Secret Oath Upholding A Family Tradition at Oaklawn

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, or (501) 363-4305

Monday, February 07, 2022

Photo credit: Coady Photography

Secret Oath Upholding A Family Tradition at Oaklawn

Secret Oath is more than upholding the family tradition at Oaklawn. She may be taking it to new heights.

Secret Oath received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 88 for her 7 ¼-length victory in the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Jan. 29. A major local prep for the Kentucky Oaks, the 1 1/16-mile Martha Washington marked the second consecutive blowout victory for Secret Oath, who is campaigned by her breeders, Robert and Stacy Mitchell, and their longtime trainer, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.

The Mitchells (Briland Farm) and Lukas already had teamed to win three Oaklawn stakes races with Secret Oath’s dam, Absinthe Minded, and two other races in Hot Springs with Secret Oath’s half-sisters La Fee Verte and Sara Sea.

“I’m so happy for Rob and Stacy Mitchell because they’ve raised a bunch of them,” Lukas said moments after the Martha Washington. “They’ve sent them all to us. We’ve had great luck. Her mother was with us. Now, they’ve got a good one. They’ve had good ones before, but now I think they’ve got a real good one.”

Secret Oath has blossomed in her last two starts. She became the first female Oaklawn winner sired by deceased champion Arrogate in an 8 ¼-length allowance romp Dec. 31, generating a Beyer Speed Figure of 93, among the highest in the country for a 2-year-old in 2021. The mile race also marked the most lopsided victory in Oaklawn’s brief history of 2-year-old routes.

The Martha Washington was essentially a replay of the allowance race. Secret Oath, in hand under Luis Contreras, glided to the leaders on the second turn and accelerated away from the field turning for home. Heavily favored in the Martha Washington, Secret Oath ($3) ran the distance in 1:46.21 over a fast track.

“I said to my wife: ‘His butt’s way up in the air. He hasn’t asked her yet,’” Lukas said, referring to Contreras. “Laurie was a little concerned, but I said: ‘No, no, we’re fine. When he lets this thing go, she’s going to go.’ You can always tell when their butt’s up in the air, they haven’t let them run yet.”

Secret Oath’s margin of victory was the third-largest since the Martha Washington became a two-turn race in 2004, eclipsed only by two heavyweights – Eight Belles (13 ½ lengths) in 2008 and Rachel Alexandra (eight lengths) in 2009. The Martha Washington was run at 1 1/16 miles for the first time in 2022 after previously being a mile.

Absinthe Minded won Oaklawn’s $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes for older fillies and mares in 2011 and 2012 and the $75,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares in 2012. All three races were 1 1/16 miles. Absinthe Minded also ran third behind eventual Horse of the Year Havre de Grace in Oaklawn’s $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares in 2011. Absinthe Minded was runner-up in the 2012 Apple Blossom.

“Her mother was a real consistent hard-knocking, big filly,” Lukas said, when asked to compare Secret Oath and Absinthe Minded. “This filly’s big, she’s just a little bit slight. I think this filly is going to fill out. We’ll space the races and make sure we do the right thing by her.”

The Mitchells began building their broodmare band a little more than 20 years ago and now board approximately a half-dozen on their 90-acre Briland Farm in Lexington, Ky. Among them is Absinthe Minded, a homebred daughter of Quiet American who compiled a 6-6-3 record from 35 lifetime starts and earned $607,747. She broke her maiden in 2010 at Oaklawn.

The first two foals out of Absinthe Minded to reach the races, full sisters La Fee Verte and Sara Sea, won for a $16,000 claiming tag and in allowance company in 2019 and 2020, respectively, at Oaklawn. La Fee Verte and the robust Sara Sea are daughters of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow. Secret Oath is from Arrogate’s first crop.

Robert Mitchell said his wife, Stacy, named Absinthe Minded after “absinthe,” a popular liquor in the early 20th century. He said there’s no backstory regarding the origin of Secret Oath’s name.

“It’s very hard to get a horse named,” Mitchell said. “You have to think up something that sounds reasonable, that everything’s been used or not. There’s nothing to it (Secret Oath’s name) at all. As a matter of fact, one our horses that raced at Oaklawn, the name was Impasse, because we could never come up with a name. We were at an impasse.”

Impasse was a three-time Oaklawn allowance winner (2017 and 2018) for Lukas and Briland, which has never raced a horse that wasn’t born on its farm.

Secret Oath earned 10 points toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks with her Martha Washington victory. The Kentucky Oaks is the nation’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies. Secret Oath has a 3-0-1 record from five lifetime starts and earnings of $285,167. The Martha Washington was her first career stakes victory.

Oaklawn’s Kentucky Oaks points series continues with the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) Feb. 26 and the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 2. Both races are 1 1/16 miles. The Honeybee will offer 85 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5, respectively). The Fantasy is a 170-point race (100-40-20-10).

Lukas has won the Honeybee a record-tying five times, including its first four runnings (1988-1991).

“Right now, without jumping the gun here and going too far into the future, I would say that the series there is spaced well,” Lukas said. “It’s a good series, with excellent purses and prestige and good ratings and good points, so it makes sense to just go along with it. (Racing secretary) Pat Pope’s put together a beautiful 3-year-old filly series, so we’ll play it out and see if can’t just finish up with it.”

Secret Oath represented Lukas’ record-tying third Martha Washington victory. He also won the race in 2010 with Decelerator and in 2015 with champion Take Charge Brandi. The Martha Washington was inaugurated in 1979.

Finish Lines

Racing is scheduled to resume Friday at 1 p.m. (Central). … Trainer Brad Cox has 249 career Oaklawn victories, including 15 this year to tie for second in the standings through the first 23 days of racing. … Post positions will be drawn Monday for the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12. Expected entrants include millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner Lone Rock for trainer Robertino Diodoro and multiple Grade 3 winner Plainsman (Cox). The $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles will be carded as an 11th race Feb. 12 after racing was cancelled this past weekend because of winter weather. The Bayakoa was originally scheduled to be run Feb. 5.