Earlier this month, trainer D. Wayne Lukas ran standout filly Secret Oath against the boys in the Arkansas Derby. And he said he may do it again in three weeks in the Preakness Stakes.

Secret Oath-Preakness?
Secret Oath’s next race is against her fellow fillies in next week’s Kentucky Oaks. But trainer D. Wayne Lukas may turn her loose against the boys again in the Preakness Stakes. (Image: Churchill Downs/Coady Photography)

Savvy fans and horseplayers may have wondered why the Hall of Fame trainer nominated Secret Oath for the Triple Crown, let alone ran her in a Grade 1 Derby prep. Especially when Lukas repeatedly said he had no intention of running Secret Oath in the Kentucky Derby.

It turns out the May 21 Preakness was the reason.

“That’s what the nomination was for,” Lukas told the Maryland Jockey Club. “That’s what we thought. If we have a big (Kentucky) Oaks, now we cut back in distance. We go to a 14-horse field versus 20. We go on a different surface, tight turns, where speed would be good. It changes the whole game when you go to the Preakness.”

Lukas toting a six-pack of Preaknesses

And Lukas should know. He’s won the middle jewel of the Triple Crown six times, most recently with Oxbow in 2013. His first Preakness win came in 1980 with Codex.

“I have good luck at the Preakness. I always have had,” Lukas said.

Secret Oath finished a strong third in the Arkansas Derby, winding up only 3 1/2 lengths behind winner Cyberknife. It took a furious rally for runner-up Barber Road to nip her just before the wire for second. She finished 4 1/2 lengths clear of fourth-place Doppelganger.

Secret Oath follows the money

“We were running in the Arkansas Derby because that race was (worth) $1.25 million,” he said. “That, in itself, was the incentive. If she had won the Arkansas Derby, we’d have not run in the Kentucky Derby. We were pretty adamant that we were going to run in the Oaks and have the best filly in the country.”

Secret Oath is in the discussion. She won the two previous races before the Arkansas Derby: the Martha Washington and Grade 3 Honeybee, by a combined 14 3/4 lengths. The daughter of the late champion Arrogate is currently 9/2 on offshore futures boards to win the Oaks.

Should she run the Preakness, Secret Oath would be the second filly in three years to tackle the Triple Crown’s middle jewel. The last? Swiss Skydiver in 2020. All she did was beat eventual Horse of the Year Authentic in arguably that pandemic year’s best race.

Along with his six Preakness titles, Lukas has won the Derby and the Belmont Stakes four times apiece.

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