Secret Oath “probable plus” for Preakness

D. Wayne Lukas said the ultimate decision remains to be made but that Briland Farm’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Secret Oath is “probable plus” for the May 21 Preakness, a race the Hall of Fame trainer has won six times.

Lukas also said that Rebel (G2) runner-up Ethereal Road will head to Pimlico Race Course but most likely will run in the $100,000 Sir Barton for 3-year-olds that have not won a stake at 1 1/16 miles.

“It could change, but I’d like to run in the Sir Barton,” Lukas said. “He’ll be a short price there.”

Ethereal Road had been entered in the Kentucky Derby, drawing the farthest outside post. However, moments before scratch time, Lukas and the connections scratched the Quality Road colt from the Derby. In an unexpected twist, that allowed Rich Strike to draw in, and he shocked the racing world with an 80-1 upset victory.

Lukas, who won his first of four Kentucky Derbys with the filly Winning Colors in 1988, said he discusses the Preakness for Secret Oath every day with owner-breeders Rob and Stacy Mitchell. If they don’t go in the Preakness, Lukas said the filly will train up to Saratoga’s $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at 1 1/8 miles on July 23. He said Secret Oath will only run in Grade 1 route races from now on out.

“We agonize over it,” he said at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning. “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.”

Asked if Secret Oath could be considered probable for the Preakness, Lukas said, “Yes. You can say probable. Maybe a probable-plus…. If she does that (wins), she’s got a chance to be Horse of the Year, when you step out of the box that far.

“Let’s put it this way: The Derby horses pretty much all had a hard race. Her race was not hard on her,” he added. “Now, you sit back and say, ‘Epicenter is going to be the favorite. Chad Brown is putting that other horse (Wood Memorial runner-up 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. But I still don’t know who’s going.”

Epicenter’s connections confirmed Wednesday that their millionaire by Not This Time would come to Baltimore for the Preakness, barring unforeseen developments. Epicenter took the lead in the lane in the Kentucky Derby and turned back the bid of Zandon, but he could not hold off Rich Strike.

“Epicenter will be difficult. He’s a legitimate favorite. He’s a very good horse,” Lukas said. “Nobody can go over there and think they’ll just run by him. He is going to be awfully tough to beat. You are taking a shot if you take him on. The other thing that always factors in is that when they are really good like she is right now, you take advantage of that moment, that time frame. We’ve got it planned out all the way to the Breeders’ Cup, but there’s a lot of road until then. Things happen.”

Secret Oath jogged a lap around Churchill Downs and then jogged more in the track’s mile chute Wednesday morning under Danielle Rosier.

  • Secret Oath at Pimlico. Photo by Allison Janezic.
  • Secret Oath won the Kentucky Oaks. Photo Coady Photography.
  • Secret Oath - Gallops at Oaklawn - 032922 - OP - 001 - Copy. Photo Coady Photography
  • SECRET OATH - The Honeybee G3 - 35th Running - 02-26-22 - R05 - OP - Finish 02. Photo Coady Photography.
  • SECRET OATH - The Honeybee G3 - 35th Running - 02-26-22 - R05 - OP - Inside Finish 02. Photo Coady Photography.