MARCH 23, 2012
by Dick Powell
If Secret Circle was trained by anyone but Bob Baffert, I might dismiss his chances in the major three-year-old races going long. But like a good student being educated by a master teacher, he keeps getting better and better as more challenges are put in front of him.
Last year, with the inaugural running of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint as his target, Baffert kept him running short instead of trying to stretch him out. The plan worked as he won at Churchill Downs despite pressing a first quarter that was run faster than 21 seconds.
He came back this year in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes going a two-turn mile and was a good second behind Out of Bounds in fast time and once again earned a triple-digit BRIS Speed rating. From that point, Baffert could have gone back to seven furlongs and other one-turn races down the road but he shipped him to Arkansas for the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes going a two-turn mile.
In the Southwest, Secret Circle sat off the early pace and wore down Scatman in the shadow of the wire to win by a half-length and earn another triple-digit BRIS Speed rating. Baffert sent him back to Santa Anita, where he trained well, and came back to Oaklawn for last Saturday's Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.
Once again, Scatman set the pace and Secret Circle wound up extremely wide. At one point on the far turn it looked like he wasn't responding to Rafael Bejarano's hands and heels but he did kick in through the stretch, ran down Scatman, and held off a wild rally from Optimizer to win by three parts of a length.
Even though Secret Circle's BRIS Speed rating dropped down to a 97, the pace was slower than he has ever raced against and he did not have an ideal trip while losing ground. The speed is there if Bejarano wants to use it but he's learning his lessons and is on track to try nine furlongs in the upcoming Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.
He might not be a Derby horse because of his inexperience and lack of graded stakes earnings but Street Life merits some attention. After showing nothing down at Gulfstream Park in his career debut going six furlongs, he shipped north to the Aqueduct inner dirt track and broke his maiden with a sudden late rally to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Over a track that favored speed, Street Life's pace figures were 63, 65, 110.
Chad Brown took a chance on stakes company last out when he entered him in the Broad Brush Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday. Against a solid field of six, Street Life raced a bit closer to the dawdling pace of :25.35, :50.73 and 1:15.35, and around the far turn he looked like a beaten horse. Junior Alvarado started asking him for run at the three-eighths pole but the response was not immediate.
Street Life just kept inching closer and closer but still had almost four lengths to make up with a furlong to go as Copy My Swagger sat on the front end.
Now in full stride, Alvarado had him rolling and the duo won by a half-length under a vigorous hand ride. Street Life covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.87 and probably broke six seconds for his final sixteenth of a mile. Brown is now thinking about the Grade 1 Wood Memorial coming up on April 7 going nine furlongs and whose to say we are not looking at the next Jazil.
Pre-entries for the Group 1 Dubai World Cup racecard have been released and the races look extremely competitive. Game on Dude and Royal Delta head up the American contingent for the $10 million World Cup and they will face 12 other international stars.
One thing to remember is forget everything that you have heard about the Tapeta main track. As the night goes on and the temperatures cool off, the track gets tighter and begins to favor front runners. Since the racing has shifted to Meydan, the two runnings of the World Cup on Tapeta went virtually gate-to-wire.
In 2010, Gloria de Campeao went gate-to-wire leaving everyone in his wake. Last year, Transcend went to the front and his stablemate Victoire Pisa joined him with a big move coming out of the clubhouse turn. The two Japanese-trained runners ran one-two the rest of the way and nobody was able to make up enough ground to beat them.
I don't know how Game on Dude is going to handle the Tapeta but it looks like Chantal Sutherland can have any kind of lead she wants. International riders usually take a hold of their horses coming out of the starting gate so Chantal can have it all her own way. If the World Cup were run at two in the afternoon, I might think differently but at 9:40 p.m. local time, the track will be a lot kinder to Game on Dude's running style.
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