Unless plans change, the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes on June 10 at Belmont Park will bring together two powerhouses of the older dirt female division with Clairiere and Secret Oath both pointing toward the race. Last year’s champion 3-year-old filly Nest also was expected but might go elsewhere.
From a betting standpoint, Secret Oath shows a red flag because she could not finish the job in her last two races after starting as the favorite. Although talented, Secret Oath is starting to resemble a money burner, and that type of runner is generally one to avoid in betting.
At the start of Secret Oath’s 2023 campaign, it did not feel that way. In March, Secret Oath began the year with a promising win in the Azeri Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn. With a great closing move, she won by more than two lengths in front of a troubled Clairiere in second. But in fairness to Clairiere, the traffic problems on the far turn made it difficult on her.
The troubles began for Secret Oath in her next race.
Secret Oath and Clairiere met again in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) in mid-April at the same track. This time, Secret Oath took the lead from the loose sprinter Hot and Sultry after the six-furlong fraction on the far turn and held about a four- or five-length advantage over Clairiere at that point.
Most good horses with a four- or five-length advantage on the far turn finish off the race by winning, especially when the horse starts off favored. It indicates some kind of advantage on paper. In this situation, Secret Oath began the race at post time as the heavy 3-5 favorite.
Clairiere came on relentlessly in the stretch to catch Secret Oath. After traffic problems affected her Azeri run, Clairiere now beat Secret Oath in a clean race with a small field.
Even though Secret Oath held the tactical advantage on the far turn and early stretch, she burned a ton of win money in the Apple Blossom. Maybe Secret Oath lost to a good mare and needed to get away from Clairiere for at least one race. Some horses need a break from the best.
Secret Oath competed next in the La Troienne Stakes (G1) on the Kentucky Oaks undercard earlier this month and went to post as the 8-5 favorite. Without Clairiere in the field, Secret Oath had the perfect opportunity to win an important race against arguably lesser opponents.
But Secret Oath encountered problems on the first turn when jostled between horses. But on the far turn, Secret Oath made a gradual move while tipping outside of the leaders and took a clear shot at the front held by the stubborn Played Hard in the stretch.
Surprisingly, Played Hard responded to the face-to-face challenge by Secret Oath and even pulled away slightly from Secret Oath by a neck to score the mild upset at 8-1, and Secret Oath lost as the favorite again.
Despite the problems heading into the first turn, Secret Oath was supposed to win. She carried all the momentum at the top of the stretch and got repelled by a decent mare who felt like a step below the best in the division on past form.
In other words, Secret Oath burned money at 3-5 and 8-5 in her last two starts, and in the latter race, she did not lose to a top mare. Yet the public will eagerly bet this filly in the Ogden Phipps because of her past glory. Secret Oath won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) last year, and fans do not easily forget such a feat, even if she struggled in the latter half of 2022.
When Secret Oath enters the Ogden Phipps, take a step back and question whether she deserves low odds again after two frustrating losses. Without a doubt, Secret Oath still carries plenty of talent and consistency. But from a win standpoint, Secret Oath has been burning money and that type of horse is a frustrating one to rely on.