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Warm winter means no tulips for Kentucky Derby

Published:Friday | March 23, 2012 | 12:00 AM

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (AP):

It's called the Run for the Roses, but thousands of tulips are also part of the landscape at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby. Not this year.

Track horticulture director Matt Bizzell says the unusually warm winter means the tulips will bloom about two weeks too early for the first Saturday in May.

The track usually has 6,000 to 12,000 tulips blooming during Derby week. Bizzell says they'll be replaced this year by some 25,000 annuals growing in the Churchill Downs greenhouse.

As for roses, Bizzell says they should look better than ever. They usually peak after the Derby, but Bizzell says he's hoping this year they'll be right on time. Some 2,100 roses will adorn the Winner's Circle with about 250 rose bushes scattered elsewhere.

Meanwhile, trainer Bob Baffert's Arkansas Shuttle keeps rolling, likely carrying a couple of his 3-year-old colts to the Kentucky Derby in less than seven weeks.

Successful weekend

The Hall of Fame trainer had another successful weekend at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, with Secret Circle winning the $500,000 Rebel Stakes by three-quarters of a length over fast-closing Optimiser last Saturday.

The bay colt returned to California this week but is scheduled to be shuttled back for the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 7 and shoot for an Oaklawn sweep. Secret Circle won the second division of the Southwest Stakes last month, and Baffert's Castaway won the first division.

Baffert has won the Rebel three years in a row - Lookin At Lucky won in 2010 and The Factor won last year - and improved his record at Oaklawn to an amazing 13 wins from 21 starts. In the last three years, his horses have won 10 of 13 starts.

With Secret Circle's fifth win in six starts, the colt moves up to No. 4 on the latest Associated Press Run to the Roses Top 10 list of Derby contenders. Union Rags, Hansen and El Padrino remain 1-2-3 as they get ready for their final preps before the Derby on May 5.