Photo: Coady Photography
Monday, the Hall of Fame trainer returns to the track that he absolutely
torched in the 2012 Kentucky Derby prep season. Not only did Baffert win both divisions of the Southwest Stakes, he followed it up a win in the Rebel and capped it off with
his final statement in the Arkansas Derby. Yes, you read that correctly, Bob
Baffert was a perfect 4 for 4 at Oaklawn’s 3-yr-old series last spring.
is why no one should be surprised that he elected to send Super Ninety Nine to Arkansas for
the 2013 G3 Southwest Stakes. If Bob Baffert wasn’t sending anyone at all I might
be concerned. What he did last year was remarkable on so many levels. It was
such a grand achievement that I expected him to be back this year. Without him,
it wouldn’t be as exciting. So, thanks for making it back Bob, we’re happy to
see you here for this the first Kentucky Derby prep at Oaklawn in the 2013
we move ahead to see if his dominance will continue let’s rewind and take a
closer look at what he achieved last season. For anyone that didn’t know or may
have forgotten, the Southwest Stakes was split into two separate races last
year in order to accommodate the 21 entrants they received. Weather it was just
the luck of the draw or the decision of the racing gods, Bob Baffert’s two
entries were separated and would not have to face each other.
gave team Baffert the chance to walk away with two Southwest Stakes victories.
And boy oh boy did he deliver. To make this accomplishment even more impressive
Bob Baffert wasn’t the only person telling people he had just won the same
stakes race twice in one day. Along for the ride and in the saddle was Jockey
Rafael Bejarano who guided Castaway to the winners circle before getting Secret Circle there as well.
their clean sweep the duo returned four weeks later for the Rebel Stakes.
Secret Circle made it a trio and just like before they made Oaklawn their home
away from home. The win lined them up for a triumph unlike any other; four wins
in four Kentucky Derby preps at Oaklawn within the same prep season. This feat
was made possible by the rare Southwest Stakes split but the stars were aligned
and all that was left was the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, the race in which a star
arrived, he set the pace, he controlled the field and then he ran away.
Pressing the pace from the gate the young yet talented colt never yielded as he dominated the Arkansas Derby. The 9 ½ length victory concluded an unbelievable
run for Bob Baffert. However, the spotlight was his alone as jockey Mike Smith
captained the ride. Rafael Bejarano didn’t bow out quietly however. Talk about
a trip of magnificent proportions, Baffert also finished 2nd in the
Arkansas Derby with Secret Circle.
total, Baffert trained 3 entries that raced in at least one of the four Kentucky
Derby Preps at Oaklawn in 2012. Between
them he scored 4 wins, 1 second and in the only race where two of his horses
faced each other they finished 1-2. The sweep could be considered as one of the
most unique accomplishments in Kentucky Derby prep history. Looking back the only word I can use
to describe it or sum it up in short is: Unbelievable.
Let's fast forward back to 2013 and the quest for an improbable second act. Only
one entry was sent east to Oaklawn so Super Ninety Nine is it for Bob Baffert.
A solid horse indeed but will he carry the torch and stretch the win streak to
five? I absolutely think he can but I’m also intrigued by one other kind of battle.
I mentioned earlier, Oaklawn became almost like a home away from home for Bob
Baffert last year. This is being said in that it was almost like he had some
kind of home field advantage or as if he spends most of his time there. Of
course California is where you find Bob Baffert most often but for another
legendary trainer Hot Springs, Arkansas is home.
reason I mention this turf war is because of all the trainers that represent
the field for the Southwest Stakes, D. Wayne Lukas may have the best shot at
shutting down Baffert. Leading the charge is who else but Will Take Charge. The
colt enters off of an impressive win last time out. That victory in the Smarty
Jones Stakes here at Oaklawn officially put him on the Kentucky Derby radar so the journey towards May could get a solid boost with another win in the Southwest.
An additional advantage that D. Wayne Lukas holds is that he has two entries going. Channel Isle is a quiet yet capable young colt that may be getting a late start on the Kentucky Derby trail. He has yet to race in a Graded Stakes but he is very familiar with Oaklawn. He won here in his first start of the 2013
season so he is a prime candidate to prevent to another Baffert invasion.
There are definitely some other intriguing contenders in this Kentucky Derby prep. All
of them are just as capable of scoring the win but how awesome would it be
to watch a showdown between these legendary trainers. The Kentucky Derby prep season is always filled with some
lucrative side stories and this could be one of them. So, who else is in for a Superty Ninety Nine vs Will Take
Charge stretch duel to decide who knows Oaklawn the best.