Najjaar Breezes for Arkansas Derby

Najjaar Breezes for Arkansas Derby
Photo: Oaklawn Park
Shadwell Stables' Najjaar races, works and pretty much lives his life taking his time early before getting going in earnest. Trainer Danny Peitz and jockey Calvin Borel have come to expect that and so were happy with the Arkansas Derby (G1) contender's five-furlong breeze Friday morning at Oaklawn.

Clockers caught the son of Jazil going five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 with a six-furlong gallop-out Peitz timed in about 1:14. Najjaar has won twice this season using late-running tactics, though he finished sixth in the   Rebel Stakes (G2) when a poor start left even those tactics too far behind.

"Doesn't every trainer say 'it was just what I asked for'?" asked Peitz. "I told Calvin I was looking for about 1:01 with about 37 in the first part and come home in 24 for the second part. He didn't quite hit those, but close enough and he galloped out really strong. You always like to see that. So pretty much it was exactly what we asked for."

When your sire won the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (G1) during his racing career and furiously closed to finish second in the Wood Memorial (G1) and fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), you're probably going to be expected more tortoise, less hare in your running style. Najjaar has raced around two turns his whole career, trying turf, synthetic and then exploding late in a maiden race in his dirt debut here in January. He could have raced in the Southwest Stakes (G3), but Peitz opted to wait for a longer allowance race and it paid off with a stylish victory. After breaking from the gate poorly two weeks later in the Rebel, he ran a very similar race, but could only close enough ground to finish less than six lengths behind Secret Circle.

"He breezes pretty much like he runs," said Peitz. "He doesn't show you a whole lot of speed in the first part, and we haven't really tried to change that."

Peitz plans another workout next weekend, depending on the weather, as a final tune-up before the Arkansas Derby.

Baffert & Barnes Keep Secret Circle & Bodemeister Pointed toward Arkansas Derby

Notwithstanding the heart-attack scare Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert suffered earlier this week in Dubai, the three-time winner of the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn relies heavily on his assistant Jim Barnes to keep his powerful California-based operation sailing smoothly. Barnes oversaw quick workouts Thursday at Santa Anita from the stable's leading 3-year-olds including Southwest Stakes (G3) and Rebel Stakes (G2) winner Secret Circle while Baffert recovers ahead of Saturday's Dubai Wold Cup featuring Game on Dude and the Golden Shaheen with last year's Rebel winner The Factor.

Barnes also told representatives of Santa Anita that San Felipe Stakes (G2) runner-up Bodemeister will join Secret Circle in a trip to Hot Springs for the April 14 $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).

Secret Circle posted a bullet five-furlongs in 59 2/5 at Santa Anita in his first major drill since showing a new dimension by stalking his way to victory in the Rebel. There were 37 workers at that distance and the average workout time was 1:00.58 on the fast surface. Prior to the Rebel, Secret Circle shipped in to win the second division of the Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 20. Racing for the partnership of Watson, Weitman and Pegram, the son of Eddington has just one loss in his six-race career with a win in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint his biggest 2-year-old prize last November.

Bodemeister races for Zayat Stables and is coming off the first loss of his short career in the San Felipe March 10 behind Creative Cause. Zayat's Nehro finished second in last year's Arkansas Derby for trainer Steve Asmussen prior to garnering the same result in the Kentucky Derby (G3) three weeks later. Previously Zayat and Baffert teamed to finish second to Mine That Bird in the 2009 Derby with Pioneerof the Nile.

Also working out Thursday was 2011 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Plum Pretty. The Peachtree Stable runner could appear in the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 13 and went seven furlongs in 1:25 4/5.

Baffert was reportedly released from a Dubai hospital Thursday, three days after surgeons implanted stents to relieve blocked arteries in the 59-year-old's heart. Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and host of the World Cup racing carnival this Saturday saw to it Baffert - a two-time winner of the world's richest single race - received the best care after complaining of chest pains on Monday. The Sheik visited Baffert in the hospital two days later.


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