Race of the Week 2017

Watch Out Hot Springs, Bob Baffert is Back

Bodemeister top story
Photo: Coady Photography
On 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.
This 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 season.
Before 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.
It 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.
After 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 was born.
Bodemeister 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.
In 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.
As 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.
The 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. 


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Older Comments about Watch Out Hot Springs, Bob Baffert is Back ...

i was impressed with this horses race in a stampede in a lousy weather at oaklawn. Baffert is a monster shipper at oaklawn. I agree didnt show greatness but def impressed me by that dominating performance.
alone on the lead on an alone on the lead track ins a rainstorm......Did not proved greatness, just fit the profile and having an advantage, utilized it.
Super 99 and Fear The Kitten were by far the best of that field. 99 will be extremely tough, and Fear The Kitten will get extremely tough the longer they go.
That was a field of babies today, real unseasoned rookie runners save two of them
Boy...was I wrong!
nevermind, #6 showed to much class for any horse here and now moves directly into Derby contention.
Correction: 1. Will Take Charge. 2. Texas Bling. 3. Always in a Tiz. Same as Smarty Jones.
I think slop favors Texas Bling and Big Lute. This race is wide-open IMO. I still can't single-out a horse from this field. Here it goes: 1. Always in a Tiz, 2. Will Take Charge. 3. Texas Bling
Does sloppy condition change anyone's picks now?
It feels wierd to have a prep race going without a Pletcher horse
It might have been Midnight Interlude who was recently shipped to India. I really hope Midnight Lute gets good mares.
...ML's BC Sprint victories and, WOW! If Big Lute has any of his daddy in him, and so far it looks he may, then the rest need to watch-out.
Sorry tv, I was still in the military and hadn't returned to racing by then. I assume you're talking about Midnight Lute (or Midnite Lute, don't remember the spelling)? I've watched ML
wasn't there another Lute that held a track record at the original hybrid synthetic at Anita?
Won maiden impressively. Generating a lot of buzz, http://www.oaklawn.com/media/uploads/the_southwest_pps.pdf
I've never heard of Big Lute is he just a maiden?
TB got caught on the front last time out. Don't think he needs it. We'll see. Some good runners in this one. I kinda expect Super Ninety Nine to run second or third. Wish Big Lute could've squeezed-in another race for some seasoning prior to this. Hey, he may not need it.
I'd like to see him in the derby. I like him and Bern as my favs. Don't know why exactly, just like those two boys. They make my heart swell when I read their names on any article. :)
Of course Ill is I'll.
I like the heck out of that Texas Bling! Very nice-looking, too, imo, but Ill take a look. He wasn't even in my picks last time, even though I saw his Springboard Mile win. He's got that story--underdog.

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