Secret Oath Ready for Her 4-Year-Old Debut

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, or (501) 363-4305

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Secret Oath

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Secret Oath Ready for Her 4-Year-Old Debut

November news surrounding Secret Oath wasn’t limited to the Breeders’ Cup.

Following a fifth-place finish in the $2 million Distaff (G1) Nov. 5 at Keeneland, Secret Oath was withdrawn from The November Sale, Fasig-Tipton’s prestigious breeding stock sale, to race at 4 for owners Robert and Stacy Mitchell (Briland Farm).

Secret Oath will try to make more news – again on the track – in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles Saturday at Oaklawn for the Mitchells and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

A finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly, Secret Oath will be running for the first time since the 1 1/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Distaff and being withdrawn the following morning from The November Sale by the Mitchells, who also bred the daughter of deceased champion Arrogate.

“They honestly talked about it, seriously,” Lukas said, referring to selling Secret Oath. “Rob Mitchell, himself, he thought that it was time, maybe, to cash in and it would change everything. Like he said, you would be mortgage free after that. Yet, Stacy never really endorsed that. She never talked like it was going to happen. They discussed it back and forth and finally, like all situations, the wife always wins out.”

Secret Oath emerged as one of the country’s top 3-year-old fillies during the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting, with her breakout performance coming in a 1-mile New Year’s Eve allowance. She romped home by 8 ¼ lengths, beating, among others, future Grade 1 winner Matareya. Secret Oath then scored blowout victories in Oaklawn’s first two Kentucky Oaks points races – $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes and $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) – before finishing third against males in its $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1). Secret Oath won the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) last May at Churchill Downs in her next start. The Kentucky Oaks is the country’s biggest prize for 3-year-old fillies.

Secret Oath lost her final five starts last year – all Grade 1 events – including a fourth against males in the Preakness and two seconds against Nest, who would be crowned the country’s champion 3-year-old filly. Secret Oath was beaten 5 ½ lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff after leading in midstretch.

Lukas said Secret Oath remained in light training following the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and become more robust physically at 4.

“She was kind of gangly and that big old frame needed filling out,” Lukas said. “She’s filled out a lot. I would say she’s put on 50 pounds, maybe more.”

Secret Oath returned to the work tab Jan. 8 at Oaklawn and has breezed eight times leading up to the Azeri. Four have been bullet drills. Secret Oath’s regular breeze rider is jockey Mickaelle Michel, who has three victories at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting.

“I feel so lucky to be able to work her, a filly like her,” Michel said. “She looks really good. She’s working good. We are happy and looking forward to seeing her run again.”

Secret Oath has a 5-2-3 record from 13 lifetime starts and earnings of $1,768,417. The Mitchells and Lukas also campaigned Secret Oath’s dam, Absinthe Minded, who finished third in the 2011 Azeri and fourth the following year.

The Azeri is the final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 15. Secret Oath is also scheduled to run in the Apple Blossom, Lukas said.

Hot and Sultry Stretches Out For Azeri

Lightly raced Hot and Sultry will try to make the grade when she makes her two-turn debut in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares Saturday at Oaklawn for trainer Norm Casse and prominent Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong.

The Azeri is the final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 15. Both races are 1 1/16 miles.

“From Day 1, she seemed to me like she was a route horse,” Casse said Wednesday afternoon. “We picked a pretty salty spot to try it, but it’s time to find out.”

Hot and Sultry, a 4-year-old daughter of Speightster, is already a stakes winner, claiming the $150,000 American Beauty for older fillies and mares Jan. 21 at Oaklawn in her last start. But the American Beauty, Hot and Sultry’s fifth career start, was 6 furlongs. In the Azeri, Hot and Sultry will be stretching out to face, among others, millionaire Grade 1 winner Secret Oath for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, millionaire Grade 1 winner Clairiere for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and Grade 2 winner Interstatedaydream for trainer Brad Cox. All three horses are proven around two turns, but coming off lengthy layoffs.

