With the entry of Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath in the 2022 Preakness, the daughter of the late champion Arrogate (by Unbridled’s Song) bids to become the seventh filly to win the classic.

Most recently, Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d’Oro) in 2009 and Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil) in 2020 defeated colts to claim the classic at Pimlico racecourse, but four earlier fillies had also won the race: Flocarline (St. Florian) had been the first filly to win a Preakness in 1903, then Whimsical (Orlando) won the race in 1906, Rhine Maiden (Watercress) won in 1915 (the same year that Regret won the Kentucky Derby), and Nellie Morse (Luke McLuke) won in 1924.

In 1924, the order of the races was different, and Nellie Morse first won the Pimlico Oaks, then four days later the Preakness itself on May 12. In the classic at Pimlico, Nellie Morse took the lead from the start, repelled challenges from subsequent Travers winner Sun Flag (Sun Briar) and Belmont Stakes winner Mad Play (Fair Play), and finished first by 1 ½ lengths over Harry Payne Whitney’s Transmute (Broomstick).

Owned by the famed cartoonist H.C. “Bud” Fisher, Nellie Morse then ventured from Maryland to Kentucky for the Oaks. In the race at Churchill Downs, the filly ran well but was interfered with by first-place finisher Glide (Manager Waite), who was disqualified and placed third behind Nellie Morse, but that left Hall of Fame racer Princess Doreen (Spanish Prince) to scoop the prize after finishing second without interference.

Nellie Morse was generally ranked alongside Princess Doreen as the best three-year-old fillies of 1924, and Fisher sold Nellie Morse, who became an important producer for Calumet Farm after retirement, with Count Morse (Reigh Count), winner of the Clark Handicap, and the top filly Nellie Flag (American Flag) as her most successful offspring.

Bred and raced by Calumet Farm, Nellie Flag was ranked as the best juvenile filly of 1934 and started favorite for the 1935 Kentucky Derby but finished fourth in that race and seventh in the Preakness.

In producing a filly of championship caliber, Nellie Morse succeeded in “reproducing herself,” getting a racer of equal or nearly equal consequence. This is not as easy as it may sound, even for a top performer.

In a filly like Secret Oath, Arrogate sired a racer capable of something he had not done in his storied career on the racetrack: becoming a top-class performer in the first half of the season. A good-sized, though not enormous, son of the very large stallion Unbridled’s Song (Unbridled), Arrogate had still taken considerable time to come to full strength and fill out his frame for trainer Bob Baffert and owner Juddmonte Stables.

The gray did not start at two, then dawdled through the spring of second season of potential racing. When he came to race, however, Arrogate put the dawdling aside and impressed from the start. His second and third starts brought victories in a maiden and allowance in June, and then the gray colt went to Saratoga, testing Grade 1 competition in the historic Travers Stakes.

Taking command of the race early, Arrogate led at every call, extended his lead through fractions in :23.23, :46.84, 1:10.85, 1:35.52, and won by 13 ½ lengths in record time of 1:59.36.

From that point until after the 2017 Dubai World Cup, Arrogate was the best horse in training in North America. Maybe anywhere. With large gaps between starts, the galloping gray won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in late 2016 and inaugural Pegasus in early 2017 over California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit), who was nonetheless named Horse of the Year, then ventured for Dubai for his final breathtaking victory in the World Cup over Gun Runner (Candy Ride).

For whatever reason, Arrogate trained off his championship form after the trip to Dubai and was many lengths and several seconds behind his best thereafter.

Retired to stud at Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky, Arrogate had winners from his initial crop of racing age in 2021, but like their sire, they were quite slow to come to hand, and he did not have his first stakes winner until New Year’s Day of 2022. Since then, the picture has become clearer with regard to the quality of the stallion’s offspring. Some have already proven they are quite good, with Secret Oath having risen to the top of the crop at this point.

A victory against colts in the Preakness would give her an immense boost in prestige and make her the odds-on choice to take the Eclipse Award as the best 3-year-old filly of the year. A loss would count little, if any, against her.

To the bold goes the glory.