Bob Baffert is heading south by Southwest. Fresh off a victory by Secret Circle in the Rebel Stakes on Saturday at Oaklawn Park, Baffert will send Castaway to Sunland Park on Sunday for the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby.
Both Castaway and Secret Circle won divisions of the Southwest Stakes last month. Secret Circle was Baffert's lone representative in the Rebel, and he came from just off the pace for the win. Now, Castaway will try to hold up the stable's honor in the Sunland Derby, and he will be joined by Stirred Up, a recent maiden winner at Santa Anita who worked six furlongs in 1:12.20 on Monday morning at Hollywood Park.
"He worked great," said Baffert.
Martin Garcia worked Stirred Up, and he has the mount in the Sunland Derby. Rafael Bejarano will be on Castaway.
The Sunland Derby will also include Ender Knievel, a recent maiden winner at Gulfstream Park for trainer Todd Pletcher, who on Monday said John Velazquez would have the mount.
Pletcher had a busy day Monday. He finalized plans for the unbeaten Gemologist, who scored an easy allowance victory in his 2012 debut on Friday at Gulfstream Park, and he worked Discreet Dancer, who finished third in the Fountain of Youth in his most recent start.
Gemologist will definitely make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7, Pletcher said. Pletcher also had been considering the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby, but said the timing of the Wood Memorial is more desirable.
"We felt like we'd rather have four weeks to the big race than three," Pletcher said. Coming back in just three weeks for the Wood was made easier, Pletcher said, because Gemologist's race on Friday "was easy, not stressful."
Discreet Dancer worked five furlongs in 1:01.01 at Palm Meadows in preparation for the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on April 1.
Javier Castellano has the mount on both Gemologist and Discreet Dancer for their respective races, Pletcher said.
Pletcher also will be in action on Saturday at Turfway in this weekend's other important Derby prep, the Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral Stakes. He will send out Heavy Breathing (Castellano the rider) and Holiday Promise (Junior Alvarado).
The Rebel last Saturday had the weekend to itself as the only graded stakes for Derby runners. Baffert said Secret Circle was scheduled to fly back to California on Wednesday, but would return to Oaklawn for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 14.
"We found a new dimension that we didn't know we had," Baffert said. "About the half-mile pole, it looked like he wasn't running. It looked like, at the three-eighths pole, he was going to get nothing. But he dove inside and starting running.
"He's a quirky horse. He reminds me of Silver Charm. He'll win, but he's not going to show himself. I was really impressed with him. I thought he was hopelessly beaten at the three-eighths pole. He pulled it through. He just seems to get the job done."
Both Smarty Jones, in 2004, and Lawyer Ron, in 2006, swept the Southwest, Rebel, and Arkansas Derby.
Baffert said Bodemeister, the San Felipe runner-up, also could go to the Arkansas Derby.
"I don't have a problem running them both there," Baffert said.
Bodemeister's other option is the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7, but Baffert may desire another week coming off a hard race in the San Felipe.
The Arkansas Derby also is expected to include Optimizer, Scatman, and Jake Mo -- who finished second through fourth, respectively, in the Rebel -- as well as Delta Jackpot winner Sabercat, who finished eighth in his first start of the year.
-- additional reporting by Mary Rampellini