“I feel like we have a fitness edge, for sure, and I think tactically we kind of have an edge as well,” Casse said. “The two big favorites (Clairiere and Secret Oath) are come from behind horses. Brad’s filly will be forwardly placed, so I feel like we’ll be sitting in between those (three). So, if’s she able to route as well as she does sprinting, then we’re going to have a perfect opportunity to pick up a big piece of this race.”

A $475,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, Hot and Sultry was a flashy maiden special weight winner last season at Oaklawn and returned to finish second behind Grade 3 winner Yuugiri in an allowance sprint Dec. 30 in Hot Springs.

The Dec. 30 race marked Hot and Sultry’s first since July 1 – an entry-level allowance victory in a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs – and her first for Casse, who began training for the Lieblongs last year. Hot and Sultry had previously been with Asmussen.

“When I got down here, Alex and I discussed it and felt like with her, the whole meet was going to be based on the fact, with her in particular, try to get her to the Apple Blossom, if she took us there,” Casse said. “So, this would be the first big step.”

Hot and Sultry showed a new dimension in the American Beauty, coming from off the pace to beat I’m the Boss of Me by a half-length after breaking a step slow under David Cabrera. Hot and Sultry had led at every point of call in her previous two victories, including the 6-furlong maiden special weight score in January 2022 at Oaklawn.

Hot and Sultry has logged three workouts since the American Beauty. The last two (Feb. 27 and March 5) were 5-furlong bullets.

“Her last two works, they look fast, but they were done pretty effortlessly,” Casse said. “She seems be doing extremely well right now.”

Hot and Sultry (20-1 on the morning line for the Azeri) has won 3 of 5 starts overall and earned $256,395.

Show Him the Money

Could he be the one to break the seemingly unbreakable record?

Gar Hole is more than halfway home after increasing his career earnings to $451,124 with a repeat victory in the $150,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes for Arkansas-bred sprinters last Saturday at Oaklawn.

A 5-year-old gelded son of Tekton for breeder/owner John Ed Anthony’s Shortleaf Stable, Gar Hole is the latest candidate positioned to try and eclipse Nodouble’s longstanding Arkansas-bred earnings record. Nodouble, from 42 starts in 1967-1970, bankrolled $846,749.

“I think it’s remotely possible,” Anthony’s racing manager, John Gasper, said following last Saturday’s victory. “So far, he’s sound. So, all that’s good. If we can find the right spots for him, keep him short. I don’t think he’s a two-turn horse. I would like to try him on the grass. He’s a very fast horse.”

Gar Hole breezed to a five-length victory in last year’s Nodouble. Although he received the same Beyer Speed Figure (91), the gelding had to work harder as the heavy favorite last Saturday under Ricardo Santana Jr. Gar Hole ($2.80) easily made the lead and cruised to midstretch with a 3 ½-length advantage. He received right-handed encouragement late from Santana as the lead dwindled to 1 ½ lengths at the finish. Gar Hole covered 6 furlongs in 1:10 over a fast track.

The Nodouble marked Gar Hole’s first start since finishing fourth against open company in the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes for older horses at 6 furlongs Jan. 28 at Oaklawn. Gar Hole, after leading in upper stretch, was beaten 6 ¾ lengths by Grade 1 winner Gunite. The winning time over a sloppy track was a meet-best 1:08.89.

“The last race took a lot out of him,” Gasper said. “He was a little flat today. But he got there today and, hopefully, we can now find a good spot for him.”

Trainer John Ortiz said he hopes Gar Hole can make at least one more start before the Oaklawn meeting ends May 6. The closing-day card features two stakes races – $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship for state-breds at 1 1/16 miles and the inaugural $150,000 Lake Hamilton for older horses at 6 furlongs.

“We still have plenty of time here at Oaklawn, so we’ll see what comes up in the next condition book,” Ortiz said. “He’s still got conditions and we’ll take it from there.”

