Four decades after sending out champion Althea to conquer males in the 1984 Arkansas Derby (G1), Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas looks to make history again with the filly Secret Oath in Saturday’s $1.25 million renewal at Oaklawn Park. The daughter of Arrogate isn’t expected, at the moment, to advance to the Kentucky Derby (G1), but she should have a significant impact on how the Arkansas Derby’s points (100-40-20-10) are distributed to classic hopefuls.
Arkansas Derby (G1) – Race 12 (7:35 p.m. ET)
Unlike Althea, who ran early and often in her Eclipse Award-winning campaign at two, Secret Oath came to hand later as a juvenile. The Briland Farm homebred broke her maiden Oct. 31 in her second start at Churchill Downs, but first around two turns. Secret Oath tried the Golden Rod (G2), only to wind up fifth in her only unplaced effort.
Over the winter at Oaklawn, however, Secret Oath blossomed. An 8 1/4-allowance romp on New Year’s Eve propelled her to similarly lopsided victories on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks in the Jan. 29 Martha Washington and Feb. 26 Honeybee (G3).
Secret Oath has been more impressive than the males in Oaklawn’s corresponding Road to the Kentucky Derby scoring races. Accordingly, connections are striking while the iron’s hot here. The filly tops the field in Brisnet Prime Power, and she gets in with just 117 pounds. Luis Contreras, aboard throughout her Oaklawn streak, will try to make it four in a row from post 6.
Three other fresh faces make the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby a hotter contest than its preps. Doppelganger was just transferred from Bob Baffert to Tim Yakteen so that he can chase Derby points. Most recently runner-up to Forbidden Kingdom in the San Felipe (G2), Doppelganger had been ineligible for points since Baffert is suspended by Churchill Downs Inc. Now the $570,000 Into Mischief colt can bid for a spot in the Kentucky Derby. He takes the blinkers off and picks up John Velazquez.
Cyberknife has shown talent along with idiosyncrasies, but the Brad Cox pupil might have put it all together with a three-length allowance tally at Fair Grounds last out. Clearly better than his sixth in the Lecomte (G3) in his only prior stakes attempt, the $400,000 son of Gun Runner keeps Florent Geroux in the saddle.
Geroux previously rode the undefeated We the People, who dominated an Oaklawn maiden and allowance by a combined margin of 10 3/4 lengths for Rodolphe Brisset. The well-named son of Constitution hopes that raw ability triumphs over inexperience in this stakes debut. Fellow Frenchman Flavien Prat comes in for the ride.
Several alumni of the Feb. 26 Rebel (G2) renew rivalry. The plucky Un Ojo aims to follow up on his 72-1 Rebel upset, not a total fluke since he’d been second in the Withers (G3). Barber Road has been the most reliable performer on the Oaklawn Road, as the runner-up in both the Smarty Jones and Southwest and third in the Rebel. The speedy Kavod, an admirably consistent fourth in all three preps, will have his stamina stretched still further here. Chasing Time, a smashing allowance winner two back, was a lackluster fifth in the Rebel. Ben Diesel is looking like an underachiever, with his third in the Southwest bookended by off-the-board results in the Smarty Jones and Rebel.