Bob Baffert: trains Arkansas Derby hopes Secret Circle and BodemeisterPICTURE: Edward Whitaker
Baffert hopes head Arkansas Derby field
Preview: USA, Saturday 11.45pm BST
Oaklawn Park: Arkansas Derby (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo
TRAINER Bob Baffert will be unhappy if he leaves Arkansas without a serious Kentucky Derby contender as he saddles the two market leaders in this $1m event.
Baffert saddles both Secret Circle and Bodemeister as he bids to claim a race won in recent years by subsequent Classic winners Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex and Curlin.
The lightly raced Bodemeister (Mike Smith), a son of Empire Maker, has drawn the outside post in the 11-runner field for a race in which he needs to finish in the first two to stand any hope of making the cut for Churchill Downs, which is decided on graded-stakes earnings.
Zayat Stables' colt, who has run only three times in his life, was narrowly beaten by leading Kentucky hope Creative Cause on his most recent outing in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.
Stablemate Secret Circle (Rafael Bejarano) has no such worries when it comes to purse money as he won the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint last term and has since taken the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at this venue over Saturday's rival Optimizer (Wayne Lukas/Jon Court), whose jockey is on a treble here.
The worry for Secret Circle is stamina but he has pulled it out every time he ahs stepped up in trip so far.
"Secret Circle has been getting the distance so far," said Baffert.
"He hasn't shown me he can't get it - they can all get it until they show you they can't.
"This'll be a good race with some nice horses in there," he added.
"I think Bodemeister will be tough. These are two really good horses and even thoughI don't like to get ahead of myself, it's always special just to have a horse that has a chance in the Kentucky Derby, so hopefully we wind up with one of those on Saturday."
Todd Pletcher also saddles a pair, namely maiden winner Stat (John Velazquez) and Laurel stakes victor Raconteur (Chris DeCarlo).
Coral: 13-8 Bodemeister, 4 Secret Circle, 9-2 Isn't He Clever, 7 Optimizer, 12 Stat, Najjaar, 14 Cozzetti, Sabercat, 20 Raconteur, 40 Jake Mo, 50 Atigun
Ladbrokes: 7-4 Bodemeister, 7-2 Secret Circle, 6 Optimizer, 13-2 Isn't He Clever, 10 Stat, 16 Najjaar, Raconteur, Sabercat 25 Cozzetti, 33 Jake Mo, 40 Atigun
Also on Saturday
Oaklawn Park: Oaklawn Hcap (Grade 2) 1m1f, dirt, 4yo+ (11.07pm BST)
A strong field for this $400,000 event, in which recent Grade 1 winners Hymn Book and Ron The Greek are out to prove they deserve to be considered players at the highest level.
Hymn Book (Shug McGaughey/John Velazquez) was a slightly surprising winner of the Donn Handicap, while Ron The Greek (Bill Mott/Jose Lezcano) closed from off the pace to win the Santa Anita Handicap.
Last year's Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro (Steve Asmussen/Corey Nakatani) lurks as a dangerous rival.
Charles Town: Charles Town Classic (Grade 2) 1m1f, dirt, 4yo+ (3.30am Sun BST)
Every one of the ten starters for this $1m event is a graded-stakes winner, among them last year's victor Duke Of Mischief (David Fawkes/Joe Bravo), reportedly back on his game after a couple of dull efforts this term.
He'll probably need to be against a full field headed by last year's Louisiana Derby winner Pants On Fire (Kelly Breen/Rosie Napravnik) plus a west coast contingent including Uh Oh Bango (Kory Owens/Aaron Gryder) and Norvsky(Don Warren/Kevin Krigger).