Old Man & The Filly: Lukas Saddling the Secret Oath in Preakness

Horse trainer D. Wayne Lukas stands at the stables after Preakness entrant Secret Oath works out before the Preakness Horse Race at Pimlico Racecourse, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Baltimore.  Lukas could have entered the filly in the Black-Eyed Susan on Friday.  Instead, the 86-year-old Hall of Fame trainer chose the Preakness for the Kentucky Oaks winner, who has competed well against male horses on previous occasions.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Horse trainer D. Wayne Lukas stands at the stables after Preakness entrant Secret Oath works out before the Preakness Horse Race at Pimlico Racecourse, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Baltimore. Lukas could have entered the filly in the Black-Eyed Susan on Friday. Instead, the 86-year-old Hall of Fame trainer chose the Preakness for the Kentucky Oaks winner, who has competed well against male horses on previous occasions. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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D. Wayne Lukas sat on her pony just after 6 a.m. and watched Secret Oath as she took a bath after her first trip to the Pimlico Racecourse track.

“The whole time she was there, she never lowered her ears – they were always up,” he said. “She may be the most alert I’ve ever had.”

Lukas thinks she could be one of the best fillies he has ever had. That belief and her impressive victory at the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby inspired her to enter Secret Oath in the Preakness Stakes, where she could give the 86-year-old Hall of Fame coach a record seventh victory in the second gem. of the Triple Crown.

“She gives you reason to feel good every day,” Lukas said from his usual spot in the corner of the Pimlico stake barn, where he sits every morning as a former racing statesman. horses. “The best is still ahead of her.”

The Derby’s top horse is out of the way, after owner Rich Strike decided against racing him in the Preakness following the 80-1 upset at Churchill Downs. To become the seventh filly to win the Preakness, Secret Oath will need to beat favorite and Derby runner-up Epicenter, which would put her in the company of 2009 champion Rachel Alexandra and Swiss Skydiver, who beat Authentic in this race in 2020. .

Lukas knows all about fantastic filly horses, having trained 15 who have won the Eclipse Award for Best Filly of the Year. Winning Colors in 1988 became one of three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby, and Secret Oath two weeks ago handed her a fifth victory in the Oaks.

She could have run in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on Friday, but Lukas was ready to roll the dice on Secret Oath by being better than colts this time after finishing third in the Arkansas Derby in April.

“She’ll catch them. If she’ll run alongside them, we’ll know,” said Lukas, who cited Secret Oath’s toe turn as his biggest asset. “She has this acceleration. She runs with them. And when they ask her to move, she gets a devastating kick. She breaks their hearts.

Trainer and good friend Bob Baffert, a two-time Triple Crown winner, told Lukas that Secret Oath reminded him of Arrogate, whom he considered the best horse of his career. Secret Oath is Arrogate’s daughter and glides more like him than Lukas’ star fillies of decades past.

“She has more to do, but she has a chance to be as good as any of them,” Lukas said. “I don’t think it’s out of place. We’re talking about one that, she’s doing better than any of them I’ve had. Its efficiency: my boy, it is a pretty engine.

Secret Oath appeared to loan out Pimlico as well as his trainer, who considers himself lucky to have had so much success on the track beyond the Preakness. His natural talent might help him add to Lukas’ list of accolades, but his training has a lot to do with his evolution.

“He’s a magician,” said retired jockey Donna Brothers, now an NBC Sports analyst. “He’s been doing it for a number of years and he can continue to produce those kinds of results.”

He’s had those results since 1980 when he won his first Preakness with Codex. After Codex beat Genuine Risk, the Kentucky Derby-winning filly in that race, Lukas doesn’t see much poetic value in having a filly in Secret Oath who could do the job 42 years later.

“Fly, colt, government mule – I don’t care,” he said. “I’m here to win the thing.”

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