Horse Racing News by Mary Rampellini
Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty got her 4-year-old season started in a powerful way Friday at Oaklawn Park, when she shuttled to a 2 1/4- length win over Absinthe Minded in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap.
Horse of the Year Havre de Grace will not run in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park on April 13, owner Rick Porter said shortly after the weights for the race were released on Saturday.
Absinthe Minded, a two-time stakes winner at the meet who finished fourth as the favorite in the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri last Saturday, will advance to next month's Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
Secret Circle handled the latest distance test in his escalating career Saturday at Oaklawn Park, when he beat a fast-closing Optimizer by three-quarters of a length in the Grade 2, $500,000 Rebel Stakes.
The Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri is the local prep for the meet's biggest offering for fillies and mares, the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom on April 13. It also is the first half of a stakes double.
Bob Baffert has favored Secret Circle in the Rebel, which he won last year with The Factor and in 2010 with Lookin At Lucky.
Smarty Jones connections return in Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park
Junebugred put himself on the 3-year-old fast track Monday at Oaklawn Park, when he won the $100,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park by a neck over Reckless Jerry.
The Grade 3, $1 million race at Delta Downs in Vinton, La., will have a Grade 1 winner in the field for the first time Saturday after trainer Bob Baffert on Monday committed Drill, the Del Mar Futurity winner, to the 1 1/16-mile race.
Awesome Gem still has got it at 8. He rallied for a one-length win in the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on Monday, then withstood a claim of foul to nail down the fourth graded stakes win of a career that began in 2006.