Preakness Stakes ‘In Play’ for Oaks Winner Secret Oath

May 8, 2022

Middle Jewel ‘Option’ for Lukas Stablemate Ethereal Road

BALTIMORE, Md. – While no decision has been made, the connections of Friday’s $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Secret Oath said Saturday morning that the May 21 Preakness Stakes (G1) at historic Pimlico Race Course is in play for the 3-year-old daughter of Arrogate.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown six times, most recently with Oxbow in 2013. The Preakness also gave Lukas his first Triple Crown victory with Codex in 1980. 

The 86-year-old Lukas said that Ethereal Road, scratched from Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1), also is under consideration for the 147th Preakness Stakes.

Secret Oath closed from eighth to take the lead in mid-stretch under Luis Saez, holding off favored Nest by two lengths to give Lukas a record-tying fifth Kentucky Oaks triumph and his first since 1990.

Lukas said a decision on the 1 3/16-mile Preakness likely will be made by the end of the coming week. In the meantime, he said that Secret Oath came out of the 1 1/8-mile Oaks “excellent.”

“She didn’t dive into her feed tub, but when they’re tired, they never do,” he said Saturday morning at Churchill Downs. “But she was bright. We had her out on the grass early this morning, she grazed. She looked really good. I don’t see any reason that she won’t move forward from that.”

And might that be a forward move to Baltimore?

“I don’t know yet. I want to talk to Rob and Stacy Mitchell,” said Lukas, referring to the filly’s owners who race in the name of their 91-acre Briland Farm in Lexington, Ky. “We’ll discuss it. I tell you what I really want to do: I want to watch the Derby. I want to see how those premier horses fan out, what they get done, the early fractions. Kind of evaluate how, if we were in it today, what would happen here. And then we’ll make a decision.

“The Preakness is not out of the question,” he said. “But we can drop back into the Black-Eyed Susan.”

The 98th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles highlights the May 20 Preakness Eve program at Pimlico. Lukas also mentioned Belmont Park’s Acorn as an option that would keep Secret Oath in Grade 1 company if they don’t go in the Preakness.

“She can run six furlongs. She can run five furlongs,” Lukas said of cutting back to a one-turn race. “We have developed a style with her to relax off of the pace. But don’t think for a second, if you ask her a little bit, that she won’t throw up a 44 or 45[-second] half-mile easy. She has that ability, very much so.”

Lukas finished third in the 1988 Preakness with the filly Winning Colors, his first of four Kentucky Derby winners. He has raced more top-level fillies against the boys in major dirt races than any trainer in at least the modern era. That includes running Secret Oath in the Arkansas Derby (G1) April 2, when she finished third in a after a troubled trip.

It was suggested that it would definitely be Lukas’ style to run Secret Oath in the Preakness if she is doing well, to give her a chance at building a legacy.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Let her become famous.”

Swiss Skydiver in 2020 became the sixth and most recent filly to win the Preakness, first run in 1873. There have been 55 fillies to compete in the Preakness, including winners Rachel Alexandra (2009), Nellie Morse (1924), Rhine Maiden (1915), Whimsical (1906) and Flocarline (1903). Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk was second in 1980.

Rob Mitchell acknowledged that Secret Oath was made eligible for the Triple Crown to have the option of a Preakness run, not the Derby. The early deadline for nominating horses to the Triple Crown was Jan. 29, the day on which Secret Oath earned her first stakes victory with a 7 1/4-length romp in Oaklawn Park’s Martha Washington.

But Mitchell said the discussion of a Triple Crown nomination started after Secret Oath won an Oaklawn Park allowance race by 8 ¼ lengths on New Year’s Eve. She also went on to take the Honeybee (G3) by 7 ½ lengths before running the Arkansas Derby.

“We did discuss that before the Martha Washington Stakes, after her allowance victory,” Mitchell said. “But there’s no firm decision. It looks like she came out of the Oaks well. She seems pretty happy right now. But it’s still only two weeks to the Preakness. We don’t want to push her too hard. We’re just going to have to see how that decision plays itself out over the next few days. I would say the Preakness is in play, but no definite decision. Wayne and I will get together and talk about it and see what the filly tells us she wants to do.”

Middle Jewel ‘Option’ for Lukas Stablemate Ethereal Road

Lukas reiterated that he withdrew Ethereal Road, runner-up in the Feb. 26 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn, from the Derby because he wasn’t satisfied with how the colt was doing. Ethereal Road finished seventh in the Blue Grass (G1) April 9 at Keeneland and ran back a week later in the Lexington (G3) in an attempt to get enough points to make the 20-horse Derby field. While Ethereal Road squeaked into the field, Lukas scratched him Friday morning.

“I made an effort to have him ready [for the Derby], but I don’t think I did a good job,” Lukas said. “I just didn’t feel he was doing well. First of all, you have to be realistic, especially at my age. Can I win it? No, I didn’t think he could, frankly. I thought he maybe would get a big piece of it.

“Then this week he didn’t train that well, either. He got flat, didn’t have that usual energy. The decision I made was that if I run in the Derby, I eliminated the next couple of events, because I couldn’t run him bang, bang, bang like I’d been doing. I thought I’d skip the Derby and still have the option for Preakness and even beyond.”

Lukas said the consideration for the Preakness would be “if he comes back and starts to act like his old self. He’s training. He just isn’t as sharp as he has to be.”

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release

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