Charles Cella's Cyber Secret has not won on the dirt at Churchill Downs, where his only outing resulted in a seventh-place finish in the 2011 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) But fresh off a 5 3/4-length victory in the April 13 Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), trainer Lynn Whiting is willing to put the 4-year-old runner's unbeaten season on the line.
Cyber Secret is the 7-2 morning-line favorite of nine entered in the $300,000 Alysheba Stakes (gr. II), to be run May 3 as the ninth of 12 races on the Kentucky Oaks program. He has galloped to four straight victories this year, two of them in graded stakes company, including the Razorback Handicap (gr. III).
The son of Broken Vow delivered the best victory of his career in the Oaklawn Handicap, in which Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Fort Larned finished fifth. He earned his first grade II for Whiting when trying that level of competition for the first time since his 2-year-old season.
"He got a big Beyer (speed figure) in that last race and I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't get a two or three negative on the Thoro-Graph," said Whiting. "I'd have to say that's the best race he ever ran. His Razorback was a good race, but he trumped that when he ran back the other day. He was doing so good going into the race, Fort Larned was going to have to bring his 'A' game with him. He ran to my expectations, may have outrun them...he outperformed what I thought he might do."
With trainer Ian Wilkes opting to keep Fort Larned out of the Alysheba to train up to the June 15 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), Cyber Secret faces a still stout field that includes Take Charge Indy, Bourbon Courage, and Hymn Book. But all three look back to 2012 for their last trip to the winner's circle—Take Charge Indy in the Florida Derby (gr. I) in March, Bourbon Courage in the Super Derby (gr. II) in September, and Hymn Book in the Frank "Pancho" Martin Stakes at Belmont Park last October.
Take Charge Indy comes off a runner-up finish by two lengths to Cigar Street in the March 30 Skip Away Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park for trainer Pat Byrne. He also finished third in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) in February after going second a length behind Shackleford in the Clark Handicap (gr. I) at the end of 2012. He will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik from post 6.
The late-closing Bourbon Courage was third by a head in the Clark and second in the Donn—five lengths in front of Take Charge Indy. He then was third behind Donn winner Graydar and Mark Valeski in the March 30 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) last time out. Trained by Kellyn Gorder for Bourbon Lane Stable and Wayne Lynn , Bourbon Courage has Javier Castellano in the irons from the 8 hole.
Whiting said a solid, five-furlong move in :59 4/5 over the Churchill surface April 27 gave him faith in Cyber Secret's's readiness for this race. He also said teaching Cyber Secret to relax has been key to helping him find the winner's circle more than he did in his 2- and 3-year-old years. As a sophomore, Cyber Secret was fifth in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) division won by Secret Circle, and he also ran fifth in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II).
"He's just grown up," Whiting said. "He still puts himself in the race, but last year as a 3-year-old early on, he was in chase mode. He just wouldn't relax early. He was dragging the rider up the backside, and that's a recipe for disaster. We've got him out of that mode right now, and hopefully our success will continue. When he came in here, he worked as good as I could have asked him to. He's ready to walk over there on Friday. If he can transfer his Oaklawn race to Churchill, we'll be in business."
Cyber Secret, who will be ridden from the outside by jockey Robby Albarado under a high weight of 120 pounds, does have one other outing at Churchill on his record—a second to Villandry in a Nov. 23 allowance event going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
"I don't think he really cared for this track last fall," Whiting said. "I was looking for an answer and I tried him on the turf a couple times, and I think someday he's going to have a little future on the grass. But if something's not broken, don't fix it, so I'm staying with the dirt at this time."
$300,000 Alysheba Stakes (gr. II, Race 9, approximate post time 3:52 p.m. EDT), 4YOs & Up, 1 1/16 miles(dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Patrioticandproud, J. Rosario, 118, M. Casse, 20-1
2. Laugh Track, M. Mena, 118, M. Casse, 20-1
3. Right To Vote, R. Santana Jr., 118, R. Moquett, 20-1
4. Hymn Book, G. Gomez, 118, C.R. McGaughey III, 3-1
5. Richard's Kid, K. Krigger, 118, D. O'Neill, 5-1
6. Take Charge Indy, R. Napravnik, 118, P. Byrne, 4-1
7. Macho Macho, C. Nakatani, 118, S. Asmussen, 5-1
8. Bourbon Courage, J. Castellano, 118, K. Gorder, 4-1