Since 2010, Bob Baffert has won six of Oaklawn Park’s last nine graded stakes for 3-year-olds, including a sweep of the Grade III Southwest Stakes, Grade II Rebel Stakes and Grade II Arkansas Derby in 2012.
He'll attempt to keep his streak going with Super Ninety Nine, scheduled to ship into Hot Springs by air Thursday for Monday's Southwest..
“He worked well,” said Baffert of a move on Tuesday. “It’s the time of year when we start separating them to gauge how the California ones stack up and how they’re shipping.”
Nominations for the Southwest and early bird nominations to the March Rebel Stakes and the April 13 Arkansas Derby were released Wednesday, with a total of 123 horses made eligible for the series. In addition to $1.9 million in purses, the three races offer a total of 272 points in Churchill Downs’ new requirement for making the Kentucky Derby field.
Officer Alex Seeks Southwest Rebound
After seeing traffic and shoe problems -- and an off-the-board finish -- in the Smarty Jones Stakes, trainer Lynn Whiting says he thinks a clean trip in Monday’s Southwest should result in a much better performance by Officer Alex.
“I’m fairly confident when you think about all that didn’t go his way in the Smarty Jones,” said Whiting. “With as many problems as he encountered I think he made a really good account of himself.”
The son of former Oaklawn superstar Afleet Alex broke slowly and was caught wide in the one-mile Smarty Jones on Jan 21. When Officer Alex moved toward the leaders, he was forced four wide and lost a shoe. He finished sixth, beaten 13 1/4 lengths by Will Take Charge.
“He had a lot going against him, but when he got to the quarter-pole, he looked like he was the horse,” said Whiting.
Officer Alex scored in the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes at Parx Racing and earned high marks from the leading public speed figure providers. Whiting says that performance is more indicative of the colt's talent.
“He beat a pretty good horse in there,” Whiting said, referring to runner-up Res Judicata. “It was supposed to be a coronation for that horse, and he got away from us by about 2 1/2 at one point, but we reeled him in and drew off. I’m sure we had enough time to recover from that race. I don’t ascribe to a theory that we might have bounced. He just had a lot of trouble this last time.”
Whiting says Luis Quinonez will ride Officer Alex in the Southwest, replacing Stewart Elliott, who was aboard for three of the colt’s previous four starts, including the Smarty Jones.
Borel Finally Set to Return
Calvin Borel has resumed exercising horses and hopes to continue his quest for career victory 5,000 on Saturday. Borel, who fractured his wrist a few days before Oaklawn’s opening Jan. 11, is one win away from this historic milestone, something only 24 other riders have accomplished.
Doc Danner is handling Borel's book while his longtime agent Jerry Hissam recovers from an illness.
“Calvin got on horses this morning and says his wrist feels good,” said his wife Lisa Borel. “There isn’t any swelling. We’ll see how it is in the morning, but his plan right now is to ride a few horses Saturday and Sunday and get back to riding fully the following week.”
The commemorative trading cards produced by the city of Hot Springs honoring Borel’s 5,000 wins will be distributed to race fans in attendance at Oaklawn the day Borel gets the win.
Edited Oaklawn release with additional content by Dick Downey