|Updated: 2/20/2012 7:39 pm
||Published: 2/20/2012 5:12 pm
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Bob Baffert didn't stop with just one Kentucky Derby hopeful.
A pair of Baffert-trained horses, Castaway and Secret Circle, won both divisions of the $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Monday.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano rode both horses to the wins in the mile Derby prep race, which was split into two divisions after 21 horses were entered. Baffert wasn't on hand for the wins, but the trainer left his mark on the day in front of a crowd of 29,313.
Castaway won the first of the two races at 6-1, pulling away down the stretch for a 3¾-length win over Jake Mo.
Secret Circle, a heavy favorite, followed that by holding off Scatman for a 1½-length win in the second - potentially solidifying the colt's Kentucky Derby hopes. Secret Circle, last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint winner, lost for the first time in four career starts in his previous race - the mile $100,000 Sham Stakes on Jan. 7.
Secret Circle was shocked in the Sham Stakes as a 1-2 favorite by Out of Bounds after briefly leading down the stretch.
On Monday, the colt fared much better in his second attempt at a mile. He was neck-and-neck with Scatman before pulling away for the narrow win in 1:37.08.
"I think he worked harder on the front end of (the Sham Stakes), maybe, than today," co-owner Karl Watson said. "Although, he had to work hard today, too.
"... That Out of Bounds is a good horse."
Watson said a decision on the colt's Kentucky Derby future was in Baffert's hands.
"It looks like he's got a lot of options," Watson said.
Baffert has now won a Grade 3 prep race at Oaklawn in three straight years. Since Conveyance won the 2010 Southwest Stakes under the trainer's guidance, Baffert is 12-9-1 at Oaklawn.
Watson and fellow co-owner Paul Weitman also owned another of Baffert's Arkansas winners, Lookin at Lucky in the 2010 Rebel Stakes.
"It brought back some memories," Watson said of Secret Circle's win.
Secret Circle paid $3.20, $3.20 and 2.40, while Scatman paid $6.40 and $4.60. Third-place finisher Adirondack King paid $3.60 to show.
Castaway didn't enter Monday's race with quite the same hype as Secret Circle, but the colt left no doubt about his closing kick in the first of the Southwest Stakes races, the eighth on a 10-race card.
Castaway won his last time out at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 12. He started from the 11th position on Monday, but went out early with Majestic Stride before running away from the field down the stretch and finishing in 1:38.09.
"Everyone said we drew bad when we got the 11, but I wasn't bothered by that," assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. "You put them in from the rail out, so they're not in the gate that long."
Castaway paid $15.40, $9.40 and $7.20. Jake Mo paid $19 and $7.40, while Reckless Jerry - owned by country singer Toby Keith - paid $4.20 to show.
"I thought he won pretty easy," Bejarano said. "I was right where I wanted to be, especially at the end."
Oaklawn's series of Kentucky Derby prep races continues with the $300,000 Rebel Stakes on March 17 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 14.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)