The 5-year-old Hat Trick mare was eighth early in the 14-horse field of fillies and mares, but once jockey John Velazquez set her straight in the stretch, she rallied down the outside to win by a head. The Mint Julep was her first start in over seven months.
"I was just sort of biding time there on the outside and she kept finding her stride down the lane and was able to get up late," Velazquez said.
Trained by Graham Motion, Secret Message sat back in the 1 1/16-mile turf event as 16-1 shot Mitchell Road led through fractions of :23.20, :48.27, and 1:13.14 over 8-5 favorite Juliet Foxtrot and 8-1 shot Zofelle. The leading three continued to battle in early stretch as multiple fillies and mares had their chances down the lane.
Secret Message came five wide and showed a strong kick to narrowly prevail, while Mitchell Road and Juliet Foxtrot folded late. The final time was 1:43.13 on firm turf.
The Brendan Walsh-trained La Signare rallied from ninth, split horses, and was just beat to finish second while diving inside late. Zofelle, her stablemate, held to finish a neck back in third.
"Both horses ran such a huge race. We ran second and third by a head. Those are really tough beats when you lose by that close of a margin but we are really proud of both of their efforts," Walsh said.
The Mint Julep was the first win in a year for Secret Message ($53.40), who was unplaced in three starts following a victory in the Nassau Stakes (G2T) at Woodbine last May. She won the Dahlia Stakes at Laurel Park one start earlier and was also a graded winner at 3, taking the 2018 Pucker Up Stakes (G3T) at Arlington International Race Course.
Campaigned by Madaket Stables, Heider Family Stables, ERJ Racing, Elayne Stables, and Steven Bouchey, Secret Message has compiled six wins and a pair of seconds from 15 starts and earnings of $416,838. She was bred in Kentucky by Allen Tennenbaum out of the Gone West mare Westside Singer, who foaled a colt by Flintshire Jan. 31. Westside Singer's only other foal to race, Diva La Mousse (by Hat Trick), won one of 11 races and $57,335
Sol Kumin's Madaket Stables owned the 1-2 finishers in the Mint Julep, both in partnership, a finish that led to a $1,045.20 exacta for a $2 wager.
Madaket Stables campaigns La Signare with Tim and Anna Cambron and Bradley Thoroughbreds.
Heider Family Stables also raced Zofelle, giving their owners a 1-3 finish.