December 1, 2023

Newgrange best in Southwest, Secret Oath cruises in Martha Washington

Newgrange wins the Southwest Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)

Newgrange had to work harder than he had in his two previous starts, but the outcome turned out the same in Saturday’s $750,000 Southwest S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park.

A Southern California shipper trained by Bob Baffert, Newgrange was favored at 3-2 in the field of 12 three-year-olds in the 1 1/16-mile affair. On or close to the pace when taking his debut at Del Mar in November and the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita on New Year’s Day, Newgrange had to be finessed throughout by jockey John Velazquez.

“By the time he reached the first turn [in third] he seemed to not be getting hold of the track, so I kind of let him alone to get his feet underneath him,” Velazquez said. “By the half-mile pole I got serious with him, and once he got close to the horses he got serious. It took a little bit for him to get going.”

Still fourth with a furlong to go, Newgrange belatedly kicked into gear and blew past his tiring rivals to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The final time over a fast track was 1:45.83. Owned by extensive partnership which includes SF Racing, Starlight Racing, and Madaket Stables, Newgrange paid $5.

Barber Road rallied for second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Ben Diesel. Kavod, who led for more than seven furlongs, weakened to fourth. The Southwest order of finish was rounded out by Dash Attack, Classic Moment, Call Me Jamal, Osbourne, Costa Terra, Vivar, Ignitis, and Don’tcrossthedevil.

Although the Southwest was a Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep, Newgrange, and all three-year-olds trained by Baffert, are ineligible to accrue Derby qualifying points due to the trainer’s current suspension from racing at Churchill Downs. Barber Road earned four points, increasing his total to eight. Ben Diesel earned two points, boosting his total to three, while Kavod doubled his overall total to two points.

Newgrange has now bankrolled $600,720. A first-out winner by 1 1/2 lengths going six furlongs, he stretched his speed to one mile in the Sham and won wire-to-wire while under minimal pressure.

By Violence, Newgrange is the first stakes winner produced by Bella Chianti, by Empire Maker. Newgrange was bred in Kentucky by Jack Mandato and Black Rock Thoroughbreds, and sold for $125,000 at Keeneland September.

Martha Washington S.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas won his first Kentucky Oaks (G1) 40 years ago, but it’s been 32 years since his fourth and latest victory in the race. The next filly that could take him to that Churchill Downs fixture is Secret Oath, whose ceiling remains sky high after a 7 1/4-length romp in the $200,000 Martha Washington S.

Under Luis Contreras, Secret Oath appeared full of run when tracking three wide in fourth down the backside. Allowed to take aim on pacesetter Optionality on the far turn, Secret Oath quickly dispatched with that rival and four others and won under minimal encouragement.

“I had a great trip,” Contreras said. “I had so much horse the whole way around. Once I got her on the outside of the horses, she gave me everything she had.”

Owned by Briland Farm, who bred the filly in Kentucky with Robert Mitchell and Stacy Mitchell, Secret Oath covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.21 and paid $3 as the 1-2 favorite. Optionality held second by 4 3/4 lengths over Como Square, with the slow-starting Hypersport in fourth. Princess Pauline and Cupid’s Music completed the order of finish.

Secret Oath earned 10 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Oaks. Optionality earned four points, Como Square two points, and Hypersport one point.

Secret Oath has now won three of five starts. Third in her debut at Churchill in early October, she rebounded to break her maiden over that track by 5 1/4 lengths later that month. Subsequently fifth in the Golden Rod (G2), Secret Oath entered the Martha Washington off an 8 1/4-length allowance victory at Oaklawn on New Year’s Eve. She’s bankrolled $285,167.

“That consistency is now coming and we’re getting that maturity, as far as a professional racehorse,” Lukas said. “She’s been very manageable, but she was a little immature before. But I think it’s coming together now and we’ve just got to keep her happy and fat and we’ll go down the road.”

By the late champion Arrogate, Secret Oath was produced by Absinthe Minded, a daughter of Quiet American who won three stakes and placed twice in the Apple Blossom H. (G1) at Oaklawn.