Clairiere (#4 outside) on her way to besting Secret Oath in the Apple Blossom (Coady Photography)
Oaklawn Park Press Release
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— Racing the weather as much as each other, Stonestreet Stables’ Clairiere caught Secret Oath in the shadow of the wire to win Saturday’s $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) as severe weather bore down on Oaklawn and Hot Springs.
The 5-year-old daughter of Curlin waited until the final moments to pounce on the 3-5 favorite and 2022 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner to get her third career Grade 1 victory under jockey Joel Rosario and gave Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen his fourth win and second stakes victory on the day. It was also his third Apple Blossom victory following champions Midnight Bisou and Untapable.
“(Tactically) it played out like everybody thought it would,” Asmussen said. “I think Joel (Rosario) is fabulous about the theory that I have – races are from point A to point B. If you go from point A to point B as good as you can, you get the best outcome you can, whether it’s favorable or not. She’s a tremendous mare. She’s really good.”
Strategy proved to be key in the four-horse field, with Rosario taking a risk that front-runner Hot and Sultry could sneak away and Secret Oath could get a perfect trip. However, Clairiere’s closing kick arrived just in time to get the win by a neck as the 3-to-2 second choice. Secret Oath and jockey Tyler Gaffalione settled for second a neck behind ($2.10 to place) with Hot and Sultry fading to third in a race without show wagering. The winning time was 1:43 1/5 for 1 1/16 miles over a fast track.
“She responded really well today,” Rosario said. “I was watching the (#) one horse in front of me (Secret Oath). She did really great. She really dug in there. I was able to get there in time. She always tries really hard.”
Clairiere improved her record to 7-5-3 in 18 starts and has now earned $2,831,392. She returned $5 and $2.40.
With a victory in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) earlier on the card, Asmussen won his 100th and 101st stakes races at Oaklawn in his illustrious career.
Live racing resumes Sunday with a 12:30 p.m. first post. Next Saturday features the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) as well as the $200,000 Bath House Row and the $150,000 Valley of the Vapors Stakes.
Winning jockey Joel Rosario, Clairiere: “She responded really well today. I was watching the #1 horse in front of me (Secret Oath). She did really great. She really dug in there. I was able to get there in time. She always tries really hard.”
Winning trainer Steve Asmussen, Clairiere: “(Tactically) it played out like everybody thought it would. I think Joel (Rosario) is fabulous about the theory that I have – races are from point A to point B. If you go from point A to point B as good as you can, you get the best outcome you can, whether it’s favorable or not. She’s a tremendous mare. She’s really good.”
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, second on Secret Oath: “I thought I had them. The filly ran all the way to the wire. She got run down. She (Clairiere) was better today. The filly pulled up good, came back happy, so, we’ll live to fight another day. (Hot and Sultry) was the lone speed. We let her get out in front and little by little cut into it. She kicked for me. She just got beat.”
Jockey David Cabrera, third on Hot and Sultry: “The race played out like we planned it. This is a filly that’s a little aggressive and today she actually relaxed really, really good. The wind picked up really hard on the backside and she hit my silks and kind of jumped on the bit a little bit. We got outrun, but we got outrun by the best.”
Jockey Chel-c Bailey, fourth on I Feel The Need: “I wasn’t expecting her to break out that fast and kind of keep up with them. The 4 (Clairiere) kind of bumped me a little bit going into the first turn. Going down the backside, those were a whole different caliber of horses. How much does (D. Wayne) Lukas want for his filly? How much does (Steve) Asmussen want for his? I Feel the Need has been competing, obviously, at a lower level. But, hey, you don’t know until you try.”
Ricardo Santana Jr. from his winning ride aboard Skelly in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap:
‘Today, he was much the best. He’s fast enough. I don’t think it was a good idea to take him back. He’s a fast horse. So, I had a good break and he put him in a good spot. We slowed it down a little bit. He was much the best.’