The second leg of the Triple Crown is fast approaching, and a number of key contenders are emerging following the conclusion of Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs. The winner of the first Jewel race, Rich Strike, looks set to target a second straight Triple Crown victory after his stunning 81/1 success at Churchill Downs.
However, could we have seen the leading contender for the Preakness Stakes in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday? Secret Oath could be the answer for many after she impressed at Churchill Downs when re-opposing the girls.
Derby Target Bypassed
Secret Oath has been one of the most interesting horses to watch in the United States throughout 2022. D. Wayne Lukas trained the last filly winner of the Derby, and many believed Secret Oath would take the same route after dismantling female opposition in the G3 Honeybee in February. She was tested in company with the boys, as she competed in the G1 Arkansas Derby over 1 1/8 miles in April.
However, it looked as though Derby’s dreams were over after she finished third. Still, there was no shortage of positives from her performance, as she was still able to finish in the money against the boys despite having a far from an ideal trip around Oaklawn Park. Her performance that day would have been enough to get into the Kentucky Derby following the late scratches.
Despite winning the G3 Honeybee and finishing in the money in the G1 Arkansas Derby, she was still priced up at 6/1 to win the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Many believed that she would have faced a huge issue getting away quickly as she was handed the starting position in stall one. But, there were no such issues for this supremely talented three-year-old, as she ran well clear of the field over a final couple of furlongs, and after the turn, she always looked like the most likely winner.
Secret Oath finished two lengths clear of pre-race favorite Nest for Todd Pletcher, and just under three lengths clear of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies hero Echo Zulu. In truth, she looks more battle-hardened than many of the fillies that she has come up against, and that toughness could be one of her greatest assets as she lines up in the Preakness Stakes in the middle of May.
Trainer’s Excellent Record
There may not have been many more popular winners of the Kentucky Oaks last Friday, as Lukas shared emotional moments with both Todd Pletcher and Brad Cox after the race. Pletcher revealed that if one of his horses wasn’t to win, then he was delighted that it was Secret Oath. Lukas has an excellent record with fillies coming through the Kentucky Oaks, with three of his four winners later picking up the accolade of Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.
The Hall of Famer also has an excellent record in the Preakness Stakes results, as it is a race that he has claimed victory in on six previous occasions. His last victory in the race came back in 2013 with Oxbow, which came 14 years after his previous win in 1999 with Charismatic. Lukas also won in back-to-back years in 1994 and 1995 with Tabasco Cat and Timber Country. Fillies have also had a good recent record in the Preakness, with two winners coming in the previous 13 renewals. The most recent female winner was Swiss Skydiver in 2020 for trainer Kenneth McPeek.
Who Are The Other Leading Contenders?
We don’t yet know the official line-up for the Preakness, but the recent reports can indicate runners that we are likely to see. Former Baffert-trained pair Messier and Taiba are among the big names that are likely to bypass the Preakness after disappointing runs in the Kentucky Derby. However, the shock winner of the opening Triple Crown race, Rich Strike, is among the likely contenders. It could be a case of history repeating itself from 2009, as Derby outsider Mine That Bird took on filly Rachel Alexandra.
Early Voting is another that looks extremely likely to line up in the Preakness after opting to bypass the Kentucky Derby after finishing second in the G2 Wood Memorial. Simplification and Smile Happy both run big races under the radar at Churchill Downs and are also likely runners to return to the track at Pimlico. Skippylongstocking was third in the G2 Wood Memorial and is also probable to be starting the Preakness for Saffie Joseph Jr.