Star Filly Secret Oath Posts Final Work Before the Arkansas Derby

Friday, March 25, 2022

Secret Oath working this morning at Oaklawn Park

Photo credit: Coady Photography

Star Filly Secret Oath Posts Final Work Before the Arkansas Derby

It was back to work for multiple stakes winner Secret Oath, who completed major preparations for the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 2 at Oaklawn by breezing 5 furlongs just after the track opened Friday morning for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Working by herself from the 5-furlong pole to the regular finish line, Secret Oath covered the distance in 1:01 under regular rider Luis Contreras. Secret Oath recorded fractions of :12.20 for her opening eighth of a mile and :37.60 for 3 furlongs, according to clockers, and galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:15. The track was fast.

“It went exactly as a planned,” Lukas said. “We said go 1:01, just let her catch her stride and take a couple of deep breathes. Actually, it was so easy on her that I wonder if I should have done a little more.”

Secret Oath was breezing for the second time since her dazzling 7 ½-length victory in the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 26. Secret Oath posted a 5-furlong bullet work (:59.40) March 17 in advance of the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, which will mark her first start against males.

“She breezed really good – five-eighths in 1:01,” Contreras said moments after Friday’s work. “That’s what the Coach wanted.”

Lukas, 86, a former high school basketball coach and among the most iconic figures in Thoroughbred history, said Secret Oath is scheduled to return to the track Sunday morning. She races for her breeder, Briland Farm (Robert and Stacy Mitchell).

Post positions for the Arkansas Derby will be drawn Sunday afternoon. The event will be open to the public, with a time and place to be announced by Oaklawn. The Arkansas Derby will offer 170 points (100-40-20-10, respectively) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters.

Secret Oath was among nine probables listed Friday morning by the Oaklawn racing department. Other horses pointing for the Arkansas Derby are Barber Road for trainer John Ortiz, Ben Diesel (Dallas Stewart), Call Me Jamal (Mike Puhich), Chasing Time (Steve Asmussen), Cyberknife (Brad Cox), Doppelganger (Tim Yakteen), Un Ojo (Ricky Courville) and We the People (Rodolphe Brisset).

Barber Road, Un Ojo and We the People are scheduled have their final works Saturday morning for the Arkansas Derby, according to their respective trainers. Call Me Jamal is scheduled to breeze Sunday, Puhich said.

Un Ojo, Chasing Time and Ben Diesel finished 1-5-8, respectively, in the Rebel, while We the People is unbeaten in two career starts at the meeting. Cyberknife was a sharp allowance winner Feb. 19 at Fair Grounds in his last start.

The Southern California-based Doppelganger had been with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, a four-time Arkansas Derby winner. But it was announced Thursday that Doppelganger and a handful of other Kentucky Derby hopefuls with Baffert had been moved to other trainers, owing to his horses being ineligible to collect qualifying points because of a two-year ban by Churchill Downs and a 90-day suspension scheduled to begin April 4. The sanctions stem from the disqualification of Baffert’s 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, because of a medication violation. Yakteen is a former Baffert assistant.

Secret Oath has won her three starts at the meeting by a combined 23 lengths. She won a Dec. 31 allowance race at 1 mile by 8 ¼ lengths and the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 29 by 7 ¼ lengths. The Martha Washington and Honeybee were 1 1/16 miles.

Secret Oath, with 60 points for her Honeybee and Martha Washington victories, tops the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard. The daughter of Arrogate had been under consideration for the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles April 2 – Oaklawn’s final major Kentucky Oaks prep – before targeting the Arkansas Derby.

Lukas won the 1984 Arkansas Derby with Althea, a week after she finished second in the Fantasy. Lukas finished third in the 1986 Arkansas Derby with another filly, Family Style, a week after she finished fourth in the Fantasy. Althea and Family Style were both Eclipse Award winners at 2.

In addition to the Arkansas Derby and Fantasy, post positions also will be drawn Sunday for three other April 2 stakes races – $400,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses, $200,000 Carousel for fillies and mares at 6 furlongs and the $150,000 Temperence Hill for older horses at 1 ½ miles.

The $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), the nation’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies, is May 6 at Churchill Downs. The $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1), the first leg of the Triple Crown, is May 7 at Churchill Downs.

Still a Superstar

Rated R Superstar, even at 9, continues to give. The late-running gelding’s latest gift came last Saturday when he captured the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) for older horses by 2 ¼ lengths.

The 1 1/16-mile Essex marked the biggest career victory for Rated R Superstar’s connections – jockey David Cabrera, trainer Federico Villafranco and owner Danny Caldwell – and came roughly two months after the gelding launched his 2022 campaign, successfully, in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes.

