LITTLE ROCK — Reconnaissance work completed by his lesser runners, trainer Bob Baffert now knows he will have to send his first string to Arkansas to resume his enormously successful run in Oaklawn Park’s series for Kentucky Derby hopefuls.

LITTLE ROCK — Reconnaissance work completed by his lesser runners, trainer Bob Baffert now knows he will have to send his first string to Arkansas to resume his enormously successful run in Oaklawn Park’s series for Kentucky Derby hopefuls.


Baffert-trained Collected in the Southwest on Feb. 15 and Toews on Ice a month earlier in the Smarty Jones could not hang with the Hot Springs-based thoroughbreds that will congregate for the Rebel on March 19.


Ohfer two in Oaklawn prep races is an extended losing streak for Baffert who won the Southwest with Conveyance in 2010 the first time he ran a horse in Oaklawn’s series for 3-year-olds. Including that victory, his horses have won the Southwest four times, the Rebel five times, and the Arkansas Derby twice, a win percentage of 60 percent in a craft where finishing first 25 percent is top tier. Baffert’s best 3-year-old this year is Mor Spirit, who has won two straight stakes in California and the trainer has not shared his plans for the colt.


The Derby Dozen of highly respected Steve Haskin begins with unbeaten Mohaymen and Mor Spirit while The AP’s race writer has Mor Spirit listed third behind 2-year-old champion Nyquist and Mohaymen.


Based in California, Nyquist is supposed to compete in the April 2 Florida Derby where he is eligible for a $1 million bonus offered to the winner that is a graduate of a specific 2015 sale of 2-year-olds in training. Most trainers prefer at least three races in the four months prior to the Kentucky Derby, but Nyquist will go to Churchill Downs with only the Florida Derby and a recent seven-furlong race in California. In defense of skilled trainer Doug O’Neill, Nyquist ran five times at 2.


Assuming Mohaymen does well next weekend in the Fountain of Youth in Florida, he also will run in the Florida Derby.


Although Mor Spirit is also eligible for the bonus in Florida, Baffert will decide between the San Felipe in California on March 12 or the Rebel at Oaklawn on March 19; and the Santa Anita Derby on April 9 or the Arkansas Derby on April 16. He could mix and match, stay in California for two races, or take the Rebel-Arkansas Derby route he pursued last year with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Part of the equation is whether he prefers a three- or four-week break before Mor Spirit tries the Kentucky Derby on May 7.


Ironically, American Pharoah might not have double-dipped at Oaklawn last year except that Baffert circled the Santa Anita Derby for highly regarded Dortmund and did not want to run his two best against each other prior to Churchill Downs.


Meanwhile, the top three finishers in the Southwest — Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore, and American Dubai — proved they belong in the Rebel field. So did Smarty Jones winner Discreetness, who broke from gate 14 in the Southwest and was eight horses wide at one point. Unfamiliar with the mathematical formula for figuring how much ground he lost, I know there is a reason sprinters use a staggered start for races around a curve.


"Bad trip," understated trainer Jinks Fires.


Suddenbreakingnews impressed, passing the other 13 horses in the race, but the post-race words of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard Whitmore also attracted my attention. He said the gelding ran very well considering some extenuating circumstances, adding, " … he could get a lot better."


The 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby points available in the Rebel share top billing with the $900,000 purse and the package guarantee new runners will be in the field.


Already, New York-based Chuck Lawrence has announced plans to ship Vorticity from the Northeast and Oaklawn-based Brad Cox plans to run Dazzling Gem, unbeaten in two races.


Among other things, Cox mentioned the money — $540,000 for first and $180,000 for second. Plus, 22 points was good enough for a spot in the starting gate for the 2015 Kentucky Derby.