Secret Circle takes what Bob Baffert hopes will be the first successful step on the Triple Crown trail when the undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint winner takes on five rivals in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile.

Previously run at a mile and an eighth from its inception in 2001 through 2010, and shortened to a mile and a sixteenth last year when won by Tapizar, the Sham at one mile seems more logical to Baffert at this point, with the Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles three months away and the Kentucky Derby at a mile and quarter four months down the road on May 5.

“Running the Sham at a mile and an eighth this time of year was too early,” said Baffert, a six- time winner of the Santa Anita Derby and a three-time winner of the Run for the Roses. “The San Vicente (at seven furlongs on Feb. 19) used to be the first week in February and that race would sort of set it off,” Baffert said, referring to the pursuit in earnest of the 3-year-old classics.

“But the Sham at one mile now is a good spot for horses whose potential for longer distances you’re not certain of,” said the Hall of Fame trainer, who celebrates his 59th birthday on Jan. 13. “We’re going to find out more about Secret Circle in this race.”

A son of Eddington, Secret Circle has never raced beyond six furlongs. Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman of Lookin at Lucky fame, Secret Circle worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Tuesday in 49.60.

The field for the Sham, the third of nine races: Senor Rain, Joe Talamo; Out of Bounds, Garrett Gomez; Hierro, Julien Leparoux; Secret Circle, Rafael Bejarano; Longview Drive, Joel Rosario; and Handsome Mike, Corey Nakatani.

Each is assigned 118 pounds.


Legendary retired Hall of Fame Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. will present the trophy for Saturday’s Grade III Sham Stakes and Pincay has fond memories of the race’s namesake—39 years after running second to the great Secretariat in the 1973 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

“I tell you, Sham is definitely one of the best horses I ever rode,” said Pincay, who turned 65 on Dec. 29. “He could have been the second-best horse I ever rode. He didn’t run in that many races (13), but he was such a powerful horse. He could do anything, he had speed and was a very, very nice horse.

“Going into the Derby I felt very good about my chances. We had won the Santa Anita Derby and we beat Secretariat in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. We ran second in the Wood and he ran third (beaten four lengths by Sham) and I figured we had a good chance to beat him in Kentucky. I had a very good feeling about our chances.

“The night before the race Pancho Martin (trainer of Sham) told me ‘this horse is going to do something special tomorrow.’ And he did. He broke the track record, but it wasn’t good enough. Sham ran another great race in the Preakness (finishing second). He was just very unlucky to come along the same year as Secretariat.”

Sham, a bay colt by Pretense, was retired following the ’73 Belmont Stakes, a race in which he finished last after trying to run early with Secretariat. Sham finished up with a 5-5-1 record and $204,808 in earnings.

Pincay, who won his first and only Kentucky Derby in 1984 aboard the Woody Stephens-trained Swale, won a total of six Santa Anita Derbies, including the ’78 renewal aboard the Laz Barrera-conditioned Affirmed, who Pincay considers to be the best horse he ever rode.

The Sham Stakes will be run for the 12th time on Saturday and will be contested for the first time at the distance of one mile.


A jockey with unquestioned riding ability, a world-class agent, and a two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer who wins more races in one year than some trainers win in a lifetime is a winning combination.

It’s also a union that’s favored to reach the winner’s circle with Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Regally Ready in Sunday’s Daytona Stakes, a Grade III, $100,000 race on Santa Anita’s turf course at about 6 ½ furlongs. Ridden by Corey Nakatani, whose agent is Ron Anderson, and trained by Steve Asmussen, Regally Ready will be making his first start since capturing the Turf Sprint under 126 pounds as the 2-1 favorite at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

Nakatani, a native of Covina, a regular on the California circuit from the time he began his career more than 20 years ago, uprooted recently in search of greener pastures back East. Since joining with Anderson a little over three months ago and through his own initiative in gaining access to Asmussen’s prolific barn, the 41-year-old Nakatani has once again reached racing’s apex.

With Anderson booking the mounts, Nakatani won six races in one day at Belmont Park on Oct. 8, two of them Grade I’s.

Nakatani has eight Breeders’ Cup wins, including last year’s Turf Sprint on Regally Ready, a gelded son of More Than Ready Nakatani has ridden eight times, winning five. Owned by the Vinery Stables of Dr. Tom Simon of Mallorca, Spain and Lexington, Ky., Regally Ready has nine wins from 17 starts, with earnings of $1,210, 684.

“He’s a tremendous horse, he’s a great sprinter and he goes as fast as he can as far as he can,” Nakatani said. “He’s going to go fast. It’s just a matter if somebody wants to run with him or not. He’s pretty handy. He doesn’t have to be on the lead, but he likes to control the race. We’ll see how he is and what Steve wants to do and we’ll go from there.”

As for his resurrected career, Anderson, who has represented legends such as Jerry Bailey and Gary Stevens among others, gives Nakatani full kudos for hooking up with Asmussen.

“He got himself in starting at Oaklawn Park last year,” Anderson said. “Corey did exceptionally well with Asmussen there and things continued to blossom after that.” Understandably, Nakatani is delighted with his current status.

