Kentucky Derby Watch

Posted: March 20, 2012

Bob Baffert's Arkansas Shuttle keeps rolling, likely carrying a couple of his 3-year-old colts to the Kentucky Derby in less than seven weeks. The Hall of Fame trainer had another successful weekend at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., with Secret Circle winning the $500,000 Rebel Stakes by three-quarters of a length over fast-closing Optimizer on Saturday. The bay colt will return to California this week but is scheduled to be shuttled back for the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 7 and shoot for an Oaklawn sweep. Secret Circle won the second division of the Southwest Stakes last month, and Baffert's Castaway won the first division. With Secret Circle's fifth win in six starts, the colt moves up to No. 4 on the Associated Press top-10 list of Derby contenders. Union Rags, Hansen and El Padrino remain 1-2-3 as they get ready for their final preps before the Derby on May 5. Bodemeister, second in the San Felipe Stakes on March 10 and headed next to the Santa Anita Derby on April 7, is No. 8. Castaway is set to run this weekend in the Sunland Derby. Also impressing last week was Gemologist, trainer Todd Pletcher's unbeaten 3-year-old who won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park Friday by seven lengths over Grade I stakes winner Currency Swap. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas may have a Derby contender in Optimizer, who just missed catching Secret Circle in the Rebel. Lukas is a four-time Derby winner, his last being Charismatic in 1999.

1. Union Rags       Michael Matz   Julien Leparoux      4-1

Fountain of Youth winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:041/5 under Leparoux at Palm Meadows on Saturday. "Just a maintenance work," said Matz. Next : Florida Derby, Gulfstream, March 31.

2. Hansen          Mike Maker      Ramon Dominguez   9-1

Gotham winner worked 4 furlongs in 502/5 seconds at Churchill Downs trackside training center on Sunday. Next: Wood Memorial , Aqueduct, April 7.

3. El Padrino          Todd Pletcher   Javier Castellano      12-1

Risen Star winner among Pletcher's many Derby hopefuls. Colt has won both starts in 2012. Next: Florida Derby.

4. Secret Circle       Bob Baffert      Rafael Bejarano      37-1

Showed versatility by stalking leaders before Rebel win. Has won 5 of 6 races, with only loss by a half-length in the Sham. Next: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn, April 7.

5. Gemologist       Pletcher         Castellano            23-1

Won long-awaited 3-year-old debut by seven lengths in an allowance race at Gulfstream Friday. Next: Wood Memorial.

6. Creative Cause    M. Harrington   Joel Rosario         17-1

San Felipe winner may end up as top West Coast contender for Derby. Next: Santa Anita Derby, April 7.

7. Alpha             K. McLaughlin   Dominguez            18-1

Withers winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 Saturday at Palm Meadows. Next: Possibly Florida Derby.

8. Bodemeister       Baffert         Bejarano             29-1

Named for Baffert's youngest son, Bode. A game second in San Felipe in third career start. Next: Santa Anita Derby.

9. Howe Great       G. Motion      John Velazquez      3-1f

Palm Beach winner is turf tested. Team Valor's Barry Irwin took a similar route with Animal Kingdom. Next: Blue Grass, Keeneland, April 14.

10. Mark Valeski    Larry Jones      Rosie Napravnik      38-1

Risen Star runner-up working toward final Derby prep at home base. Next: Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds, April 1.

Keep an eye on: Castaway, I'll Have Another, My Adonis, Optimizer, Take Charge Indy.

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