01/05/2012 3:16PM

Santa Anita: Secret Circle at a crossroads in Sham Stakes

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Alysse Jacobs
Secret Circle, with Rafael Bejarano riding, wins the BC Juvenile Sprint.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Secret Circle’s career may change after Saturday’s $100,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.

The unbeaten winner of three races, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint at Churchill Downs in November, Secret Circle makes his first start at a mile in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds. A brilliant sprinter, he must prove that he is not a one-dimensional colt and can carry that enthusiasm around two turns.

“It will be interesting,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “I think the jury is still out on the turn turns.”

Baffert has plans for Secret Circle, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s race. A win, or even a game finish, would lead to more races at distances. A disappointing performance would put an end to such an idea.

“This is a good spot to try him,” Baffert said. “If he doesn’t do well, I’ll keep him at one turn. If he does do well, we can ship him out of town.”

Secret Circle will be favored in the Sham, which drew a field of six. The Sham Stakes is the third race on a nine-race program that begins at 12:30 p.m. and includes the $150,000 San Pasqual Stakes for older horses over 1 1/16 miles.

Secret Circle drew post 4 and will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano. A colt by Eddington, Secret Circle wore blinkers in the BC Juvenile Sprint, but will not be fitted with that equipment in the Sham. He did not wear blinkers in his first two starts, a maiden race win at Del Mar or the Jack Goodman Stakes at Santa Anita in October.

Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Secret Circle won the BC Juvenile Sprint by a length. He fought for the early lead, through an opening quarter-mile in 20.96 seconds, took over on the turn, led by three lengths in the stretch and won by a length.

“What he did at the Breeders’ Cup was remarkable,” Baffert said.

Baffert has had the Sham Stakes in mind for Secret Circle in recent weeks. A trainer known for working horses quickly, Baffert has watched Secret Circle exercise six furlongs in 1:10.80 on Dec. 28 and a half-mile in 49.60 seconds on Tuesday. Still, Baffert does not consider Secret Circle to be an outstanding work horse.

“The only time he shows anything is in the races,” Baffert said. “He doesn’t show it in the mornings.”

Secret Circle is one of two stakes winners in the Sham field, joined by Longview Drive, the winner of the Cavonnier Juvenile at Santa Rosa and the Charlie Palmer Futurity at Fresno last year. Longview Drive was later third in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot Stakes in Louisiana on Nov. 19.

Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Longview Drive was considered for the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last month. He was held out in preference to the Sham, so the colt could remain on a dirt track. “He’s run well on dirt,” said Dan Ward, Hollendorfer’s assistant. “He’s never run a bad race.”

Longview Drive will wear blinkers in the Sham, which will help him stay focused, Ward said. He is likely to run from just off the pace. “With Secret Circle in there, he won’t be a pacesetter,” Ward said.

Two other runners are stakes-placed. Handsome Mike was second in the Grade 3 Generous Stakes on turf, but seventh in the CashCall Futurity. Senor Rain placed in three stakes at Fairplex Park, Hoosier Park, and Hollywood Park last year, but bore out and was pulled up in the Generous. Senor Rain has since been gelded.

Two recent maiden race winners will command attention. Out of Bounds won a seven-furlong maiden race at Hollywood Park on Dec. 10 in a style that suggests he wants further ground. Hierro, trained by Steve Asmussen, won a seven-furlong maiden race by 5 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs on Nov. 9.

“He was a little immature coming around and he finally put it together at Churchill Downs,” said Scott Blasi, Asmussen’s assistant. “We expect him to continue to improve. He’s got a lot of talent.”

Sham S. (G3), Post Time: 1:31 PT Saturday

Purse: $100,000; 1 mile

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Senor Rain

P. Miller

J. Talamo

20-1

1

Out of Bounds

E. Harty

G. Gomez

5-1

1

Hierro

S. Asmussen

J. Leparoux

3-1

1

Secret Circle

B. Baffert

R. Bejarano

4-5

1

Longview Drive

J. Hollendorfer

J. Rosario

8-1

1

Handsome Mike

D. O'Neill

C. Nakatani

5-1