A stubborn Sarah's Secret, making her two-turn debut and her initial stakes appearance, remained undefeated in four starts when she repelled favored Star Billing in deep stretch to win the $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Hollywood Park turf course June 11 (VIDEO).
Ridden for the first time by Rafael Bejarano, front-running Sarah's Secret won by a half-length while drifting out in the final stages. She stopped the clock in 1:50.04 for the 1 1/8-mile test of 3-year-old fillies over firm ground.
Kathy Walsh trains the winning daughter of Leroidesanimaux for breeder Joan Hadley Thoroughbreds, which co-owns the chestnut filly with Al and Sandee Kirkwood.
Sarah's Secret defeated Star Billing, the Senorita Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner last month who lost for the first time in three starts, with Tyler Baze aboard. The runner-up edged the onrushing Cambina, ridden by Joe Talamo, for second by a head.
Breaking from the rail, Sarah's Secret took the lead over Star Billing, who advanced into second over Whisper Louise and kept within a head of the the pacesetter, who slowed things down into the first turn while posting slow fractions of :24.80, :50.19 and 1:15.04.
Star Billing was poised for the drive but Sarah's Secret, still comfortable in spite of racing beyond 6 1/2 furlongs for the first time, inched away a bit in the lane to lead by one length at the furlong marker. Sarah's Secret held on with determination to win in the final sixteenth of a mile while getting out a bit.
"It was her first time going a distance so I just let her break and when I saw (Star Billing) tried to slow the pace, I just took the lead on the first turn," Bejarano said. "She showed me a big kick in the stretch. I wasn’t even whipping her.”
This was the second win of the Hollywood Park meet for Sarah's Secret, and also the second victory of the stand for her trainer. Sarah's Secret won a six-furlong turf allowance test May 1 by 1 3/4 lengths.
“Mr. and Mrs. Al Kirkwood bought a major interest in this filly two weeks ago, but they were unable to attend today," Walsh said. "We would have liked to be able to cover her up, but there just wasn’t any speed at all. The race was paceless and Rafael just had to use his own judgment. It was one of those things were he did a great job in rating her and getting her to settle."
Sarah's Secret began her career last summer, breaking her maiden at first asking on Del Mar's Polytrack in August. She also won her next start as well against first-level allowance foes on Hollywood's Cushion Track during the Oak Tree meet last October.
"She just needed to grow up last year and we gave her the time," Walsh explained. "Little things kept setting her back. I would have liked to have her go two turns sooner."
Asked about the possibility of the $250,000 American Oaks (gr. IT) over the course at 10 furlongs July 16, Walsh responded: "We’ll see what’s next. I don’t ever press on any horses until they show me they’re ready to go back.
"I think she’s quite good, I really do," the trainer added. "In the morning when we train her, she gallops a mile and three-quarters and she’s stronger at the finish than she is at the start.”
She has earned $177,000 in her four wins, more than doubling her bankroll with the Honeymoon's winning share of $90,000. The winner is out of the Argentina mare Sarasota, by Luhuk.
The first three favorites in the field of nine occupied the payoff spots. Sarah's Secret, the third choice under 115 pounds, paid $9.80, $4.60 and $3.20. George Krikorian's homebred Star Billing returned $3.80 and $2.60 as the 19-10 pick and filled out a $27.60 exacta. Grade II winner Cambina, rallying from eighth at the three-eighths pole, was $2.60 to show while carrying co-top weight of 120 pounds.
Senorita runner-up Entrustment was a half-length father back in fourth, followed by Up In Time, Bonita Star, Whisper Louise, Singapore Lilly and Slane Castle.