Robertino Diodoro in a post race interview after his 3000th win. (Coady Photography)
Secret Oath Back to Work
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Robertino Diodoro became just the 37th trainer in North American history to reach 3,000 career victories when heavily favored Arthurian won Saturday’s second race at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Diodoro, 48, entered Saturday needing one victory to reach the milestone. Diodoro had eight horses entered around the country Saturday, including six at Oaklawn. Diodoro didn’t have to wait long for 3,000 as Arthurian – his first starter of the day – recorded a front-running two-length victory in the $10,000 claiming sprint for older horses. Cristian Torres rode Arthurian ($3.60) for Arkansas owners Heath and Sheena Campbell.
“It worked out perfect,” Diodoro said. “I said we had some live ones, but I thought he really looked live in there.”
Diodoro’s final starter Saturday at Oaklawn, Lovely Ride in the $150,000 Pippin Stakes, resulted in his 3,001st career victory.
“It was a great day,” Diodoro said. “Unbelievable.”
Diodoro led the 2022-2023 Oaklawn standings with 16 victories through the first 11 days of the meeting that began Dec. 9. Diodoro entered Sunday with 295 career Oaklawn victories.
Diodoro started his first horse at Oaklawn in 2015 and won 51 races to capture the 2020 training title. Diodoro saddled his first career winner recognized by Equibase Aug. 2, 1995, at the now-defunct Northlands Park in his native Canada. Equibase’s statistics are based on recognized victories in the United States and Canada.
Diodoro entered Sunday with 3,001 victories from 14,385 starts and purse earnings of $60,342,639 in his North American career.
The Pippin was Diodoro’s 13th career Oaklawn stakes victory and third of the 2022-2023 meeting.
Secret Oath Back to Work
Secret Oath, a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2022, returned to the work tab Sunday morning at Oaklawn, recording a half-mile bullet (:47.60) under Mickaelle Michel.
Secret Oath breezed over a fast surface moments after the track opened at 6:45 a.m. (Central). Clockers caught the chestnut daughter of deceased champion Arrogate galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:01.40.
“Beautiful,” Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, describing the work. “I just want to freeze it. When she breezes, she always fools the riders. She’s got such a smooth motion. Mickaelle is outstanding. That’s why I had her on her.”
Secret Oath was freshened for a 2023 campaign following a fifth-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Lukas said Secret Oath is scheduled to make her 4-year-old debut in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 11 at Oaklawn.
Lukas said Secret Oath has flourished physically since the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which concluded a grueling nine-race 2022 campaign. Secret Oath demolished her rivals in Oaklawn’s $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes and $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) last winter before finishing third against males in its $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in April. Secret Oath then captured the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies, in May at Churchill Downs. Secret Oath tested males again, finishing fourth in the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Secret Oath made four more starts, finishing second twice to likely 3-year-old filly champion Nest in Grade 1 events last summer at Saratoga. The Breeders’ Cup Distaff was Secret Oath’s first start against older horses.
“She’s gotten wider,” Lukas said. “She’s put on at least 50 pounds. She really looks good. I’m so pleased with her development. Her mother was the same way. Didn’t do anything before, then widened out and got to be a race horse. I couldn’t be more happy where she’s at.”
Lukas trains Secret Oath for her Kentucky breeders, Robert and Stacy Mitchell (Briland Farm). Lukas and Briland also campaigned Secret Oath’s dam, multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Absinthe Minded.
Lukas said the Azeri is Secret Oath’s scheduled prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 15 at Oaklawn. The Apple Blossom is also 1 1/16 miles.
Michel, through Saturday, had ridden two winners for Lukas at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. The French jockey began breezing Secret Oath leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Secret Oath’s half-mile time Sunday was the fastest of 87 recorded at the distance.
Hit Show worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 over a fast track Sunday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Brad Cox in advance of the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 28. The Southwest is Oaklawn’s second Kentucky Derby points race. The Cox-trained Victory Formation won Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race, the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at 1 mile Jan. 1. After training Saturday morning at Oaklawn, Victory Formation (3 for 3) returned to Fair Grounds to continue preparations for his next start. Cox also has a division of horses at Fair Grounds. In addition to Hit Show, Cox said he plans to start unbeaten Corona Bolt and possibly Jace’s Road in the Southwest. …
Bal Harbour worked a half-mile in :48.80 Sunday morning for trainer Robertino Diodoro. It was the gelding’s second published work since winning the $200,000 Tinsel Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Dec. 17 at Oaklawn. Diodoro said Sunday morning that he plans to have multiple starters, including Bal Harbour, in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Jan. 14 at Oaklawn. Post positions for the 1-mile race will be drawn Monday. …
Millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner Lone Rock is scheduled to return to Oaklawn “Tuesday or Wednesday” to continue preparations for his 2023 campaign, Diodoro said Sunday morning. …
Cristian Torres needed just 11 racing days to become the first jockey at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting to surpass $1 million in purse earnings. Torres ($1,072,393) reached seven figures when he guided Lovely Ride to a front-running three-quarter length victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Torres had a riding double Saturday, increasing his meet-leading total to 15. Both winners were for Diodoro. Torres has a meet-high four stakes victories. … Jon Court, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2000, recorded his first victory of the meeting in Saturday’s first race aboard Higher Authority ($18.20) for trainer Tommy Vance of Hot Springs. It was the 720th career Oaklawn victory for Court (No. 6 all time) and his first since turning 62 in November. …
Rolling Fork ($123) became the meet’s highest-priced winner in Saturday’s seventh race for co-owner/trainer Kim Puhl. Rolling Fork was ridden by Kylee Jordan. She also won a Dec. 9 race aboard She’s Storming ($96), the previous highest-priced winner of the 2022-2023 meeting. …
Last Samurai will make his next start in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) for older horses Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park, trainer D. Wayne Lukas Sunday morning, adding Hall of Famer John Velazquez will have the mount in the 1 1/8-mile race. Lukas said Last Samurai will return to Oaklawn following the Pegasus World Cup and be pointed for major races later in the meeting like the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 22. Last Samurai won the 2022 Oaklawn Handicap for trainer Dallas Stewart.