Context is important in all aspects of life. And placing facts in context is an essential quality for horseplayers looking to turn a profit. This week context is what’s missing from the wave of accolades pouring in for Arkansas Derby favorite Secret Oath.
Successful players (bettors overcoming the 17% average takeout on wagers) know not to rate a Grade 1 winner on dirt as the most likely contestant to win a Grade 1 race on turf. And they know that pedigrees and running styles seen as assets on one particular surface or at one particular distance become liabilities in other circumstances. Successful sprinters seldom win marathons. Turf pedigrees win less frequently in dirt races, and so on.
Last year the crew at Lazy Bettor Guides noted how the likely Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality possessed a running style more suited to the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes than the mile-and-a-quarter Kentucky Derby. And that his pace and final times suggested he’d fail against true Grade 1 horses. And he did. We repeated that warning prior to Essential Quality’s attempt to win the Breeders Cup Classic. Again, Essential Quality lost.
This year I see similar chinks in the armor of the 2022 media-hype horse, Secret Oath. And that brings me back to context.
Four Reasons Bettors Should Take a Different Oath
Last month Secret Oath blew away a small field of fillies in the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park. However, four changes in context lessen her chances of victory on Saturday:
- This weekend she faces a large field of colts in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn. Quite a step up in class and level of competition!
- Although Secret Oath ran much faster last month than Oaklawn’s best 3-year-old colts ran on the same day, none of those colts deserve serious consideration as potential Kentucky Derby winners. In fact, none of them will be among the top 3 wagering choices in the Arkansas Derby.
- Secret Oath’s winning time of 1:44.3 for a mile and a sixteenth ranks only fourth best in the past six years for the Honeybee Stakes.
- Two horses in the Arkansas Derby own faster times at mile and a sixteenth. It’s very difficult for a late runner like Secret Oath to make up ground on faster horses.
Champion Fillies Against Colts in Years Past
This past week Gary Stevens, rider of 1988 Kentucky Derby winning filly Winning Colors, stated that Secret Oath is the better horse. That statement suggests the only thing Gary is running these days is a fever. Winning Colors ran one of the fastest winning times of her decade in the Santa Anita Oaks, her final prep before defeating colts in the Santa Anita Derby. Secret Oath ranks midpack in a decade of winning times for the Honeybee Stakes, which is typically a weaker race than graded events at Santa Anita.
Secret Oath also fails to compare to Eight Belles, a former winner of the Honeybee Stakes. Eight Belles finished a distant second to Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby. Her winning time in the Honeybee was nearly a full second faster than Secret Oath’s.
Even though the Arkansas Derby field looks weaker than usual this year, bettors should trade Secret Oath the horse for a different secret oath: Let accomplishment precede glory. That means finding a better horse to wager on than a filly falling several lengths short of exceptional.
You can see our in-depth analysis of both the Arkansas Derby and Florida Derby by signing up for the Racetrack Super Scout.