Approximately a half-hour after guiding Castaway to a victory in the first division of the Grade 3, $250,000 Southwest at Oaklawn Park on Monday, jockey Rafael Bejarano and trainer Bob Baffert teamed up to win the second division with the highly-rated Secret Circle. It wasn't the easiest of victories, but the son of Eddington eventually wore down the determined long-time leader Scatman in the final sixteenth to win by a half-length. The final time of 1:37 for one mile over a fast track was a full second faster than the time posted by Castaway. The heavy 3-5 favorite, Secret Circle paid $3.20, $3.20 and $2.40.
While Scatman and Secret Circle did not separate themselves from the pack during the first six furlongs, they were all alone through the short stretch. Sent to the lead by Luis Quinonez, Scatman had a one-length advantage over Secret Circle early, setting splits of :23 1/5 and :46 4/5. Secret Circle began to apply more pressure around the turn, and got within a head of his rival when the six-furlong mark was reached in 1:11 1/5. Approaching the stretch, the two began to distance themselves from the rest of the field as Cyber Secret and Z Rockstar faded and the rest were simply too far back to challenge.
In the lane, Scatman fought bravely on the inside and almost appeared he would spring the 10-1 upset as Secret Circle had trouble keeping a straight course and drifted out mildly. Bejarano eventually got the once-beaten colt back on the right path and a final surge put him in the winner's circle. It was 5 1/2 lengths farther back to Adirondack King in third, with Pee H Dee two lengths behind in fourth.
Rounding out the order of finish was Cyber Secret, Z Rockstar, Chalybeate Springs, King Coral, Apprehender and Big Wednesday.
Secret Circle is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, the same partnership that scored in the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn two years ago with three-year-old champion Lookin at Lucky.
Undefeated at two last season, Secret Circle romped in his first two starts, taking a Del Mar maiden by 7 1/4 lengths and the six-furlong Jack Goodman at Santa Anita by 5 1/4 lengths. The 2-5 favorite in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint at Churchill Downs on November 4, Secret Circle raced in close attendance to a wickedly fast pace of :20 4/5 and :44 2/5, opened up the stretch and then held on for a one-length score while wearing blinkers for the first and only time.
Secret Circle made his two-turn debut in the Grade 3 Sham over one mile on January 7. Favored at 1-2, Secret Circle tracked in second behind a quick pace, grabbed a narrow lead a furlong out, but weakened to second behind Out of Bounds, who scored by a half-length. With this win, Secret Circle has now bankrolled $518,990.
Bred in Kentucky by Willmott Stables, Secret Circle was a $165,000 OBS March juvenile-in-training purchase. Produced by the multiple stakes-winning Dixieland Band mare Ragtime Hope, he hails from the family of Grade 1 winner Clever Trevor, Grade 2 winner Rise Jim, and Grade 3 winners Really Polish, Chesire Kitten and Alabama Rain.