February 2, 2023

Nest crushes Secret Oath in CCA Oaks

Nest wins the Coaching Club American Oaks (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

Nest turned the tables on Secret Oath in dazzling style, drawing off to a 12 1/4-length victory in Saturday’s $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga. Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. was up for Todd Pletcher on the daughter of Curlin, and Nest earned her fourth stakes win when completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.04.

Runner-up in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) in their first meeting, Nest is now the leader in the three-year-old filly division, and the dominant performance stamps her as a legitimate contender for the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Keeneland.

Nest was exiting a commendable second to now-sidelined stablemate Mo Donegal in the June 11 Belmont S. (G1) at 1 1/2 miles, and the bay lass has now bankrolled more than $1.4 million from an 8-5-2-1 record for owners Mike Repole and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.

“She’s showed up every race of her life,” Pletcher said. “The last two trips, she was sort of bottled up in both the Oaks and the Belmont, and she had no place to go. She could have advanced sooner than she did, but she still closed well. That was one of the things we were working on today.”

Pletcher has now won the CCA Oaks a record eight times (2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013-15).

“I guess I’ve been around long enough when this race used to be run at a mile and a half at Belmont,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “That would really have been in her (Nest’s) wheelhouse.”

Favored at .90-1 in the five-horse field, Nest broke on top and showed the way on a short lead into the first turn when Society missed the break. That rival came charging up the inside to establish an opening quarter-mile in :24.10, but Nest had edged back in front midway on the backstretch and recorded the next splits in :47.46 and 1:11.05.

“My plan was not to be on the lead, but I wanted to break good out of there,” Ortiz Jr. said. “Honestly, that was the main thing and I tried to break, and she broke clean and I realized the other filly (Society) didn’t break well. So I said, ‘let’s go, Plan B.’ I was in front and didn’t panic. I just let her do her thing.”

“It’s funny how you spend a lot of time analyzing a game plan and then, as they say, everything can change at the break – which it did today,” Pletcher added. “The main thing is we wanted to establish some position, get away smoothly and get to the first turn in a forward position. We were able to do that even though everyone wasn’t positioned exactly where we thought they would be.”

Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath, making her first start since a fourth in the Preakness (G1), raced surprisingly close, tracking the pace at least four-wide most of the way, and while she advanced to challenge Nest on the far turn, the early exertions had taken a toll by the top of the stretch.

“It was either his filly or my filly,” Ortiz Jr. said of Secret Oath challenging Nest on the far turn. “I have in my mind that he wasn’t going to try and let me go away and going to be right there. I said, ‘this is the race, let’s go,’ and we go from the half-mile to the wire.”

Nest cruised through the lane in eye-catching fashion, widening her advantage as Ortiz Jr. wrapped up by midstretch.

Secret Oath held second by three lengths over Gazelle (G3) winner Nostalgic. Society and Butterbean followed.

Bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stables, Nest was purchased for $350,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2020. She’s out of the stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare Maren Ravenwood and counts 2021 Santa Anita H. (G1) winner Idol as a full-brother.

She earned her first stakes tally when capturing the Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct in her juvenile finale, and Nest opened this year with romping wins in the Suncoast S. at Tampa Bay Downs and Ashland S. (G1) at Keeneland.

“It’s a great feeling and she’s a great filly,” Ortiz Jr. said when asked about riding Nest. “I’ve been on her and obviously we wanted to win this race, the whole team did, and it worked out good when I realize she’s already home. I just took care of her for the next race.”

Nest will be pointed to $600,000 Alabama S. (G1) at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 20.