After Secret Oath’s first Grade 1 win in the Kentucky Oaks Friday at Churchill Downs, trainer D. Wayne Lukas brought up the possibility of entering the filly in the Preakness Stakes against males on May 21 at Pimlico Race Course.
One question is whether Secret Oath is fast enough to win the Preakness. Winning a Grade 1 against females is a great accomplishment, especially when the race is the most important one for 3-year-old fillies, but the best male dirt horses are usually faster.
Based on speed figures, how Secret Oath appears on paper in comparison with the top 3-year-old males possible for the Preakness depends on the brand used. Here is a look at TimeformUS and Beyer figures.
Secret Oath is not far off the males on TimeformUS. She earned a 116 for winning the Kentucky Oaks. One day later, Rich Strike earned a 119 for his effort the Kentucky Derby, while Epicenter posted the high Derby TimeformUS figure with a 120 because of the fast pace. Zandon earned a good 118 in third. All of those figures seem within the same range.
On Beyer Speed Figures, Secret Oath looks a touch too slow to capture the Preakness if either Rich Strike, Epicenter or Zandon run.
Secret Oath received a 94 Beyer Figure for winning the Kentucky Oaks. In the Kentucky Derby, Rich Strike earned a 101 Beyer for his win. Epicenter earned a 100 Beyer for the runner-up finish, and Zandon received a 98 while finishing 1 1/2 lengths behind Rich Strike.
What if Rich Strike’s Derby-winning effort is a fluke? That is not a bad theory. But even if that is true, Epicenter has shown proven form and another 100 Beyer or higher is probable from him if he runs next week. Zandon also shows reliable form, and he could hit another high speed figure in the 100 Beyer range at Pimlico under peak conditioning.
Going back to TimeformUS Speed Figures, another odd note about Secret Oath’s 116 is that it is significantly higher than her previous TimeformUS high of 111 in the Honeybee Stakes (G3). Is the 116 an anomaly?
In contrast, Epicenter posted a 118 in the Louisiana Derby (G2), and Zandon earned a 119 in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1). There is enough proof to believe both colts are regularly capable of a 120 on TimeformUS, and with another peak next week, they can go past 120.
As for Rich Strike, perhaps his synthetic races leading to the Kentucky Derby made it impossible to see his improvement on dirt. He might emulate Mine That Bird’s performance in the 2009 Preakness and turn in another strong closing effort. For those who forgot, Mine That Bird made a wide closing bid to finish second to Rachel Alexandra.
Besides speed figures, another negative for Secret Oath is her failure to beat Cyberknife in the Arkansas Derby (G1). She could not even hold second, as Barber Road made up steady ground in the stretch and caught Secret Oath late.
Cyberknife went on to finish 18th in the Kentucky Derby. Barber Road ended up sixth after making a closing run, but he also took advantage of the suicidal pace. Secret Oath is probably on the level of those two.
Now to pick on the Kentucky Oaks win. Secret Oath did not exactly dominate those fillies last Friday. She beat Nest by only two lengths, with Desert Dawn finishing third, just a half-length behind Nest.
Because of Yuugiri opening the Oaks in fast fractions of 22.45 and 46.51 seconds with the fast Echo Zulu on her tail, Secret Oath did receive a favorable pace setup of her own too. Secret Oaks began the Oaks in eighth, while the runner-up Nest settled in seventh through the opening quarter.
Does beating Nest by two lengths after a favorable pace setup translate into winning the Preakness against a good field of 3-year-old males two weeks later?
Secret Oath’s win in the Kentucky Oaks is fresh in the minds of racing fans with only two weeks between the Kentucky Oaks and Preakness Stakes next week. She is likely to attract enough attention to keep her odds somewhere in the 4-1 range.
Before unloading on the filly, keep in mind Secret Oath’s speed figures and her prior attempt against males at Oaklawn, along with the small advantage she owns over the 3-year-old fillies. The hype surrounding Secret Oath probably will not match the odds if she tackles males.
Secret Oath can win the Preakness if it ends up soft with the top 3 Derby finishers defecting. If Epicenter or Zandon show up though, the task might end up too difficult for a filly who could not even pass Cyberknife at Oaklawn little more than a month ago.