Photo: Don August
Okay, so the title of this column might be a bit of an exaggeration, but do you really think that guy in the Dos Equis commercials can speak French...in Russian? No, Secret Circle probably does not live vicariously through himself, but I do find him to be one of the most interesting horses currently in training.
Case in point: I’ve only had the opportunity to see the five-year-old son of Eddington race in person on three occasions. The results have been explosive…
The date: November 4, 2011 - The place: Churchill Downs - The result: Weaving through the stretch like an old man drunk on burgundy wine, his erratic path under the historic twin spires mattered little, as Secret Circle raced to victory in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint.
The date: February 20, 2012 - The place: Oaklawn Park - The result: After tasting defeat for the first time in his initial attempt around two-turns in his prior start, you had to wonder if he could get it done in more than a sprint, and remain on the Kentucky Derby trail. Game as could be, Secret Circle surged late to secure a sweep of split-Soutwest Stakes for trainer Bob Baffert.
The date: November 2, 2013 - The place: Santa Anita - The result: Taking on the best sprinters in the country with only one race in the past year-and-a-half due to injury, and an allowance race at that, Secret Circle had every reason to fold like a cheap tent under the pressure of the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Demonstrating the class horse that he is, he did not.
And those just happen to be the three races where I was in attendance. Overall, he has run nine times, with seven wins, and two seconds. A great record, but nine races is not many races for a horse now in his fourth season of racing, or maybe that is just all part of his mystique. As little as we’ve seen of him in the last three years, Secret Circle still holds a fair amount of mystery. How good is he? Can he beat top horses at a mile or more? Like that dark-haired girl that spoke with an accent in freshman Econ, the unknown factor makes him just a little more interesting.
Will this season allow us to get to know Secret Circle a little better? Only time will tell. The good news is that the Mike Pegram owned talent is working lights out and is scheduled to make his five-year-old debut in Sunday’s Palos Verdes. The grade 2 affair at Santa Anita goes six panels and could feature a meeting with last year’s Met Mile winner, Sahara Sky. The match-up of two of the Eclipse Award finalists for Male Sprinter could be one of the more interesting contests of Secret Circle’s career, and may be the beginning of a year that sees him branch out into even more interesting events.
As for the distance question, Secret Circle does have a ton of stamina within his pedigree, and he does have a pair of two-turn wins in Arkansas. On the other hand, both of his losses came at a mile or more, including a nationally televised drubbing at the hands of Bodemeister in the 2012 Arkansas Derby. Come to think of it, this all reminds me a lot of another interesting horse trained by Baffert a few years ago, named Midnight Lute.
Midnight Lute was as talented as any horse whose girth was tightened by Baffert, or so says the Hall of Fame conditioner. He also could have run a distance successfully if circumstances fell another way, according to his trainer. In reality, we never knew if that was true, though, as the lightly raced champion, with pedigree to handle two-turns, ran almost exclusively in sprints. He overpowered the field in back-to-back runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but we were left to wonder if he could have done even more. You can see why Secret Circle has me thinking of that intriguing champion.
Will we see even more from Secret Circle this year? Well, for starters, how would you feel about seeing this most interesting horse in Belmont’s Met Mile? One of my favorite races of the year, this historic race would be a whole lot more interesting with Secret Circle in the starting gate. Wouldn’t you say?