Secret Oath Makes 4YO Debut in Azeri

March 9, 2023

Secret Oath winning the 2022 edition of the Honeybee. (Coady Photography)

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—November news surrounding Secret Oath wasn’t limited to the Breeders’ Cup.

Following a fifth-place finish in the $2 million Distaff (G1) Nov. 5 at Keeneland, Secret Oath was withdrawn from The November Sale, Fasig-Tipton’s prestigious breeding stock sale, to race at 4 for owners Robert and Stacy Mitchell (Briland Farm).

Secret Oath will try to make more news – again on the track – in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles Saturday at Oaklawn for the Mitchells and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

A finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 3-year-old filly, Secret Oath will be running for the first time since the 1 1/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Distaff and being withdrawn the following morning from The November Sale by the Mitchells, who also bred the daughter of deceased champion Arrogate.

“They honestly talked about it, seriously,” Lukas said, referring to selling Secret Oath. “Rob Mitchell, himself, he thought that it was time, maybe, to cash in and it would change everything. Like he said, you would be mortgage free after that. Yet, Stacy never really endorsed that. She never talked like it was going to happen. They discussed it back and forth and finally, like all situations, the wife always wins out.”

Secret Oath emerged as one of the country’s top 3-year-old fillies during the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting, with her breakout performance coming in a 1-mile New Year’s Eve allowance. She romped home by 8 ¼ lengths, beating, among others, future Grade 1 winner Matareya. Secret Oath then scored blowout victories in Oaklawn’s first two Kentucky Oaks points races – $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes and $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) – before finishing third against males in its $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1). Secret Oath won the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) last May at Churchill Downs in her next start. The Kentucky Oaks is the country’s biggest prize for 3-year-old fillies.

Secret Oath lost her final five starts last year – all Grade 1 events – including a fourth against males in the Preakness and two seconds against Nest, who would be crowned the country’s champion 3-year-old filly. Secret Oath was beaten 5 ½ lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff after leading in midstretch.

Lukas said Secret Oath remained in light training following the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and become more robust physically at 4.

“She was kind of gangly and that big old frame needed filling out,” Lukas said. “She’s filled out a lot. I would say she’s put on 50 pounds, maybe more.”

Secret Oath returned to the work tab Jan. 8 at Oaklawn and has breezed eight times leading up to the Azeri. Four have been bullet drills. Secret Oath’s regular breeze rider is jockey Mickaelle Michel, who has three victories at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting.

“I feel so lucky to be able to work her, a filly like her,” Michel said. “She looks really good. She’s working good. We are happy and looking forward to seeing her run again.”

Secret Oath has a 5-2-3 record from 13 lifetime starts and earnings of $1,768,417. The Mitchells and Lukas also campaigned Secret Oath’s dam, Absinthe Minded, who finished third in the 2011 Azeri and fourth the following year. 

The Azeri is the final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 15. Secret Oath is also scheduled to run in the Apple Blossom, Lukas said.

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