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Luis Saez celebrates aboard Secret Oath after winning the Kentucky Oaks.
The $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) is the premier race in the country for 3-year-old fillies, and is the female counterpart to the Kentucky Derby. After none of the drawn field scratched, leaving also-eligible Beguine out, a full field of 14 faced the starter in the 148th renewal of this 1 1/8 mile main track feature at Churchill Downs, run on Friday before 41,472 fans, under cloudy skies and a post time temperature of 69 degrees, with the main track rated wet-fast after intermittent rain all day. Wagering from all-sources on the full Kentucky Oaks racecard totaled $74.6 million up 37% compared to the 2021 Kentucky Oaks. All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Oaks race was $24.3 million up 40% from last year's Kentucky Oaks race.
Nest was sent off as the 5-2 favorite off wins in the Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct, Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, and Ashland (G1) at Keeneland. In to challenge her included 4-1 second choice Echo Zulu, undefeated in 5 starts including the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and two fillies both off at 9-2 third choices, Secret Oath, 3rd in the Arkansas Derby (G1) after winning the Honeybee (G2), and Kathleen O., winner of the Davona Dale (G2) and Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
Secret Oath leads down the stretch in the Kentucky Oaks.
There were five other stakes races on the card with the Oaks. Full results for all of them with more photos are here.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Secret Oath Saez 10.80 5.60 4.60 4 Nest Ortiz Jr. 4.20 3.20 9 Desert Dawn Rispoli 15.40 Winning Time: 1:49.44 $2 Exacta 1-4 39.40 $1 Trifecta 1-4-9 616.80 $1 Superfecta 1-4-9-7 3,239.40
Left: Secret Oath in the winner's circle. Winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas, celebrating his fifth Kentucky Oaks (tying Woody Stephens' record, and 32 years since his last Oaks win) said, "I thought the race unfolded pretty much like what we expected. Being in the 1 hole, we didn't have a lot of options. But down the backside, I told Luis [Saez] not to get too creative on the turn and make his move if he was going to get in position on the backside. Of course, when he started to do that, I felt pretty good because I thought once he got to him, like he did, she accelerated. She breaks her heart when she goes by him."
Right: Secret Oath heads back to the barn. Winning owner Rob Mitchell said, We are so blessed to have this filly. I want to be worthy of her because she has done such a good job. When I was in school in Louisville years ago, we went together to the races for the first time at Churchill Downs. I didn't dream of owning a horse. Never occurred to me. It wasn't like something I was striving for. And to be here today, we've worked so hard. My wife has worked so hard. We're, like, on the farm. We live on the farm. We fixed the fence, mow the fields."
Left: Secret Oath circles after the race. Lukas added, "It feels great. But I've said all week that the thing about it that's clear is when we win the first one, we think it's us and we get all puffed up and we think we've really done something. After you win one and you think it a little while, the real satisfaction is when you can put these people that work with these horses and raise them and so forth in that position. That's always been our M.O. going into it. After we won that first one Blush With Pride, then you think, boy, we did everything. But the real joy of doing this is to let these owners have the opportunity to enjoy this and get that thrill."
Right: The trophy presentation for the Oaks as the rain starts falling. Mitchell added, "We put so much time into thinking of the breeding and the selection of the stallion. And then to have , every foal that we have ever raised was born on our farm. I have nothing against the syndicates. I think the syndicates are good for horse racing, but we have never bought a racehorse, ever. Every horse we've raised was born on our farm. We bought some broodmares, raised their fillies and their fillies. I still have Secret Oath's dam and grandmother on our farm."
Left: Secret Oath walks over before the race. Mitchell added, "Wayne and I are on the same page on (taking on males in the Arkansas Derby). She won three races in Arkansas. But when she won the Honeybee, which was a Grade 3, she had won three consecutive races by 20-something lengths. And we knew we had enough points to get in the Oaks. And that was always our goal. Our goal was to get in the Oaks. But then the Fantasy is also a Grade 3. And as a farm who breeds their own stock, well, I've already had a Grade 3-winning mare. If the Fantasy were Grade II, I might have gone in it. Or Grade 1, we might have gone in it. But you have the Arkansas Derby which is a Grade 1 at $1.25 million, which is the same purse as the Oaks today, and the same distance. I wanted to see how she would do the distance. And I thought numbers-wise, we stood up. We never planned to go to the Kentucky Derby."
Right: Secret Oath in the post parade. Lukas was asked if she might go to the Preakness. "Yes, it is. It's an option. the Black-Eyed Susan would be an option. All of these things are out there for us all the time. When you got a talented horse, you need to look at everything, try to develop their career and get them to a championship level. So it's been done before with Rachel Alexandra and some of these other horses, so it's not totally out of the question. She looked pretty, she wasn't blowing very hard even though it was a wet track and probably pulled a little bit out of her. But I like what I saw today in the winner's circle."
Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Nest in the post parade. Trainer Todd Pletcher said, "I'm really happy for (former boss) Wayne. If I couldn't win this race, I was rooting for him. Irad told me that he couldn't get out the whole race. He had to wait and wait. When he finally got loose she ran big." Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. added, "She did everything right and ended up pretty well. She just got beat and was trying hard late. She's a very professional horse and happy with her performance today."
Right: Third place finisher Desert Dawn races in fifth first time by. Jockey Umberto Rispoli said, "I wasn't surprised. We were underestimated since she won the Santa Anita Oaks in a five-horse field. The dirt we have at Santa Anita is different than the dirt we have here in Kentucky. I was thinking she would go further and that's what happened. Down the lane she put on a huge performance and she fought hard until the wire. After this race she will improve and God bless her when she arrives to be a 4-year-old. She will be a tremendous filly." Trainer Phil D'Amato added, "She ran her heart out for us. She even gave us a goosebump moment. But, in the end, it didn't quite work out. We're really proud of her."
Left: The fillies break from the gate for the Kentucky Oaks. Joel Rosario aboard fourth place finisher Echo Zulu (post 7) said, "She did well and came out of there running. Florent (Geroux) looked like she was going to the lead (on Yuugiri). She relaxed just perfectly right behind. I thought she did everything she could."
Right: Luis Saez celebrates aboard Secret Oath after winning the Oaks. Saez said, "A few weeks ago my agent (Kiaran McLaughlin) told me we were likely going to ride Secret Oath. Then, when he told me one day that I need to work her, I drove here from Keeneland and she blew my mind. I've ridden a lot of good fillies but none in my life like this one. I'm so glad to be here and blessed to win my first Kentucky Oaks."
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