Horse racing's premier triad kicks off with Saturday's Kentucky Derby, providing us hope, for yet another year, that we might see the end of the Triple Crown drought.
No horse has won the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in succession since 1978, when Steve Cauthen rode Affirmed into the sport's record books. This marks the longest drought between Triple Crown winners ever, and it does so by a considerable margin at that.
I'll Have Another piqued our interests around this time last year, but the fates had different plans for his future. After winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown, a tendon injury forced him out of Belmont and into retirement, ending the deftly named horse's career and sending us wanting for another ray of hope.
But a new year brings a new batch of thoroughbreds seeking to end the curse. And some of the horse's in this year's field certainly look the part.
Let's take a look at their Triple Crown potential:
*Here's a list of all the current odds, as of publication (via KentuckyDerby.com):
|4 Golden Soul||31-1|
|5 Normandy Invasion||8-1|
|7 Giant Finish||44-1|
|10 Palace Malice||26-1|
|11 Lines of Battle||42-1|
|13 Falling Sky||49-1|
|15 Charming Kitten||32-1|
|17 Will Take Charge||31-1|
|18 Frac Daddy||15-1|
|19 Java's War||22-1|
Revolutionary – 5-1
Revolutionary comes in tied with Goldencents as the gambling favorite, but the court of public opinion probably ranks him a tad higher. The crowd might be pulling for his 5-1 opponent, sure, for reasons we'll get to in a second, but Revolutionary is probably the strongest contender.
He hasn't lost in 2013, winning his last three races, most notably his best performance to date at the Louisiana Derby in late March.
Horses may or may not understand the mechanisms of momentum (I'm inclined to say they don't), but their jockeys, trainers and owners surely do. Revolutionary's team, which includes Todd Pletcher, who trained Super Saver to a Derby title in 2010, understands that they have something special here and stand poised to capitalize.
No horse will see good odds at pulling off the Triple Crown. When something hasn't happened since 1978, you've gotta be two parts crazy to handicap light. But no horse will see better ones than Revolutionary.
He's probably the strongest runner in the field.
Triple Crown chances: Eight percent
Goldencents – 5-1
Much ado around Goldencents' camp has to do with his jockey, which is good and forward-thinking, but also a shame because it distracts from a magnificent horse.
So, yes: Jockey Kevin Krigger is attempting to become the first African American jockey to ride a Derby winner since James Winkfield guided Alan-a-Dale to victory in 1902. And yes, that's probably the best story of the weekend. And even further yes, should he win, he will do so in significant part because he's a fantastic rider.
But he's also got a heck of a thoroughbred beneath him.
His pedigree is a bit of a red flag, I'll grant you that. No one in his immediate family is of note, though if you parse through his lineage you find 1983 Derby winner Sunny's Halo. Still, I trust my eyes more than I trust pedigree, and my eyes tell me Goldencents can run.
He faltered his way to fourth at San Felipe, but that's the only time he's lost in his last four. That's some nice momentum to take into Triple Crown season.
Trainer Doug O'Neil riveted the nation just one year ago, saddling I'll Have Another two-thirds of the way to a Triple Crown. Do he, Krigger and Goldencents have what it takes for a repeat? Only time will tell.
Triple Crown chances: Five percent
Orb – 6-1
Orb was seemingly bred with the specific intent of Kentucky Derby success. His dam, Lady Liberty, infused him with stamina, while his sire, Malibu Moon, has bred some of Orb's great, powerful siblings.
He's on a pretty impressive roll, too. After a string of three straight losses, Orb enters the Derby on a string of four straight wins—the first two of which came with Derby jockey Joel Rosario on his back.
He won the Florida Derby and is probably the hottest horse in the field. Though he's since dropped below the two horses listed above, he opened as the favorite and is still close to being there.
His late-race running and stamina make him an intriguing Triple Crown candidate. You can't win this title without at least one close finish—which has late stride should assist—and only a horse with said stamina can hold on in three races.
Don't sleep on this guy if he wins the Derby.
Triple Crown chances: Eight percent