By Dick Downey
Bob Baffert can win races at Oaklawn Park even when he's in Cabo San Lucas. His dominance continued today in the Grade III Southwest Stakes.
Super Ninety Nine met no resistance in winning the 1 1/16-mile race at Oaklawn Park by 11 1/4 lengths. Under Rafael Bejarano, Super Ninety Nine went to the lead and stayed there on a track rendered sloppy by two downpours late in the card at Oaklawn Park.
Super Ninety Nine came into the Southwest off an easy win in his first outing at two turns in a Santa Anita allowance race. With Heaven's Runway stalking him, he cut out fractions of: 23.33, :47.49 and 1:12.29 before finishing in 1:44.84. There was nothing even remotely close to him from the furlong marker to the wire.
It was a straight 6-7-8-9 superfacta as Fear the Kitten rallied to finish second, albeit a distant one, followed by Heavens Runway -- who was second behind Super Ninety Nine in the early going -- and the late-running Channel Isle.
Despite the even money odds on Super Ninety Nine, who returned $4.00, $3.80 and $3.00, the exotics paid well. The $2 exacta with 22-1 Fear the Kitten returned $66.80. The $1 trifecta that included 59-1 Heaven's Runway returned $781.60. And the $1 superfecta with 48-1 Channel Isle paid $4,588.60.
Second-time starter Big Lute, the 5-1 third choice, was in early contention chasing Super Ninety Nine and Heaven's Runway after breaking from post 10. But either his inexperience, the condition of the track or other factors got to him, and he faded. Second betting choice Always in a Tiz rallied up the backstretch trying to collar Super Ninety Nine and Heaven's Runway, but he lost ground coming out of the turn.
The order of finish behind the top four finishers was Always in a Tiz, Will Take Charge, Big Lute, Brown Almighty, Texas Bling and Officer Alex. Will Take Charge, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes, came away from the gate slowly and was never in contention.
Meanwhile, Baffert was on vacation in Mexico watching the race on his computer. It was the trainer's fourth win of the Southwest Stakes. Last year, Baffert took both divisions of a well-populated group of entries with Castaway and Secret Circle. In 2010, Conveyance won for him.
Super Ninety Nine earned 10 Kentucky Derby points with the win and debuts at number 10 on the leaderboard for the Kentucky Derby. Fear the Kitten got four points, Heaven's Runway two and Channel Isle one.
The Southwest marks the conclusion of the Kentucky Derby Prep Season races with a 10-4-2-1 point distribution. The “Kentucky Derby Championship Series” begins Saturday with the Grade II Besilu Stable Fountain of Youth Stakes and Grade II Risen Star Stakes. Points awarded to the top four finishers will increase to 50 for first, 20 for second, 10 for third and 5 for fourth.
By Pulpit, Super Ninety Nine was bred in Kentucky by Northwest Farms LLC. He is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Exogenetic. The owner is Tanma Corporation.
Super Ninety Nine sold at the September 2011 Keeneland Yearling sale for $200,000. He was resold for $260,000 at Ocala in June, 2012.
Bob Baffert by phone: “Rafael called me before the race, and I just told him to let him get away from there and do his thing. Turning for home, I could see he had plenty of horse. It’s exciting. This is the time of year when these 3-year-olds start getting exciting. We’ll get him back home and see how he does. We know he likes the track now. I don’t like to plan ahead, and with these young horses, you just never know. We’ll definitely have something for the Rebel.”