The winner of the Kentucky Oak, Secret Oath, is set for a run at Preakness after trainer D. Wayne Lukas announced she would enter instead of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico.
The filly will be up against the boys in Baltimore, looking to be only the sixth female winner in the 146-year-old race’s history. The last was relatively recent; Swiss Skydiver took the win with the fastest ever Preakness time of 1:53:28.
“We agonize over it,” Lukas told the Courier Journal of the decision. “She’s gone back to the track, and she was very sharp out there today. I don’t see anything about her that would change our decision right now (regarding the Preakness). She’s training well. She’s bright. She’s sharp and out there playing.”
Lukas also expects his filly to have an advantage over the other competitors, as many raced in the Kentucky Derby. That could hand her the advantage, as he explained.
“The Derby horses pretty much all had a hard race, (Secret Oath’s) race was not hard on her. Now, you sit back and say, ‘Epicenter is going to be the favorite. Chad Brown is putting (Early Voting) in.’ What I always did on those is I list all the horses going and say, ‘Can I beat this one?’ Yes. ‘Can I beat that one?’ Maybe. Go right down the line.”
It seems many observers also like Secret Oath’s chances of success. The favorite is Epicenter, but the filly is next in the latest Coral horse racing odds, priced favorably at 4/1. Behind her, there’s Zandon, Early Voting and the Derby winner Rich Strike. That’s significant faith in the filly to be ahead of the Debry winner but reflects both her trainer’s comments and the strength of her run at Kentucky Oaks.
Lukas has got previous form for fielding a filly in a big race; the first of his four Derby winners was Winning Colors in 1988. She was later handed the 1988 Eclipse Award for Outstanding 3-Year-Old Filly and, in 2000, was inducted into the United States National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
The Preakness Stakes is run over a distance of nine-and-a-half furlongs and was first run in 1873, two years after the first Derby. It is the second jewel of the triple crown, held three weeks after the Kentucky Derby event, and three weeks before Belmont Stakes. It is a huge draw for horse racing fans across the US and is only surpassed by the Derby in terms of attendance.
Swiss Skydiver’s 2020 win was only the second for a filly in the 21st century, with Rachel Alexandra winning in 2009. Before that, there had been four winners, the last of which was 98 years ago, with Nellie Morse taking the 1924 race. In 1915, Rhine Maiden won; 1906 saw Whimsical first past the post, and the first filly to win was Flocarline in 1903.
Now, Secret Oath will be seeking to add her name to the illustrious list, and judging by her previous form and her position in the current markets she could well achieve her aims.