04/06/2010 11:00PM

Total Bull inherits the front end


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The complexion of the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Thursday has changed significantly since entries were taken on Saturday, because Spotsgone, who would have been one of the favorites in the race, was found on Sunday morning to have a chip in his left front ankle that will necessitate his being retired, trainer Jinks Fires said Tuesday morning.

"It made everyone at the barn sick," Fires said at his Oaklawn barn on Tuesday morning. "He's been a nice horse for us. I thought he was the horse to beat in there. We wouldn't have been able to operate without going through some vital suspensory areas, so he's retired. He'll stand at stud, most likely in Arkansas."

Spotsgone, 7, had raced 48 times, including 19 starts at Oaklawn, where he won four times. But in addition to his solid recent form, he also was one of the main speed horses in the Fifth Season, so his absence from the 1 1/16-mile race clearly benefits Total Bull, who is making his stakes debut but may now find himself on a lonely lead in the six-horse field.

Total Bull arrived Tuesday on the same plane that brought Zenyatta for the Apple Blossom here on Friday. Total Bull, 5, has raced just four times since belatedly beginning his career in November, but is coming off a series of good races at Santa Anita, including a victory over a first-level allowance field last time out on Feb. 26.

The Fifth Season is clearly a step up in class, but the pace could not be more to order for Total Bull, who is trained by Bob Baffert.

Trying to reel him in will be Cryptolight, another local veteran who ran down Spotsgone to win a money allowance here on Feb. 26 in his first start in three months. Cryptolight was sixth of 11 in this race last year, but his trainer, Joe Martin, believes he is a better horse now at age 6.

"I thought his last race was awesome. It seems like the older he gets the better he gets," Martin said Tuesday morning. "He's doing as well as he can right now. I love the way he's coming into the race. He runs well fresh. He's had enough time since his last race. Time between helps horses."

Flying Private is the marquee name in the Fifth Season, having run in all three Triple Crown races last year. In his first start since the Belmont, he won an allowance race here on Feb. 28.