Caldwell said moments after the Essex that he hopes to run Rated R Superstar in Oaklawn’s signature two-turn event for older horses, the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles April 23. Oaklawn’s leading owner in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, Caldwell continues to flourish with older, older horses in Hot Springs. He won two races in 2014 with Fifth Date, then 10, and a stakes race in 2017 with Domain’s Rap, then 9.

Rated R Superstar, sixth in the 2019 Oaklawn Handicap and eighth last year, continues to perform a such a high level that he may return for a 10-year-old campaign, Caldwell said.

“He’ll tell me,” Caldwell said. “Fifth Date told me he was still ready to run at 10 and he won here at 10, I think, twice. It’s hard to win here at Oaklawn, as a 10-year-old, especially. I don’t know. I’ll just let him tell me what he thinks and if he decides that he still wants to run and stays sound, that’s the whole deal, he’s got to stay sound.”

Unpacking an evolving and already robust 59-race career, Rated R Superstar still represents the most lucrative career victory for jockey Walter De La Cruz and trainer Cipriano Contreras after winning the 2019 Essex, then worth $350,000, and provided now-retired jockey Cornelio Velasquez with his penultimate graded stakes victory in the $150,000 Carry Back (G3) for 3-year-olds in July 2016 at Gulfstream Park.

Continuing to outrun Father Time, Rated R Superstar ($18.60) covered 1 1/16 miles Saturday in a meet-best 1:43.12. The time generated a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 99, a career high, and a 109 Equibase Speed Rating, just off his career-best 111 in the 1-mile Fifth Season.

“He loves to run,” Caldwell said. “It’s amazing. It shows, though, those horses that are older, they’ve got a shot to still run. They want to run.”

Caldwell claimed Rated R Superstar for $50,000 in January 2021 at Oaklawn and continues to be rewarded for the home-run investment. In 11 starts for Caldwell, Rated R Superstar has four victories, including three stakes, and bankrolled $706,991.

The gelding was an ATM for his previous two trainers, also.

Rated R Superstar began his racing career as a promising Triple Crown prospect for nationally prominent trainer Kenny McPeek. Rated R Superstar, in 2015, finished second in the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs, then third in the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) for 2-year-olds at Keeneland. Breeders’ Futurity runner-up Exaggerator won the Preakness in 2016. Rated R Superstar finished 11th in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in 2015 at Keeneland, one of only two times he’s failed to collect a check in his career.

Rated R Superstar became a multiple Grade 3 winner for McPeek, earning $518,367 in 30 starts before being claimed by Contreras for $62,500 in November 2018 at Churchill Downs. In 18 starts for Contreras, Rated R Superstar earned $363,656.

A son of 2008 Oaklawn allowance winner and 2009 champion sprinter Kodiak Kowboy, Rated R Superstar has a 11-10-8 record from 59 starts and earnings of $1,589,014. He has won from 6 furlongs to 1 1/8 miles. Rated R Superstar is a six-time stakes winner.

Caldwell’s first Oaklawn stakes victory came with Domain’s Rap, who won the 2017 Fifth Season in his 9-year-old debut. Caldwell had claimed the gelding for just $10,000 in November 2015 at Remington Park. Domain’s Rap earned $568,881 in 15 starts for Caldwell.

“Domain’s Rap was my biggest money earner until, maybe, today,” Caldwell said. “(Rated R Superstar) is the classiest horse I’ve had. Probably going to be the best horse I’ve ever had.”

Domain’s Rap, in his final career start, finished second in the 2017 Oaklawn Handicap.

Finish Lines

Millionaire multiple Grade 1 winner Shedaresthedevil worked a half-mile in :49.40 just after the surface renovation break Friday morning under regular rider Florent Geroux. Trainer Brad Cox said Shedaresthedevil, who is co-owned by Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, is a candidate to remain at Oaklawn for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 23 or defend her title in the $750,000 La Troienne Stakes (G1) May 6 at Churchill Downs. Both races are 1 1/16 miles. … Kylee Jordan, in her first day as a 5-pound apprentice, won Thursday’s seventh race aboard Simply Beguiled ($16.80) for trainer John Ortiz. It was the fifth victory at the meeting and 41st overall for Jordan, 19, who tops the standings at Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma with six victories through the first two days of racing. … Trainer Lindsay Schultz recorded her second career victory when Alex Joon ($16.20) captured Thursday’s sixth race under Martin Garcia. A former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, Schultz saddled her first career winner Jan. 8. Both winners were for her main client, Ten Strike Racing (founding partners Marshall Gramm and Arkansas native Clay Sanders). … Oaklawn surpassed $10 million in claims at the meeting Thursday, Day 44 of the scheduled 66-day meeting. Through Thursday, 476 claims had totaled $10,199,750.