The following post appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.
Secret Circle was freakishly fast as a juvenile, when he won the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint, but this season trainer Bob Baffert has conditioned the bay son of Eddington to stretch out and race around two turns. A more relaxed approach to racing paid off most effectively this weekend when Secret Circle came home the winner of the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Now the colt will be pointed for the Arkansas Derby and potentially the Triple Crown.
The leading racer for his sire, Secret Circle was bred in Kentucky by Willmott Stables, which also campaigned his sire, the Unbridled stallion Eddington, winner of the G1 Pimlico Special and placed third in the Preakness, Travers, Wood Memorial, and Donn Handicap.
One of the handsomest sons of Unbridled, the big, chestnut Eddington went to stud at Claiborne Farm, where Unbridled spent the latter part of his stud career, and from his early crops, Eddington has produced a large portion of runners (165, 55 percent) and winners (111, 37 percent). Claiborne’s Bernie Sams noted that “Eddington gets a lot of warriors, and they’re sound.”
Eddington gets stock that look racy and can perform well at 2-year-old sales, and at the first select sale of juveniles in training this year, his colt out of Gottah Penny brought $150,000 at Barretts on March 5 from West Point Thoroughbreds.
The stallion’s racers also earned enough money to place him eighth among third-crop sires last year, and Eddington currently ranks 22nd on the 2012 general sire list. In contrast to his classic-winning sire, however, Eddington had hit a wall when it came to getting the star performer until Secret Circle, who is his sire’s first stakes winner.
Winner of two stakes last year and a pair of graded stakes this spring, Secret Circle is not keeping his ability a secret. With five victories and a second from six starts, Secret Circle races for Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman, who purchased the powerful bay for $165,000 at the 2011 OBS March sale of select 2-year-olds in training.
Secret Circle debuted at Del Mar last summer, winning a five and a half-furlong maiden special by 7 1/4 lengths in 1:03 2/5. The colt came back to win a six-furlong stakes at Santa Anita by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:08 1/5.
So, when Secret Circle came to the BC Juvenile Sprint, there was no doubt the colt had feet that flew, and he came home the winner by a length in 1:10 2/5 after early fractions of :20 4/5, :44 2/5, and :56 4/5.
Being unbeaten at 2, racing only at sprint distances, did not make the colt a classic contender. So Baffert began a program to move Secret Circle forward. The colt has worked a distance less than six furlongs only twice since November, and one of those was at five furlongs. Furthermore, the trainer and his riders have been working with Secret Circle in efforts to get him to relax and finish because nobody wins a Derby after going a quarter in :20 and change.
An aid to their efforts is the fact that the colt’s pedigree suggests the classics are within the realm of possibility. Not only is Eddington a G1 winner by the great classic sire Unbridled but also is out of a mare by champion Chief’s Crown, and Secret Circle is out of a stakes-winning Dixieland Band mare bred by Will Farish.
Racing for Thomas Willmott, the Dixieland Band filly Ragtime Hope won two stakes and placed in four others in three seasons of racing. She had been a $50,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2003 and earned $127,715. After retirement, the owner sold her to his brother, Peter Willmott, who raced Eddington, and she joined the Willmott broodmare band at Longfield Farm outside Louisville.
The mare has since been married to Eddington. Her first foal is Eddington Limit, who sold for $90,000 at the OBS March sale in 2010 and has earned $74,968 from two wins in nine starts, and her second is Secret Circle. The mare was barren for 2010, has an Eddington yearling colt, and is due to the stallion for 2012. Ragtime Hope is booked to Arch.