Super Ninety Nine dominates Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn
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 11¼-length win in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes at Hot Springs, Ark.
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 III races at Oaklawn overall, including last year's Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby.
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"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.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, 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. Fear The Kitten was second, followed by Heaven's Runway.
"With the way he broke and speed we had, everything went well," Bejarano said. "There at the end, my horse still had something left."
Oaklawn dodged showers for much of the day, but the skies opened up 30 minutes before the featured race. The rain lightened to a small drizzle in the moments before post time, but the track — which had been rated as fast throughout the day — was sloppy for the 1:44.84 winning lap.
"The break was so important today," Baffert said.
Rain or no rain, Super Ninety Nine was clearly the class of the field. And his performance was enough for Baffert to say he's already considering bringing him back for the Arkansas Derby on April 13.
"You look at him, and he's built like a sprinter. He's a big, strong horse," Baffert said.
Rachel Alexandra continues to improve
Rachel Alexandra remained in serious condition but was walking and eating as she continues improving from abdominal surgery.
Veterinarians at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital said the 2009 Horse of the Year took a short walk outside Monday morning and ate a small amount of grass. Rachel Alexandra began receiving feed along with IV fluids and nutrition on Saturday, and her vital signs remain "bright" and normal.
Veterinarians Bonnie Barr and Brett Woodie are encouraged by the mare's progress. Barr attributed the improvement to Rachel Alexandra being "smart and strong-willed."
Mizdirection wins Buena Vista Stakes
Mizdirection led all the way in winning the $150,000 Buena Vista Stakes by 2¼ lengths at Santa Anita for co-owner and sports talk host Jim Rome. Ridden by Mike Smith, Mizdirection ran 1 mile on the turf in 1:33.50 as the 3-5 favorite in the field of eight. She hadn't run the distance since winning at Del Mar on Aug. 19, 2011.
The winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint against males at Santa Anita in November, Mizdirection was bumped sharply after the starting gate opened, which resulted in the mare grabbing a section of her right front foot, which was bleeding after the race.
"She'll have a few extra days off," trainer Mike Puype told the Daily Racing Form. "Hopefully it won't be too deep."
L.A. Lakers owner Jerry Buss dies
Jerry Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers' playboy owner who shepherded the NBA team to 10 championships from the Showtime dynasty of the 1980s to the Kobe Bryant era, died Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 80.
Buss had been hospitalized for most of the past 18 months while undergoing cancer treatment, but the immediate cause of death was kidney failure. With his condition worsening in recent weeks, several prominent former Lakers visited Buss to say goodbye.
"The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come," NBA Commissioner David Stern said. "More importantly, we have lost a dear and valued friend."
Under Buss' leadership since 1979, the Lakers became Southern California's most beloved sports franchise and a worldwide extension of Hollywood glamour. Buss acquired, nurtured and befriended a staggering array of talented players and basketball minds during his Hall of Fame tenure, from Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.
Baker in good health as season starts
Cincinnati Reds Manager Dusty Baker has watched his diet and gotten plenty of rest, the main changes in his lifestyle since his health scare late last season.
Baker was in a hospital in Chicago when the Reds clinched the NL Central title last season, getting treatment for an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke. He was back in time for the playoffs, which ended with a first-round loss to San Francisco.
The 63-year-old manager acknowledged that he wasn't feeling all the way back to normal when he returned to the dugout.
"I didn't really know how to feel," Baker said. "All I know is I wasn't myself, but I was better than most."
After the Reds were eliminated in a five-game series, Baker returned home to California and had more tests. He's made a few changes in his lifestyle.
"I always took care of myself, but now you're really aware of what you eat, how you sleep and stuff like that," Baker said. "I lost weight by being sick but once you do lose weight by being sick, it's up to you to keep it off. I didn't really change what I eat but I eat less of it."
Bulls' Rose goes through 5-on-5 drills
Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose participated Monday in five-on-five drills, the latest step in his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Rose has been sidelined since he tore his ACL late in last season's playoff-opening win over Philadelphia.
The last word
Roger Clemens said little publicly in the immediate aftermath of the Hall of Fame vote. Over a month later, he's willing to share his thoughts — but the 354-game winner is not about to start a lobbying campaign. Clemens said:
"I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. If those guys feel I deserve to be there, then I deserve to be there. If they feel I don't, then that's OK, too."