Gar Hole has won 6 of 10 starts overall for Anthony, the Arkansas lumberman and winningest owner in Oaklawn history. Gar Hole has a 6-0-1 mark from nine starts at Oaklawn and earnings of $449,324. The Nodouble was Anthony’s 284th career Oaklawn victory.

Nodouble was the country’s champion older horse in 1969 and 1970. He had 13 career victories, including the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn, Met Mile at Belmont Park and the Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita.

Another Double for Moysey

Chelsey Moysey recorded her fourth career training double and first at Oaklawn when she saddled the winners of last Sunday’s second and third races.

Moysey won the second race with Fortibug ($32.40) for owner John Conforti and the third race with Empire Pass ($7.20) for owner Lewis Mathews of nearby Bismarck, Ark. Fortibug represented the 50th career victory for Moysey, 29, a former assistant under the now-retired Buff Bradley who saddled her first horse and winner in 2019.

“Never had two in a row,” Moysey said Thursday morning. “I’m still in shock that’s what happened.”

Moysey had previously recorded doubles Dec. 15, 2020, at Mountaineer; June 23, 2021, at Delaware Park; and Aug. 17, 2022, at Delaware Park. She also won two races Nov. 2, 2022 – one at Charles Town and one at Delaware Park.

Moysey had been 0 for 49 at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting before her double. Those 49 starts included six third-place finishes.

“Ride the wave – deep wave,” Moysey said. “Feel like I’m a surfer out in the middle of Hawaii right now. Just getting races to go and getting horses in the right spots has been a big challenge. Those two had every right to win. I have a couple of more before we leave that I think will be in a good spot.”

Moysey entered Thursday with 10 career victories at Oaklawn. She now has at least victory at the last four meetings.

Finish Lines

Jockey David Cabrera recorded his 197th career Oaklawn victory aboard favored Classy Socks ($3.60) in last Sunday’s ninth race, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Cabrera was Oaklawn’s co-leading rider in 2021-2022. … Classy Socks was the second winner on last Sunday’s card for trainer Tommy Vance of Hot Springs. Vance, the son of four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance, won the sixth race with Summer in Malibu ($6.40). … Summer in Malibu was the 726th career Oaklawn victory for jockey Jon Court. Court is the sixth-winningest rider in Oaklawn history. … Favored Whooping Jay ($7.20) won last Sunday’s fifth race to give Staton Flurry of Hot Springs his 97th career victory as a sole owner, according to Equibase. It was the 30th career Oaklawn victory for Flurry, whose Interstatedaydream is entered in Saturday’s $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Tyler Baze rode Whooping Jay for trainer Karl Broberg. …Two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox won two races last Sunday, pushing his career Oaklawn total to 280. Cox won the fourth race with favored Corona Bolt ($3.60) and the eighth race with favored Punchbowl ($4). Fair Grounds-based Florent Geroux rode both winners. Unbeaten Kentucky Oaks candidate Punchbowl (2 for 2) represented the 75th career Oaklawn victory for Geroux. Cox and Geroux were scheduled to team again in Thursday’s seventh race, a $103,000 entry-level allowance race for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, with unbeaten Triple Crown nominee Heroic Move. … Lynn Chleborad, the winningest female trainer in Oaklawn history, won last Sunday’s seventh race with favored Sacred Wish ($5.80). Sacred Wish, who was ridden by Kylee Jordan, represented the 134th career Oaklawn victory for Chleboard. Ingrid Mason (129) is the second-winningest female trainer in Oaklawn history. … Jockey Rocco Bowen is scheduled to resume riding at Oaklawn Friday after missing last week to ride in his native Barbados. Bowen, through Sunday, had seven victories at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. … Post positions for the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles and the $200,000 Whitmore Stakes (G3) for older horses at 6 furlongs will be drawn Monday. Both races are March 18.