Secret Oath shows she’s back in Azeri. (Coady Photography)
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
HOT SPRINGS, ARK.—Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas mapped out a two-race schedule months ago for millionaire Grade 1 winner Secret Oath during the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting.
So far, so good.
Secret Oath, flashing the form that stamped her one of the country’s top 3-year-old fillies last year, was a powerful 2 ¾-length winner of the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares Saturday at Oaklawn.
A homebred for Briland Farm (Robert and Stacy Mitchell), Secret Oath ($4.80) was making her first start since a fifth-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Secret Oath exited the Azeri in good order, Lukas said Sunday morning, adding she will be pointed to the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 15 at Oaklawn. The Apple Blossom, like the Azeri, is 1 1/16 miles.
Lukas brought Secret Oath up to the Azeri off eight workouts this year at Oaklawn, the first coming Jan. 8. Four were bullets.
“I told a couple of my friends right before the race, I said, ‘We’ve done everything we’ve wanted to do,’ ” Lukas said. “We worked her when we wanted to work her. (Mickaelle Michel) worked her in the time frame – how fast we wanted to go or how slow. We did everything we wanted to do, so we had no excuses going into it. We led her over there and if she ran well or didn’t run well, we really wouldn’t have changed anything going into it. Nothing.”
Secret Oath, who was ridden for the first time by Tyler Gaffalione, received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 97 for her Azeri victory. The winning time over a fast track was 1:43.26. Secret Oath had lost five consecutive starts – all in Grade 1 company – since winning the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at 1 1/8 miles last May at Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Oaks is the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.
Secret Oath dominated 3-year-old fillies last season at Oaklawn, scoring blowout victories in the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes and $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3). Both races were 1 1/16 miles.
Lukas said Gaffalione would retain the mount on Secret Oath for the Apple Blossom.
“We’ve got a month,” Lukas said. “She’ll probably work twice.”
A daughter of deceased champion Arrogate, Secret Oath won for the sixth time in 14 starts to raise her lifetime earnings to $1,982,267. 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 was Lukas’ 348th career Oaklawn victory. His first came in the 1983 Apple Blossom with Miss Huntington.