Take the Road to the Kentucky Derby and add a little bit of spice.
Secret Oath , an impressive winner against his own division in the Feb. 26 Honeybee Stakes (G3) last out and in the Jan. 29 Martha Washington Stakes before that for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, will face down the boys next out in the April 2 Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
Owners Robert and Stacy Mitchell of Briland Farm confirmed the news March 12 to BloodHorse after Lukas told FoxSports’ Gary Stevens of plans for the filly. Lukas told Stevens that his other top 3-year-old, Cypress Creek Equine’s Rebel Stakes (G2) runner-up Ethereal Road will go to Lexington for the April 9 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.
“I told Wayne, ‘An owner has to have as much heart as their horse,'” Robert Mitchell said. “And I just think she’s shown a lot of heart…and we said we’d go with it.”
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A second-generation homebred daughter of Arrogate out of the grade 1-placed, stakes-winning Quiet American mare Absinthe Minded , Secret Oath is on a three-race win streak that began with her Oaklawn debut in a mile allowance where she crushed fellow 2-year-old fillies by 6 1/4 lengths. In the 1 1/16-mile Martha Washington, she increased that margin to 7 1/4 lengths, and in the Honeybee at the same distance, she won by 7 1/2 lengths. In the Arkansas Derby, she will stretch out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time.
“Wayne and I talked about it before the Honeybee and we wanted to see what her performance looked like in the Honeybee, and we wanted to see what the Rebel looked like, and then we wanted to see how she did in her first workout after the Honeybee,” Mitchell said.
Secret Oath returned to the work tab March 8 with a four-furlong move in :48 2/5 at Oaklawn.
Lukas won the 1984 Arkansas Derby (G1) with the filly Althea—subsequently 19th in that year’s Kentucky Derby (G1)—and he earned the first of his four Kentucky Derby wins with the filly Winning Colors under Stevens in 1988.
“When you have the elder statesman trainer and the little homebred from a small operation that went to (sell at) Keeneland and nobody wanted her, it does have the makings of a good story,” Mitchell said.
Secret Oath was slated to go through the ring at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, but her connections took her out after she failed to catch buyers’ attention.
“No one came to look at her, but that’s OK,” Mitchell recalled.
Now there are plenty of eyes on the lanky chestnut filly, who could become the first since Devil May Care in 2010 to enter the Run for the Roses. Secure in her position atop the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 60 points, more than enough to get her into that field, Secret Oath would still need to earn qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby side to get a chance to run in the May 7 Kentucky Derby. The Arkansas Derby awards the top four finishers with qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale.
A win or runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby would likely secure her enough Derby points based on historical trends.
“I think she’s earned the chance to do it, so we’re going to let her give it a chance,” Mitchell said of running in the Arkansas Derby. “If we win, great, and if we lose, we’re very blessed to have her and she’s already done enough.”