Oaks Prep: Lukas-Trained Secret Oath The Heavy Favorite In Six-Horse Honeybee Stakes - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Oaks Prep: Lukas-Trained Secret Oath The Heavy Favorite In Six-Horse Honeybee Stakes

Secret Oath gallops at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 23, 2022

D. Wayne Lukas once owned the Honeybee Stakes. On paper, the Hall of Fame trainer looks like he'll own it again when he sends out heavy program favorite Secret Oath in the $300,000 Grade 3 event for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Oaklawn.

Probable post time for the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee is 2:10 p.m. (Central) and it goes as the fifth of 12 races. First post Saturday is 12 p.m. Saturday's card also features the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.

The projected six-horse Honeybee field from the rail out:

  1. Optionality, Tyler Gaffalione to ride, 119 pounds, 7-2 on the morning line;
  2. Yuugiri, John Velazquez, 117, 5-2;
  3. Secret Oath, Luis Contreras, 122, 3-2;
  4. Ice Orchid, Ricardo Santana Jr., 117, 6-1;
  5. Free Like a Girl, Pedro Cotton Jr., 122, 6-1; and
  6. Red Queen, Francisco Arrieta, 117, 15-1.

The Honeybee is Oaklawn's second of three Kentucky Oaks points races and will award 85 to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5) toward starting eligibility for the country's biggest prize for 3-year-old fillies. Secret Oath collected 10 qualifying points for her 7 ¼-length victory in the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 29. The Martha Washington was Oaklawn's first Kentucky Oaks points race. Secret Oath entered the Martha Washington off an 8 ¼-length allowance victory at one mile Dec. 31, producing a 93 Beyer Speed Figure, among the highest in the country for a 2-year-old in 2021.

Lukas is seeking a record-extending sixth Honeybee victory after capturing its first four runnings (1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991) and again in 2007. Secret Oath, a homebred for Briland Farm (Robert and Stacy Mitchell), completed major preparations for the Honeybee with a half-mile workout in :48 Feb. 18. Clockers caught the daughter of champion Arrogate in even splits of :12, :24 and :36 for three-eighths of a mile before galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:01.40.

Owing to illness and previously scheduled commitments out of state, Lukas missed Secret Oath's two dominant performances at 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting.

“I'm watching her,” Lukas said with a laugh. “I've watched the replays seven, eight, 10 times. … She's getting a lot of positive marks from good trainers, friends of mine.”

Because of her two blowout victories, Lukas said last week that he planned to nominate Secret Oath to the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 2. The Arkansas Derby will be run the same day as the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles, which is Oaklawn's final Kentucky Oaks points race. A top two finish Saturday would likely secure a spot for Secret Oath in the Kentucky Oaks, which is limited to 14 starters. If more than 14 enter, starting preference is given to horses with the highest point totals in qualifying races.

Lukas won the 1984 Arkansas Derby with Althea, a week after she finished second in the Fantasy. Lukas won the 1988 Kentucky Derby with Winning Colors after she whipped males in the Santa Anita Derby.

“You've still got to win them,” Lukas said. “But you go from, in the Fantasy, you probably go from favoritism to what – third, fourth, fifth choice in the Derby. We're a long way off. But if you win the Honeybee, then you start making decisions like what we're talking about.”

Secret Oath's biggest threat appears to be lightly raced Yuugiri, who will be making her 3-year-old debut for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. Yuugiri hasn't started since finishing second in the $400,000 Golden Rod Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs. Secret Oath was fifth in the Golden Rod, 10 ¼ lengths behind Yuugiri.

Yuugiri made two other starts last year, breaking her maiden Sept. 17 at Churchill Downs before finishing second in the $200,000 Rags to Riches Stakes Oct. 31 at Churchill Downs. Yuugiri has seven published workouts this year at Oaklawn, the last a 5-furlong move in 1:01.80 Feb. 20.

“We feel like she showed some talent last year,” Brisset said. “I think everybody saw that. We feel like she matured. We like the way she looks, carrying her weight. So, we already have two races around two turns last year. I think it's a big plus for us, even though it's her first race of the year. We have seven works. But the fact that she ran two mile and sixteenth races last year, we do have a pretty good bottom. She only has three races, but each race she showed us something.”

Yuugiri collected four Kentucky Oaks qualifying points for her runner-up finish in the Golden Rod. Brisset said the hope is the Honeybee is Yuugiri's first of two preps for the Kentucky Oaks.

Optionality also received four points for her distant runner-up finish behind Secret Oath in the Martha Washington. Her Hall of Fame trainer, Steve Asmussen, also has Honeybee five victories.

All six projected Honeybee starters are eligible for Kentucky Oaks points because they won't be racing on Lasix.

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