Secret Oath Targets Apple Blossom Following Azeri Win

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

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

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Secret Oath and Jockey Tyler Gaffalione

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Secret Oath Targets Apple Blossom Following Azeri Win

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas mapped out a two-race schedule months ago for millionaire Grade 1 winner Secret Oath during the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting.

So far, so good.

Secret Oath, flashing the form that stamped her one of the country’s top 3-year-old fillies last year, was a powerful 2 ¾-length winner of the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares Saturday at Oaklawn.

A homebred for Briland Farm (Robert and Stacy Mitchell), Secret Oath ($4.80) was making her first start since a fifth-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Secret Oath exited the Azeri in good order, Lukas said Sunday morning, adding she will be pointed to the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 15 at Oaklawn. The Apple Blossom, like the Azeri, is 1 1/16 miles.

Lukas brought Secret Oath up to the Azeri off eight workouts this year at Oaklawn, the first coming Jan. 8. Four were bullets.

“I told a couple of my friends right before the race, I said, ‘We’ve done everything we’ve wanted to do,’ ” Lukas said. “We worked her when we wanted to work her. (Mickaelle Michel) worked her in the time frame – how fast we wanted to go or how slow. We did everything we wanted to do, so we had no excuses going into it. We led her over there and if she ran well or didn’t run well, we really wouldn’t have changed anything going into it. Nothing.”

Secret Oath, who was ridden for the first time by Tyler Gaffalione, received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 97 for her Azeri victory. The winning time over a fast track was 1:43.26. Secret Oath had lost five consecutive starts – all in Grade 1 company – since winning the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at 1 1/8 miles last May at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Oaks is the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.

Secret Oath dominated 3-year-old fillies last season at Oaklawn, scoring blowout victories in the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes and $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3). Both races were 1 1/16 miles.

Lukas said Gaffalione would retain the mount on Secret Oath for the Apple Blossom.

“We’ve got a month,” Lukas said. “She’ll probably work twice.”

A daughter of deceased champion Arrogate, Secret Oath won for the sixth time in 14 starts to raise her lifetime earnings to $1,982,267. 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 was Lukas’ 348th career Oaklawn victory. His first came in the 1983 Apple Blossom with Miss Huntington.

Circuit change for Torres?

Jockey Cristian Torres has ridden the momentum of his first career riding title into a comfortable lead through the first 41 days of Oaklawn’s scheduled 68-day meeting that ends May 6.

Torres, 25, is riding so well that his plans to be based this summer at Lone Star Park are now up in the air, the jockey said Saturday morning.

“With everything that is happening now, with everything going so well, we haven’t made a decision yet,” Torres said. “We still haven’t made a decision, but if everything keeps going the way it’s going, we may make a change.”

Torres’ career surge began last summer when he became the go-to rider for Robertino Diodoro and Karl Broberg, two of the winningest trainers in North American history. Torres, after an injury during the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting, resurfaced last May at Lone Star Park, then rode 71 winners to capture the riding title at Remington Park.

Torres entered Sunday with a meet-high 57 victories this season at Oaklawn, 11 more than runner-up Francisco Arrieta. Torres also led all riders in purse earnings ($3,520,394) and stakes victories (five). Torres rode a career-high five winners Feb. 20 and had his third four-win day of the meeting Friday.

Torres didn’t elaborate on a potential new post-Oaklawn destination, but one obvious option would be Kentucky. A handful of Oaklawn’s top riders this season are normally based at Churchill Downs, Keeneland or Ellis Park the remainder of the year.

“We’ve got to take advantage of the momentum,” Torres said. “Everything’s going well and hopefully it keeps going the way it’s going.”

Torres began riding at Oaklawn in 2021 after relocating to the Midwest from Gulfstream Park, where he launched his career in 2019.

Torres, whose agent is retired trainer Cody Autrey, entered Sunday with 98 career victories at Oaklawn and 476 overall, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Finish Lines

Jockey David Cabrera recorded his 199th career Oaklawn victory when Interlock Empire ($37.40) broke his maiden in Saturday’s eighth race. Cabrera, Oaklawn’s co-leading rider at the 2021-2022 meeting, was named on six horses Sunday. … Francisco Arrieta, who shared last season’s title with Cabrera, rode three winners Saturday. Arrieta won the third race aboard favored American Band ($5.60) for 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman, fifth race aboard Lansdowne ($30.60) for trainer Tammy Hornsby and the seventh race aboard Icarus ($17.60) for trainer Tom Van Berg. Icarus, who edged 2022 Arkansas Derby runner-up Barber Road by a half-length in the $104,000 allowance race for older horses at 1 1/8 miles, represented the 102nd career victory for owner Lewis Mathews of nearby Bismarck, Ark. Icarus had given Mathews his 100th career victory in a Feb. 25 starter-allowance race at Oaklawn. … Arrieta ($3,018,262) became the second jockey at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting to surpass $3 million in purse earnings with Saturday’s triple. … Among the probables for the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) for older horses March 18 at Oaklawn are millionaire multiple graded stakes winners Last Samurai for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and Rated R Superstar (Martin Villafranco), according to the Oaklawn racing department. Rated R Superstar won the 2022 Essex. Post positions for the 1 1/16-mile Essex and $200,000 Whitmore Stakes (G3) for older horses at 6 furlongs will be drawn Monday. Early probables for the Whitmore, which will also be run March 18, include Flash of Mischief for trainer Karl Broberg, Tejano Twist (Hartman) and Cogburn (Steve Asmussen), according to the Oaklawn racing department. Lukas said Sunday morning that he plans to start Feb. 25 allowance winner Spankster in the Whitmore, adding Essex nominee and 2021 Arkansas Derby runner-up Caddo River will await the $400,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) April 1.