Clairiere and Secret Oath battle for the finish line in the Apple Blossom (Coady Photography)
By Ryan Martin – NYRA Press Office
ELMONT, N.Y. – Three-time Grade 1 winner Clairiere will face last year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath for the third time this season when seeking a repeat conquest of the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park.
The 55th running of the nine-furlong test for older fillies and mares is a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Distaff in November at Santa Anita and has seen seven of its winners subsequently garner Championship honors, including Proud Delta , Personal Ensign , Sky Beauty , Ashado , Close Hatches , Midnight Bisou  and Letruska .
Clairiere will attempt to join Heatherten [1984-85], Sightseek [2003-04] and Take D’Tour [2006-07] as back-to-back winners of the Ogden Phipps, while seeking to provide Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen with his fourth win in the last five runnings of the event.
A homebred product of Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables, Clairiere has proven a force the past three seasons, earning Grade 1 wins during each campaign and amassing field-best earnings of $2,831,392 through a record of 18-7-5-3. Amongst her career highlights are capturing the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx Racing in 2021, as well as defeating eventual Champion Older Dirt Female Malathaat in last year’s Ogden Phipps, earning a career-best 106 Beyer Speed Figure.
The bay daughter of multiple Champion producing sire Curlin handed Malathaat, also a Stonestreet-bred Curlin filly, another defeat when they squared off in the next out Grade 2 Shuvee at Saratoga Race Course, before finishing a disappointing fifth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign.
She closed the curtain on her 4-year-old season with a dramatic three-horse photo finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland, where she finished third by a head behind the victorious Malathaat and runner-up Blue Stripe.
Now a 5-year-old, Clairiere is poised for another high-caliber season, which she kicked off with a runner-up effort to Secret Oath in the Grade 2 Azeri on March 11 at Oaklawn Park. She then turned the tables on Secret Oath in Oaklawn Park’s Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 15, furiously mowing down the 2022 Kentucky Oaks winner in deep stretch to win by a neck.
Clairiere’s connections are hopeful that her season will end with Eclipse Award honors.
“She was a head away from it last year,” said Stonestreet Stables advisor John Moynihan. “She was very, very sound last year and she’s always been sound. Steve has always thought she would get better every year she’s been in training, and we expect her to continue on with the same form that she had last year. She may be even a little better this year than she was last year.”
Engaging in a rivalry last season with Malathaat, who was bred by Stonestreet and owned by Shadwell Stable, was sentimental for the Stonestreet team.
“For Barbara, she’s loved it,” Moynihan said. “She’s a homebred product of the Stonestreet program and what Barbara has put together. When she ran against Malathaat, it added a lot of fun for Barbara being at the races and to have had a hand in producing both of them.”
Clairiere is out of Stonestreet’s multiple Grade 1-winning Bernardini mare Cavorting, who captured the 2016 Ogden Phipps for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. At three, Cavorting did the bulk of her running in one-turn sprints and captured prominent events like the 2015 Grade 1 Test and Grade 2 Prioress at Saratoga before stretching out to two turns at four. Cavorting retired following a win in the 2016 Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga.
“Her mother ran there and won some big races in New York. Most of her resume was built in New York and Clairiere is doing the same thing. I know Barbara is very excited,” Moynihan said. “They both really like to win, but this is her first foal. There’s obviously a lot of similarities, they’ve won and run in some of the same races and it’s kind of a unique situation.
“As a 3-year-old we kept Cavorting at one turn. But Kiaran really thought she relaxed quite a bit as she got older,” Moynihan added. “She trained herself into races in the morning and put a lot into her training. As she turned into her 4-year-old year, she was a lot easier on herself in her training and he wanted to experiment and take her a little farther.”
Joel Rosario retains the mount aboard Clairiere from the outermost post 6.
Briland Farm’s Kentucky homebred Secret Oath will be out for revenge following the Apple Blossom when she breaks from post 4.
Trained by legendary Hall of Fame horseman D. Wayne Lukas, Secret Oath has put together a record of 16-6-4-3 while banking $2,334,767 in earnings.
