Pay attention when trainer Bob Baffert ships a runner to Oaklawn Park for the Rebel Stakes (G2). On Saturday, Secret Circle made it three straight Rebel Stakes scores for the California-based conditioner.
He also won the Rebel with Lookin at Lucky in 2010 and The Factor last year.
Under Rafael Bejarano, Secret Circle surged to a three-quarter length victory over a fast-closing Optimizer in front of 31,882 fans.
Sent away the even-money favorite of the St. Patrick’s Day crowd, Secret Circle showed a new dimension by sitting in fourth-place early – farther behind than he’d ever been in his career. The 3-year-old son of Eddington ranged up behind the pacesetters approaching the turn, seemingly full of run. Bejarano angled his mount out in the stretch and then held off a furious charge from Optimizer in deep stretch. He held the late runner at bay and covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.55 over a fast track.
“I’m glad they made the decision to bring him back here,” said Bejarano, who teamed with Baffert to sweep both divisions of the Southwest Stakes (G3) last month. “The key was getting him to relax. He has lots of talent.”
Secret Circle is 5-for-6 in his career for Pegram, Watson and Weitman and pushed his graded stakes earnings to $470,000 – more than enough to qualify for an oversubscribed Kentucky Derby seven weeks from now at Churchill Downs, the site of his win in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint last November.
Bob Baffert/NYRA photo