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Secret Oath wins Kentucky Oaks, eyes run at the Preakness

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Secret Oath, with jockey Luis Saez aboard, crosses the finish line to win the 148th running of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Friday. Photo by Jason Szenes/UPI
Secret Oath, with jockey Luis Saez aboard, crosses the finish line to win the 148th running of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Friday. Photo by Jason Szenes/UPI | License Photo

May 6 (UPI) -- Secret Oath had done everything asked of her coming into Friday's $1.25 million Grade I Longines Kentucky Oaks -- everything except beat the boys as she finished third in the Arkansas Derby in her previous start.

Back with the fillies in the Oaks, she also was back to her winning ways, drawing off through the final furlong to score by daylight -- and maybe win another date against the colts in the Preakness Stakes in two weeks' time.

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And right in the middle of the drama were 86-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who earlier in the day saw his Kentucky Derby contender scratched, and owners Robert and Stacy Mitchell, hands-on farmers who bred Secret Oath on their spread near Lexington.

"I love the big ones," said Lukas, who has won the Kentucky Derby four times and the Oaks on four previous occasions. "These are the ones you pray for. At this time in my career, it's really gratifying to get another one like this."

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Secret Oath had been one of the top contenders for the Oaks before being redirected to the Arkansas Derby -- a test to see if she might be good enough to try the Kentucky Derby.

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After finishing third in Hot Springs, her stock dropped a bit as she lined up for the Oaks against the winners of most of the big 3-year-old filly races around the country.

Jockey Luis Saez got Secret Oath away cleanly from the No. 1 gate, took her back to midfield and waited outside rivals down the backstretch. Turning for home, previously undefeated Fair Grounds Oaks winner Echo Zulu held a slim lead with Oaks favorite Nest looking for room.

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Saez got by them all and Secret Oath dominated the final furlong. Nest finished second with Santa Anita Oaks winner Desert Dawn third and Echo Zulu fourth.

"I've rode a lot of good fillies in my life," Saez said. "But never one like this."

After the race, Lukas was asked if he had any second thoughts about not sending Secret Oath to the Run for the Roses.

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"I think we did the right thing," he said. "She won the Oaks. That's all we can ask of her."

It may not, however, be all that's asked of her as Mitchell made it clear he will consider running Secret Oath in the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore on May 21.

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"Let's think about it," he said, "see who's in the race and do what's best for the horse. Not what's best for us or for the public. What's best for the horse."

The Oaks was run over a track rated "good," but a storm rolling through Louisville forced a weather delay before the next race and an iffy forecast left the possibility of an off track for Saturday's 148th Kentucky Derby.

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