There's a buzz back at the barn of Jinks Fires this spring a year after the magical run by Archarcharch that culminated in a victory in the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby for his longtime clients Bob and Val Yagos. This time another set of longtime owners are eagerly hoping Kid Sidney can make up for lost time and get into the Grade 2, $500,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.
The three-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid started his career with a win on February 25 at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, venue and will need some help to get into the 1 1/16-mile steppingstone to the Arkansas Derby because of low earnings, but the principals behind the PHWL Partnership are hoping to catch those breaks.
"We've been in this game a long time and it's taken forever to get one as good as this," said co-owner Jim Pickering, the "P" in the partnership that takes the first initials of co-owners Howard House, Bill Walmsley and Mark Lamberth.
Pickering is a Little Rock C.P.A. originally from Mayflower, Arkansas, and has been racing horses with House since 1975 and all but four of those years sending them to Fires. Lamberth is House's son-in-law and is a member of the Arkansas State Racing Commission. Walmsley is the head of the Arkansas H.B.P.A.
All but House were on hand when Kid Sidney worked a half-mile Saturday morning in :48 1/5 under jockey Jon Court, the son-in-law of Fires and winner of the last two Arkansas Derbys.
"If it looked as good as it felt, it had to be pretty," Court said after the work. "He was finishing really well down the lane."
That's music to the ears of Pickering, who says just getting the horse required some lucky breaks at the Keeneland yearling sales in September 2010.
"I went up there late in that sale, because we never really have what it takes to get something high-priced when that sale gets going," he said. "Jinks had gone up there with a get-list for all of his clients and found he had gotten all he wanted for them, but still had this one down as one to take a look at. It was already vetted and checked out, so we got lucky and picked him up for just $20,000."
With $27,600 earned in that one career start, the partners are already ahead of that investment. Being inexpensive helped provide the patience to wait for Kid Sidney to work through his youthful exuberance.
"He was like a kid and would find a way to hurt himself," Pickering explained. "He'd get a little bruise -- nothing serious -- but he was his own worst enemy. We sent him to the farm and that's when they gelded him. It had to be done, but ever since we got him going again he's been doing great and he's bred to run long all day."
The Rebel gate can hold 14 horses and eligibility is based on earnings in non-restricted races. Kid Sidney is at the bottom of a highly fluid list of hopefuls, so Fires and Pickering are prepared to race in an allowance scheduled for Friday.
"If we get a shot at the Rebel, we definitely want to take it," Pickering stated. "But if not, the allowance might be a little better suited, but we wouldn't back off from the Rebel or Arkansas Derby at this point."
In other Rebel news, Secret Circle and Castaway, the winners of both divisions of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes last month at Oaklawn, worked in company for trainer Bob Baffert Saturday at Santa Anita.
The Hall of Fame trainer, who is seeking his third straight Rebel after wins by champion Lookin at Lucky in 2010 and The Factor last year, will now take a few days to evaluate the two three-year-old colts before deciding if both fly back to Hot Springs, Arkansas, this week for the Rebel Stakes.
Each sophomore was credited with six furlongs in 1:11 3/5 over the fast Southern California surface and the times were the second-fastest of 16 workers at that distance. A plane is scheduled to arrive Thursday from California.
Baffert has been juggling several talented Derby prospects and finished second in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday with Bodemeister.