer Figure of 96.

Winsor's Music

Trainer: Tim Ritchey

Last race: Feb. 20, 8th

Finish: 4th by 5 1/2

He made his debut in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight and was quite wide into the first turn. He moved up nicely down the backside, then closed well behind a wire-to-wire winner, missing third by a neck to Tiz Dangerous, a $350,000 son of Tiznow. The two galloped out together strongly. Winsor's Music is a good-sized son of Tapit.