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February 19, 2013

Domination at Southwest Stakes

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Bob Baffert was sitting poolside in Mexico on Monday when he received word about an ongoing thunderstorm at Oaklawn Park.

The trainer wasn’t concerned about the weather in the least, and neither was his standout thoroughbred Super Ninety Nine, who led from the start while posting an 111⁄4-length win in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes.

Baffert watched the runaway victory on his computer while on vacation, a win that continued his incredible run at Oaklawn in Kentucky Derby prep races.

He’s now won three straight in the Southwest Stakes and five Grade 3 races at Oaklawn overall, including last year’s Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby.

“The weather conditions weren’t really great, but I think my horse is the only one that loved it,” Baffert said during a post-race teleconference.

Super Ninety Nine, who won its only other start of the year at Santa Anita on Jan. 31, began the day as a 7-5 favorite before going off at even money. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, the colt paid $4, $3.80 and $3. Fear The Kitten was second and paid $11.60 and $6.60, while Heaven’s Runway was third and paid $11.60 to show.

“With the way he broke and speed we had, everything went well,” Bejarano said. “There at the end, my horse still had something left.”

Baffert won both divisions of the same race a year ago, when it was split after 21 horses were entered. Castaway and Secret Circle were the winners on that day, with Bejarano in the saddle for both victories.

Super Ninety Nine broke quickly from the gate, holding off an early challenge from Heaven’s Runway, and had the inside position into the first turn of the 11⁄16-mile race. The colt maintained its lead on the back stretch and pulled away from its only other significant challenge by Always In A Tiz, who was the second pick behind Super Ninety Nine.

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