12/23/2014 2:36PM

Secret Circle looms large in Midnight Lute Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle is the class of Saturday's Grade 3 Midnight Lute Stakes at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – If only he had a fashionable pedigree, Secret Circle might be retired to stud by now. But demand for modestly bred stallions is minimal, and so Secret Circle will earn his keep on the track.

“The stallion business is tough,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “You can make more money racing than standing these days.”

Secret Circle has made plenty, more than $2.4 million, by winning 7 of 13 starts, including the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and the 2011 BC Juvenile Sprint.


DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 6 Secret Circle. Trainer Bob Baffert is 22-8-0-0 with a $5.31 ROI over the past five years going route to sprint on dirt in graded stakes. – Mike HoganClick for more details. Mike Hogan

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Secret Circle, by Eddington, is not done yet. He is favored Saturday at Santa Anita in the Grade 3, $100,000 Midnight Lute Stakes, race 5, named for Baffert’s two-time BC Sprint winner. The guys who owned Midnight Lute – Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman – also own Secret Circle.

 

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Seven horses entered the 6 1/2-furlong Midnight Lute, previously run at Hollywood Park as the Vernon Underwood. Rivals for Secret Circle include the stakes winner Seeking the Sherif, surface-switch upset candidates Bolita Boyz and Bahamian Squall, and likely pacesetter Distinctiv Passion. Heir of Storm and Appealing Tale also entered.

The horse to beat is obvious. Secret Circle, the runner-up this fall in the BC Sprint and Cigar Mile, is the class of the field with an admirable record of consistency.

“He shows up every time,” Baffert said. “Look at his form – he runs first or second every time.”

The only race in which Secret Circle finished worse than second was a third in his October comeback.

KEY CONTENDERS

Secret Circle (Last 3 Beyers: 100-104-100)

◗ After winning seven of his first nine starts, Secret Circle has lost four straight, albeit against top company. A runner-up in February in a Grade 2 race, he finished in the money in his next three starts against Grade 1 foes.

◗ Secret Circle has sufficient speed to be forwardly placed under jockey Martin Garcia, who rode him to victory in the 2013 BC Sprint.

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Seeking the Sherif (Last 3 Beyers: 84-93-89)

◗ In nine starts since being claimed for just $12,500 by trainer Ron Ellis, Seeking the Sherif has won five races and $222,700, including a minor stakes at Los Alamitos.


DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 5 Seeking the Sherif. Trainer Ron Ellis is 43-14-9-3 with a $2.59 ROI over the past five years in dirt sprints at Santa Anita following a layoff of 45 days or more. – Mike Hogan Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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◗ Edwin Maldonado is the regular rider for Seeking the Sherif, who will start for the first time since Nov. 1, when he finished 11th in the BC Sprint. The gelding’s style should lead to a good trip behind likely pacesetter Distinctiv Passion.

Bolita Boyz (Last 3 Beyers: 85-65-79)

◗ The only 3-year-old in the field, Bolita Boyz is making his second start for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer after a fifth-place finish on turf.

“He’s a dirt horse,” assistant trainer Dan Ward said. “We ran him on turf because it was straight 3-year-olds.”

◗ Bolita Boyz posted a bullet six-furlong workout at Santa Anita on Dec. 19 and will be ridden again by Rafael Bejarano.

Distinctiv Passion (Last 3 Beyers: 101-89-84)

◗ Trainer Jeff Bonde seeks his third straight victory in this renamed stakes. He won the Vernon Underwood last year with Majestic Stride and in 2012 with Smiling Tiger.

◗ Mike Smith will ride Distinctiv Passion, who is expected to set the pace.


DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 4 Appealing Tale. Trainer Peter Miller is 19-3-2-3 with a $5.83 ROI over the past five years going turf to dirt and route to sprint. – Mike Hogan Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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