“No doubt about it,” Nakatani said. “It’s a matter of finally getting healthy and getting your weight right. It helps to be able to exercise, train and get on horses all the time. You have to get supporters like Steve. All of his owners have been very successful together. I hope we can keep the ball rolling.”

The field for the Daytona, race eight on a nine-race card: Calimonco, Mike Smith; Mr Gruff, Joel Rosario; Victory Pete, Martin Garcia; Caracortado, Rafael Bejarano; Silver Summation, Garrett Gomez; Regally Ready, Nakatani; and Al Instante, Kevin Krigger.


Tweebster is nothing if not consistent, but Bob Baffert is hoping the 5-year-old son of Tapit breaks the mold and wins his first stakes race when he runs in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Pasqual Stakes, an important steppingstone to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap March 3.

“He’s an honest little horse,’ the Hall of Fame trainer said, “but he can’t get by seconditis.”

Owned by Shah Kaleem, Tweebster has a 3-6-4 record from 15 starts, with earnings of $216,290. The gray gelding was third in the Grade III Native Diver Handicap last out on Dec. 3. He has failed to earn a check only once, when he finished seventh in last year’s Santa Anita Handicap behind stablemate Game on Dude, who is a finalist for an Eclipse Award as outstanding older male in 2011.

The field for the San Pasqual, which goes as race eight: Skipshot, Joe Talamo; Thirtyfirststreet, Hector Berrios; Java Man, Garrett Gomez; Tweebster, Rafael Bejarano; Utopian, Chantal Sutherland; Tres Borrachos, Joel Rosario; Uh Oh Bango, Mike Smith; and Massone, Martin Garcia.


Call El Gato Malo a good Thoroughbred or the bad cat, and either description fits the 7-year-old gelding that runs in today’s seventh and featured race. He is one tough animal.

Winner of seven of 21 career races and $638,466 for West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Craig Dollase, the Kentucky-bred gelding would never be compared to a day at the beach when he’s at the barn.

“El Gato Malo (the bad cat in Spanish) is aptly named,” said the 41-year-old Dollase, who recently moved his base of operations from Hollywood Park to Santa Anita, where he has 20 head. “He just turned seven on Jan. 1 and he definitely has some quirks. He lives behind a cage in the front of his stall and you have to handle him with kid gloves. He’s already a gelding, so we put up with his antics.”

The son of El Corredor is no slouch on the race track, but doesn’t quite have the resume of another Dollase senior citizen, Awesome Gem, winner of the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup last year and earner of $2,738,270. The chestnut gelding has a 9-15-5 record from 47 starts.

“My Old Man, Awesome Gem, recently came in from off the shelf,” Dollase said. “He’ll make his 2012 debut as a 9-year-old but not until the end of the meet, probably in April.

“Awesome Gem’s been a real trouper. He had a minor hind end setback and we sent him to Winners Circle Ranch. It’s nice to have the old boy back in the barn. In fact, he’s our barn mascot.”

FINISH LINES: M One Rifle, winner of the 2009 Malibu Stakes, fired another bullet Thursday morning, working five furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track in 59 seconds, fastest of 36 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:00.85. Bruce Headley is preparing M One Rifle for the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes on Jan. 21 and a meeting with Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Amazombie . . . California Cup Classic winner Norvsky worked five furlongs for Don Warren in 1:02.60, while Tapizar went six furlongs in 1:12.60 for Steve Asmussen . . . At Hollywood Park Thursday, Sir Beaufort winner Mr. Commons worked four furlongs on Cushion Track in 48.40 for John Shirreffs . . . Congratulations to jockey Chantal Sutherland, who recently tweeted this announcement on her engagement: “Just had a nice brunch with my fiancé! Oops forgot to tell you that Dan Kruse proposed to me New Years Eve and I said YES . . . he's a STAR!” Kruse is a member of the family that owns Kruse Meats in Monrovia . . . Entering Thursday’s races, 2,208 players remained alive in ShowVivor . . . Happy birthday wishes to Don Valpredo, co-owner/breeder of Compari, 9-5 morning line favorite in today’s seventh race . . .Trainer Eric Guillot said Champagne d’Oro, eighth in Monday’s Monrovia Stakes, leaves Wednesday for Darley Stud in Kentucky to be bred to Bernardini. The 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro mare won the Grade I Test Stakes in 2010 and finished her career with $614,940 in earnings . . . San Gabriel Valley Tribune turf writer Art Wilson, recovering from cancer treatment, writes to say: “Got some great news from my doctor this week that my kidneys have shown ‘remarkable improvement’ and that made me feel really good. Hope you have a great 2012 and looking forward to seeing everybody out there really soon!! . . . Jay Privman, National Correspondent for Daily Racing Form, will have Bob Baedeker of Baedeker's Guide and the Live The Dream racing stable as the handicapping seminar’s guest on Saturday, 11:30 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Less than an hour after trainer Bob Hess Jr. won career race No. 1,001 with Subpoena the Dress at Santa Anita Monday, his father, Robert Hess, saddled Irish View to an easy victory in the sixth race at Golden Gate Fields.