Oaklawn Park split Monday's Southwest Stakes for Kentucky Derby hopefuls into two divisions and trainer Bob Baffert won both of them.
Baffert, seemingly awash in Derby candidates, saddled Castaway in the first division and that Kentucky-bred Street Sense colt drew off in the stretch to win by 3 3/4 lengths. In the next race, it was Secret Circle dueling to the lead before edging clear to win by 1/2 length. Rafael Bejarano rode both winners.
Each division carried Grade III status and each was worth $250,000, with $150,000 to the winner -- a good head start on getting a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Secret Circle was the more highly regarded of Baffert's invaders, coming off a victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint in November at Churchill Downs and a second-place finish in the Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita last month.
He went to the post as the odds-on favorite but had to work for the win. After stalking the early pace set by Scatman, Secret Circle went to engage that rival on the second turn but took most of the stretch to edge clear. Adirondack King, who last raced at Tampa Bay Downs, finished third.
Secret Circle, a Kentucky-bred Eddington colt, got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.08.
Owner Paul Weitman said, "This horse tries every time. I was a little nervous at the end, but he dug in and got there. We'll leave his next start up to Bob. He's the coach."
Castaway, dismissed at odds of nearly 7-1, broke from the No. 11 gate and employed similar tactics but had a much easier time in the stretch run. Jake Mo finished second and Reckless Jerry was third. The favorite, Longview Drive, another California import, dead-heated with Junebugred for sixth and seventh.
Castaway ran the 1 mile in 1:38.09. He was coming off his maiden victory in California and now is 2-for-7.
Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said Bejarano "did a good job getting him out of the gate and getting over to the rail. I knew we brought two good horses and this one had been getting over the track great all week."
Other Presidents Day racing:
City to City rallied wide through the stretch to win the $150,000, Grade II Buena Vista Handicap for fillies and mares by a head over the almost-aptly named Up In Time. Wild Mia was third and the lukewarm favorite, Vamo a Galupiar, finished sixth. City to City, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred City Zip mare, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.19. "I couldn't have been in a better spot and the way the race developed was perfect," said winning rider Corey Nakatani.
Law Enforcement came from last of seven to win the $75,000 Hollie Hughes Handicap for New York-breds by 1 1/4 lengths over Head Heart Hoof. Be Bullish was third. Law Enforcement, a 7-year-old son of Posse, ran the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:10.95 for jockey Alan Garcia.