After handing Clariere a 2 3/4-length defeat in the Azeri, Secret Oath appeared poised for victory in upper stretch of the Apple Blossom under Tyler Gaffalione but was thwarted by her rival in the final furlong. A daughter of Arrogate, she enters the Ogden Phipps off another neck defeat when second to returning rival Played Hard in the Grade 1 La Troienne on May 6 at Churchill Downs.
Lukas, who saddled previous Ogden Phipps winners Serena’s Song  and A Wild Ride , said his only concern is how his filly will handle the Belmont surface, which she will race on for the first time on Saturday.
“It’s a much different surface than at Oaklawn or Churchill or even Saratoga,” Lukas said. “She’s such a good mover, I’m just hoping that she’ll adapt to that deeper surface and show up. That’s my only concern, but she’s training great. The timing is good, she’s fresh and ready to go.”
Tyler Gaffalione, aboard in all three of her starts this year, retains the mount aboard Secret Oath as she pursues her first Grade 1 triumph since the Kentucky Oaks.
“Tyler knows her a little better now and will ride her a little smarter than he did in some of those others,” Lukas said.
Klaravich Stables’ Chad Brown-trained Search Results [post 2, Flavien Prat] will make her third straight appearance in a Grade 1 on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
The dark bay 5-year-old Into Mischief mare finished third in last year’s Ogden Phipps and will be in pursuit of her first Grade 1 victory since capturing the 2021 Acorn here on Belmont Stakes Day. She has finished at least third in 12-of-13 lifetime starts, only missing the board in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff when sixth beaten 10 lengths.
Search Results, a close second in the 2021 Kentucky Oaks, made her seasonal debut in the La Troienne, where she finished an even third beaten three-quarters of a length.
Brown expressed pleasure with the ground-saving effort but said he would like to see her placed more toward the outside to launch her bid this time around.
“She didn’t get a good trip last year. She’s doing really well, and she got a nice race that she needed in the La Troienne,” Brown said. “She was saving ground, which I like, but she never quite extracted herself off the rail to be outside in the stretch, which is where she might want to be. It was a good first race back and she seems to have moved forward off it.”
Rigney Racing’s Played Hard [post 5, John Velazquez] provided trainer Phil Bauer with his first Grade 1 triumph when defeating Secret Oath in the La Troienne. The Into Mischief 5-year-old was making her first start since winning the Grade 3 Falls City at Churchill Downs in gate-to-wire fashion.
Played Hard rounded herself into graded stakes winning form last fall when capturing the Grade 3 Locust Grove at Churchill Downs before earning Grade 1 black type for the first time when third in Keeneland’s Spinster.
Trainer George Weaver will saddle R.A. Hill Stable and Black Type Thoroughbreds’ newly minted graded stakes winner Pass the Champagne [post 1, Feargal Lynch].
The 5-year-old Flatter mare enters off a victory in the Grade 2 Ruffian on May 6 at Belmont Park and will make her first start at Grade 1 level since finishing 12th-of-13 in the 2021 Kentucky Oaks. She earned Grade 1 black type when a close second to Malathaat in that year’s Ashland.
Completing the field is five-time winner Gamestonks [post 3, Jean Alvelo] who enters off a Penn National allowance victory. The daughter of Blofeld is trained by Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon.
The Ogden Phipps honors the late stockbroker, court tennis champion, horse owner, and Hall of Fame inductee, whose black and cherry cap silks have been synonymous with New York racing for over a half-century. Phipps owned and bred nine Champions including Hall of Famers Buckpasser, Personal Ensign, and Easy Goer.
In 2019, Phipps was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame’s Pillars of the Turf for his many contributions to racing. Previously run as the Hempstead Handicap, the race was renamed to pay homage to Phipps in 2003, one year after his death. Phipps’ legacy is carried on today by grandchildren Ogden Phipps, II and Daisy Phipps Pulito, who manage Phipps Stable.