Preakness will be Secret Oath's last start vs boys this season

Preakness will be Secret Oath's last start vs boys this season
Photo: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

No matter how Kentucky Oaks heroine Secret Oath fares in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, breeder and owner Robert Mitchell told Horse Racing Nation that she will not face males again this season.

“We have no intention of dealing with the boys anymore,” Robert Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, that decision was made in conjunction with Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The owner of Briland Farm in Lexington, Ky., outlined what would be a relatively light schedule after the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

It would resume with the July 23 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga, skip the Aug. 20 Alabama (G1) because of concerns about the mile-and-a-quarter distance and use the Sept. 24 Cotillion at Parx in Bensalem, Pa., as a prelude to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 5 at Keeneland.

“We’re not running in the Belmont,” Mitchell said emphatically. “We’re going to sit back and rest her. Whether she wins the Preakness or loses the Preakness, she’s going to get some time off. I’ve made that 100 percent clear to Wayne, and he’s on board with it. I don’t care if we win by 10 lengths, she’s getting some time off.”

The 1 3/16-mile Preakness will mark the second time that the chestnut daughter of Arrogate will oppose males. She was bothered at the break and endured a wide trip under Luis Contreras in finishing third behind Cyberknife and Barber Road in the April 2 Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park. Luis Saez replaced Contreras for her impressive 2-length victory against Nest in the May 6 Oaks.

Secret Oath will bid to become the seventh filly to win the Preakness in the race’s 147-year history. Part of the willingness to attempt that stems from Mitchell’s belief that she could have fared better in the Arkansas Derby.

“If I had any criticism, it would be that I think we started our move a little too soon. We were wide the whole trip,” he said, adding, “You don’t want to take anything away from the winner because they won. I do think we could have done better, but we didn’t.”

Mitchell is an accomplished heart surgeon in addition to operating Briland Farm with his hands-on wife, Stacy. He acknowledged that he had some concern about Secret Oath’s condition after her first encounter with males.

“She was a tired filly,” he said. “By starting her move too soon, she was completely extended and depleted with half a furlong to go. That last half-furlong, she was running with nothing left in the tank. And it really took it out of her.”

Secret Oath’s condition after the Oaks stood out in contrast and made it easier to agree with Lukas’ strong recommendation that she belonged in the Preakness.

“She looked like she would just after a routine workout,” Mitchell said. “She definitely came out of the races differently. She looks muscled up and strong. She looks like a colt.”

The owner said Lukas has been pushing the Preakness since Secret Oath routed well-regarded Matareya by 8 l/4 lengths in a Dec. 31 allowance race at Oaklawn Park. The legendary conditioner has been confident all along that she will be a great fit for Baltimore’s Pimilco Race Course, home of the Preakness.

“He’s commented a lot of times that he thinks she’ll like the tight turns,” Mitchell said.

The remarkable Lukas, 86, should know. He is aiming for a record-tying seventh Preakness triumph, having last won the prestigious event with Oxbow in 2013.

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