Secret Love shows heart to pull upset win in Franklin Square
by Brian Bohl
Secret Love handled her first stakes appearance – and first start on an off track – with a strong stretch-drive move, with the field’s longest shot outkicking 3-5 favorite Laobanonaprayer by 1 1/2 lengths to capture Saturday’s $100,000 Franklin Square for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Owned by Nedlaw Stable and Tobey Morton, Secret Love won her debut in September going six furlongs at Belmont Park. After running second at the same distance on December 20 at the Big A, trainer John Kimmel moved the Not This Time filly up in class in the seventh running of the 6 ½-furlong Franklin Square.
She responded by tracking in second position behind pacesetter Rossa Veloce, who led the five-horse field through the opening quarter-mile in 22.76 seconds and the half in 46.68 on the muddy and sealed main track.
Jockey Pablo Morales kept her forwardly placed out of the turn with plenty in reserve, as she easily overtook a fading Rossa Veloce from the outside at the top of the stretch. Morales, utilizing left-handed encouragement, repelled Laobanonaprayer’s late outside bid, hitting the wire in 1:19.86.
“She came to run,” said Morales, who won his first stakes at the Big A since Great Intentions in the 2006 Flip’s Pleasure. “They gave me a lot of confidence in her. They told me to have her forwardly placed because they thought she was going to run big. I pretty much followed instructions and came out of there running. Once the other horse made the lead, I just sat second the whole way around there. She gave me a nice kick down the lane and I thought it was good enough to win and she sure did.
“I knew everybody was right there,” he added. “I knew it was a competitive field and I wasn’t going to draw off in hand and I would have to keep on riding. She dug in hard and I knew with the run she gave me, she was going to be tough to pass.”
Off at 13-1, Secret Love paid $28 on a $2 win wager. Bred by Sequel Stallions NY and Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Secret Love more than doubled her career earnings to $98,000. She was purchased for $270,000 at the 2020 OBS July 2-year-Old Horses of Racing Age Sale.
Kimmel said Secret Love had been working with fellow New York-bred sophomore Frost Me, who won an optimal claimer event on January 8 at Aqueduct.
“The filly broke her maiden very impressively but she lost a shoe and grabbed her quarter and that’s why she missed the next 90 days,” Kimmel said about the break between her first and second starts. “We came back and ran her in an ‘a other than’ off a long layoff and I think she needed that race. She had a couple breezes after that race and was breezing extremely well and outworking Frost Me. Today, they kind of overlooked her and sent her off at a generous 13-1.”
Kimmel said he was impressed with Secret Love’s sophomore bow and could run next in the $100,000 Maddie May for state-breds going one mile on February 20 at Aqueduct, along with stablemate Frost Me.
“He [Morales] got her off the inside and he did a very nice job,” Kimmel said. “Laobanonaprayer is a proven horse and a very nice filly. I thought our filly did very well. The pace was very quick up front and she held on. Maybe the track helped her as it might have been tough to make any big closing moves today.”
Laobanonaprayer, who entered with stakes wins in her last two starts, edged Vacay by a neck for second. The Daniel Velazquez trainee is 2-2-1 in five career starts.
“I never had the horse today,” said Laobannaprayer’s jockey Kendrick Carmouche. “She missed some training at Parx and you’ve got to be ready when you come to New York. He [trainer Daniel Velazquez] thought he had the best horse and could still win. The filly still tried.”
Rossa Veloce and A Life That’s Good completed the order of finish. Caramocha was scratched.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Aqueduct with a nine-race card headlined by the $100,000 Ladies Handicap for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up going 1 1/8 miles in Race 8. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.