Secret Oath’s Owners May Be Cheering From Home

May 14, 2022

It just happens that Secret Oath’s dam, Absinthe Minded, is due to foal right around Preakness Day.

BALTIMORE, Md.—Having won America’s most important stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Secret Oath now will try to enhance her legacy by winning in the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1).

But the Mitchells might not be in Baltimore to see it. They take a lot of pride in doing all the work on the farm, and that includes Stacy virtually always assisting their mares in foaling. And it just happens that Secret Oath’s dam, Absinthe Minded, is due to have a foal by Liam’s Map right around Preakness Day – the last of Briland Farm’s three 2022 foals to be born.

“We may be watching the Preakness on TV from Lexington,” Rob Mitchell said by phone Saturday morning. As for hoping that Absinthe Minded has her baby before Saturday, he joked, “Yeah, because we might have to put her on a plane, bring her up there, put her in the hotel or something.”

As was Absinthe Minded, Secret Oath is trained by six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas.

The Mitchells’ passion for their horses came out in the post-Oaks winners’ interview at Churchill Downs, when Rob Mitchell told the media, “If we raise a horse, we foaled it and we delivered the foal itself,” before Stacy Mitchell added, “We have invested our heart and our soul into that horse.”

The Mitchells got into the breeding industry a little more than 20 years ago when Stacy got a Quarter-Horse to ride on their newly purchased 90-acre Briland Farm in Lexington, Ky. Told that horses are social animals and they should get a companion horse, they wound up buying their first Thoroughbred mare, who had never raced, for $1 from a friend of a friend. 

They bred the $1 mare, Chao Praya (unraced granddaughter of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew), to Storm Cat’s son Level Sands for $1,500. The result was Level Playingfield, who was sold for $15,000 and wound up a graded-stakes winner and $664,822 earner. The Mitchells’ subsequent $36,000 purchase, Rockford Peach, produced Absinthe Minded, a multiple stakes-winner who was Grade 1-placed while making $607,747 racing for the Mitchells.

The Mitchells have had extraordinary success with limited numbers, having only three or four foals a year and never more than six mares on the farm. According to the Paulick Report, between 2002 and 2018, Briland Farm had 44 foals that went on to race, of which three were graded-stakes winners, six were graded-stakes placed, five were stakes winners and 11 were stakes-placed.

“We haven’t bought a mare in over 20 years,” Rob Mitchell said. “We have never put a horse on the racetrack to race that wasn’t born on our farm — kind of the way they did it 100 years ago.”

The Mitchells often sell their foals, racing those who don’t fetch the price they believe the horse is worth. Secret Oath, a daughter of the late Arrogate, was one they pulled from the yearling sale after few people came by to see her.

“They keep a list of how many people look at a horse, and I didn’t think many people looked at her,” Rob Mitchell said. “And not many people ‘vetted’ her and looked at her X-rays in the repository. Very few people looked at her twice. You like to see people come back and look two or three times. It was not going to be a situation where you had 10 people bidding on her. So, I’m thinking, ‘Why put her through the ring and not have her bring what I think she’s worth?’ So, I dropped her out of the sale.”

On May 6 at Churchill Downs Secret Oath, a two-length Oaks winner over the highly regarded Nest, was one of the most looked-at fillies in the world.

“She had at least 100,000 looks last Friday,” Rob Mitchell said with a laugh.

The same will be true at the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, with its massive on-track crowd, international television audience and the interest generated whenever a top filly takes on top males in a major race.

As Stacy Mitchell concluded after the Oaks: “We’re very blessed that the clouds and the heavens worked out just right and she didn’t sell for a reason. And here we are.”

Secret Oath galloped early Saturday morning at Churchill Downs. She is scheduled to van to Pimlico on Monday.

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release/Edited
Photo: Luis Saez, D. Wayne Lukas and Briland Farm’s Robert Mitchell (right) hoist the Oaks trophy. (Coady)

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