Kentucky Oaks 2022: Race Review of the G3 Honeybee Stakes
If you have not heard of D. Wayne Lukas' Secret Oath #3, a chestnut filly by Arrogate, then you probably have now. On Saturday, she garnered 50 Points that can be applied to the Kentucky Oaks, which will be run on Friday 6 May, just before Derby Day. Her win ... how she did it ... the speed figure she posted ... and of course, the life and legacy of the HOF-er, Lukas ... those all created a fair amount of chatter on "Horse Racing Twitter" (yes, that's a thing), and even among mainstream sportswriters. First, the race ...
The Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes came up with a 6-horse field, but there was a clear, "deserving favorite" in Secret Oath #3. Coming into this KYOaks "Points" event, Lukas was holding a strong candidate for the "win" after his charge won impressively in the prep, the Martha Washington S. Evidently, her growth, maturity. and progression since running 5th in the Golden Rod S. at Churchill Downs back in late November, was meteoric. Not only that, but she clearly took to the track at Oaklawn well, starting with an ALLW Co. race. In all of her Hot Springs efforts, she just continues to record stronger numbers each time.
At the break, it was Steve Asmussen's Optionality #1 and Tyler Gaffalione, that went straight to the front. They clearly understood the power behind them, and why not, try to steal this race from the off? John Ortiz's Ice Orchid #4, a talented filly, that lay mid-pack and guided by Ricardo Santana, looked to make a move as the backstretch began to shorten. All this shifting, bobbing, and weaving, by all the participants that were not wearing the blue saddlecloth of #3, did not amount to much as the field entered the final turn. Luis Contreras aboard Lukas' filly gave her the cue, and she was rolling. Gobbling up the dirt, and steadily passing her rivals, she shot through a gap towards the rail, and came to the top of the lane brimming with enthusiasm ... then came that powerful late kick, and she just obliterated the field. Going away and winning by 7+ lengths, she blasted out a faster clocking than the Rebel S. winner, Un Ojo, with a final time of 1:44.74.
Rounding out the rest of the money, and KYOaks "Points" were Ortiz's #4 entry (20 Points), Rudy Brisset's Yuugiri #2 (10 Points), and finally, Carl Deville's Free Like a Girl #5 (5 Points). As for the payouts, there was little in the way of rewards for the WPS bettors, if they chose to back the even money Lukas favorite. She returned $2.60 - Win, $2.20 - Place, and $2.10 - Show. The pool came to $441k and change, which was no where near its counterpart, the Grade 2 Rebel. Still, the exhibition, late burst of speed, and the fact that Lukas was involved, made this an instant story for the ages.
The elder statesman of Thoroughbred racing at 86 has not generated the headlines that he once did. Still, he has fought on valiantly through a nasty bout with COVID-19, and fending off the threat of retirement. He simply cannot do it ... does not know how ... not in his DNA ... With so much success along the Triple Crown Trail beginning in the early 80s, Lukas rose to the very top of the sport. His 1988 Winning Colors score in the Kentucky Derby with only the 3rd filly in history to beat the boys was nothing short of genius. Now, he has a new budding talent in Secret Oath #3, and everyone wants to know ... will the wily veteran conditioner tempt fate once again? Will he enter this Briland Farm homebred in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on 2 April? Or will he take the conventional route, and contest the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes, which is a stepping stone to Churchill's Oaks?
Could we be looking at a Kentucky Derby entry for Lukas? It is certainly a possibility because she was nominated for KYD148. It is rather unlikely though, especially considering that the HOF trainer's colt, Ethereal Road, ran such a game 2nd in the Rebel Stakes last Saturday. This is a horse that will point to the Arkansas Derby. Whatever happens, we know for sure that Lukas is back in the spotlight ... where he belongs. Sporting his distinctive combination of letter jacket, aviators, and cowboy hat, the man known as "Coach" is set to give his competitors a run for the money ... purse money, that is ... We need someone like Lukas right now, as the sport tries to grapple with the post-modern world. D. Wayne Lukas, and his past and present, could be just what is needed ...
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