Preakness possible for Oaks winner Secret Oath

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Secret Oath impressed in winning Friday’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks for three-year-old fillies. What she does next might be even more compelling.

Secret Oath swept up wide and drew away to win the Oaks by two lengths over post-time favorite Nest, giving her 86-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas his fifth triumph in the Oaks. And afterwards Lukas continued to flirt with running his filly against the boys in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes May 21 at Pimlico.

“I’m going to let a few days go by and then I’ll get with (owner) Rob Mitchell,” Lukas said in a release. “I’ll let him have an opinion. The Preakness is an option, but so is the Black-Eyed Susan. The big difference is a million dollars and a Grade 1. Would be nice to get her a second Grade 1.”

The $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan, run the day prior to the Preakness, is a Grade 2 event for three-year-old fillies.

Secret Oath has won three of four starts this year while earning more than $1.1 million. She moved to the head of many handicappers’ sophomore filly rankings after a sharp score in the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park.

Lukas then gave the daughter of Arrogate a big test, trying her in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, in which she was a troubled third. But on a fast main track in the Oaks, she came five wide rounding the turn and closed with good energy to win in 1:49.44.

“She ran a picture-perfect race, a beautiful trip. It kind of went the way we had mapped it out,” Lukas said. “When (jockey) Luis (Saez) moved into position down the backstretch, I told Laurie (wife) that we were going to be OK.”

In the aftermath of big wins, connections typically – and rightly – defer making commitments until they see how their horse has come out of a race. On that score, Lukas said, Secret Oath was triple aces.

“She bounced back very quickly last night and she’s very sharp here this morning,” the trainer said. “Looks very good. We’re tickled to see her come out of that tough race and to be bouncing around here this morning. She’s excellent.”

One key question Lukas will confront will be how the Derby shakes out and how he thinks his filly compares. Arkansas Derby winner Cyberknife is 20-1 on the morning line.

Two fillies have won the Preakness this century. Most recently, Swiss Skydiver took the Covid-delayed 2020 edition in a thriller over Derby winner Authentic. And Rachel Alexandra won in 2009 as part of her historic campaign.

Lukas had also been scheduled to saddle a Kentucky Derby starter in Ethereal Road, a Quality Road colt owned by Julie Gilbert and Aaron Sones. But he opted to scratch him from the Derby, leaving the Middle Jewel an option for that runner, as well.

“I thought if I ran him today (in the Derby), I’d have no shot of going on with him,” Lukas said. “I have run him a lot between Oaklawn and Keeneland. I didn’t think he’d win, so I took him out and now we have the option of the Preakness.”