Secret Oath wins the Kentucky Oaks under Luis Saez (Coady Photography)
Options for Caddo River
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— Millionaire Grade 1 winner Secret Oath completed major preparations for her 4-year-old debut in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 11 with a swift 5-furlong workout over a sloppy track Friday morning at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Under jockey and regular breeze rider Mickaelle Michel, Secret Oath was clocked in :59.80 and galloping out 6 furlongs in 1:14.20. The 2022 Kentucky Oaks champion and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner recorded splits of :12 for her opening eighth of a mile, :24 for a quarter-mile, :36.60 for 3 furlongs and :47.80 for a half-mile.
Friday marked the eighth published workout this year at Oaklawn for Secret Oath, who hasn’t started since a fifth-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Secret Oath returned to the work tab Jan. 8 and has four bullet drills leading up to the Azeri, Oaklawn’s final major prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 15. Both races are 1 1/16 miles.
“Just every eight, 10 days, right down the line,” Lukas said Saturday morning. “She’s dead fit. She’s ready to go. I mean, I probably could have run her three weeks, a month ago. She’s fit. I’m not worried about her fitness.”
In addition to the $1.25 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at 1 1/8 miles last May at Churchill Downs, Secret Oath won three races at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting, including the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes, and finished third against males in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles.
Secret Oath, a homebred for Briland Farm (Robert and Stacy Mitchell), will be ridden for the first time in the Azeri by Tyler Gaffalione, Lukas said. Luis Saez has ridden Secret Oath in her last six starts, including the Kentucky Oaks, but has opted to ride March 11 at Tampa Bay Downs, Lukas said. Its stakes-stacked card includes the $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby (G3) for 3-year-olds.
“Luis has got a (Kentucky) Derby prospect that he’s really high on and didn’t want to give it up,” Lukas said. “He really agonized over that decision, but he’s afraid that he might lose it. Thinks it is going to win the Tampa Bay Derby and then he would lose it. He’s going to try to talk to me into putting him back on. If Tyler rides a big race, he’ll have a little trouble getting back on.”
Secret Oath was among six probables listed Saturday morning by the Oaklawn racing department, the others being millionaire Grade 1 winner Clairiere for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, Grade 3 winner Hidden Connection (Bret Calhoun), Grade 2 winner Interstatedaydream (Brad Cox), Oaklawn stakes winner Hot and Sultry (Norm Casse) and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Lovely Ride (Robertino Diodoro).
Post positions for the Azeri will be drawn Monday.
Options for Caddo River
The reunion between Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and Arkansas lumberman John Ed Anthony, Oaklawn’s all-time winningest owner, produced immediate dividends when favored Caddo River captured a $106,000 stakes-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 25.
Under 2021 Eclipse Award-winning jockey Joel Rosario, Caddo River ($5.20) took the lead on the second turn, opened a 2 ½-length advantage in midstretch and held off Frosted Grace approaching the wire to win by a neck.
“It was very good,” Lukas said. “I think that he (Caddo River) needs to probably get a little bit more focused through the stretch. When he made that lead, he made it so easy. I think he just kind of said, ‘I’ve done well, that’s enough.’ But that’s very fixable. We’ll get him so he’s finishing all the way to the wire a little stronger.”
Caddo River had been entered in the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 18 at Oaklawn, but was scratched in favor of the allowance spot. Lukas still won the Razorback with millionaire Last Samurai.
Lukas said Caddo River will likely return to stakes company for his next start, with the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 March 18 at Oaklawn and $400,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) April 1 potential targets. Last Samurai is already ticketed to the Essex.
“He could be effective in the Essex,” Lukas said of Caddo River. “He really, I think, will be effective if we take a look at the Oaklawn Mile. Again, John Ed Anthony likes to be involved in the decision making, so we’ll run a few options by him and see what he likes of the options that we have available.”
A 5-year-old homebred for Anthony, Caddo River had previously been with two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. Under Cox’s care, Caddo River won the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at 1 mile in 2021 at Oaklawn before finishing second in its $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles later that year. Anthony and Lukas had teamed for 10 previous victories at Oaklawn, including seven at the 2008 meeting. Caddo River moved to Lukas’ barn following a runner-up finish in a Jan. 21 allowance race at Oaklawn.
Caddo River, by Hard Spun, has a 6-5-1 record from 17 lifetime starts and earnings of $741,400.
Meet-leaders Cristian Torres (jockey) and Robertino Diodoro (trainer) each won two races Friday. Torres recorded his 50th winner at the meeting in the fourth race aboard favored Hanks ($3) for Diodoro and won the ninth race aboard Don’t Forget ($12) for trainer Aaron Shorter. Diodoro also won the sixth race with City Legend ($21.60) for Hot Springs owner Jerry Caroom. The double gave Diodoro 38 victories after 36 days of the scheduled 68-day meeting. Diodoro remains on a pace to threaten the late Cole Norman’s single-season Oaklawn record 71 victories in 2003. … Trainer Riley Mott recorded his fifth career victory, and fourth at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting, when Into Disco ($18.60) broke her maiden in Friday’s seventh race under Martin Garcia. It marked the first time Mott, who went out on his own Nov. 1, had recorded winners on consecutive days. Mott saddled Dealing Justice ($17.20) to win Thursday’s eighth race for Oaklawn owner Louis Cella. … Stakes-winner Corona Bolt is the 7-5 program favorite for Sunday’s fourth race, a first-level allowance sprint for 3- and 4-year-olds. The 6-furlong race also drew another stakes-winning 3-year-old, Count de Monet, who captured the $150,000 Advent Dec. 9 at Oaklawn. … Advent third Tyler’s Tribe worked a half-mile in :48.60 Saturday morning for co-owner/trainer Tim Martin of Hot Springs.