The 138th Preakness Stakes is a little less than two weeks away, but it's not too early to anoint Orb as the heavy favorite to continue his run for the Triple Crown.
Seeing any other horse being able to overtake Orb in the buildup will be difficult. He ran a great race at the Kentucky Derby, making a late push to win by 2.5 lengths.
Orb had a ton of pressure going into the race since he was the betting favorite. That signifies the horse's strength, but it's been a kiss of death rather than an encouraging notion. Rarely in recent history has the favorite actually been able to win the race (h/t ESPN Stats and Info):
Orb is the 5th favorite to win the Kentucky Derby in the last 25 years.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2013
Many Kentucky Derby winners have been labeled as "Triple Crown favorites." Sometimes, the horse really does impress you. Other times, it's more about the fans wanting to see a horse win a Triple Crown rather than actually believing that a horse can do it.
With Orb, you feel like it's more of the former. He has the total package.
Orb likes to break from the pack and make a final kick in order to get ahead of the leaders. That strategy was used to perfection on Saturday. Down the final stretches, fans were able to see what all the hype was about with Orb. He ran beautifully and looked far and away to be the best horse. It would have been interesting to see how much more he would have beaten Golden Soul over a slightly longer distance.
In case you missed the Derby, here are the results.
|1||Orb||Joel Rosario||Claude R. McGaughey III||16|
|2||Golden Soul||Robby Albarado||Dallas Stewart||4|
|3||Revolutionary||Calvin Borel||Todd Pletcher||3|
|4||Normandy Invasion||Javier Castellano||Chad Brown||5|
|5||Mylute||Rosie Napravnik||Tom Amoss||6|
|6||Oxbow||Gary Stevens||D. Wayne Lukas||2|
|7||Lines of Battle||Ryan Moore||Aidan O'Brien||11|
|8||Will Take Charge||Jon Court||D. Wayne Lukas||17|
|9||Charming Kitten||Edgar Prado||Todd Pletcher||15|
|10||Giant Finish||Jose L. Espinoza||Anthony W. Dutrow||7|
|11||Overanalyze||Rafael Bejarano||Todd Pletcher||9|
|12||Palace Malice||Mike Smith||Todd Pletcher||10|
|13||Java's War||Julien Leparoux||Kenny McPeek||19|
|14||Verrazano||John R. Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||14|
|15||Itsmyluckyday||Elvis Trujillo||Eddie Plesa, Jr.||12|
|16||Frac Daddy||Victor Lebron||Kenny McPeek||18|
|17||Goldencents||Kevin Krigger||Doug O'Neill||8|
|18||Vyjack||Garrett Gomez||Rudy Rodriguez||20|
|19||Falling Sky||Luis Saez||John Terranova II||13|
Aside from the pure talent of Orb, you've got a great combination of trainer and jockey.
Joel Rosario is one of the best young jockeys in the sport. The 28-year-old didn't have a ton of success at Churchill Downs coming in to the race. Now that he has that win, though, it's unlikely that this will be the only time he's a Kentucky Derby champion. And the win will give him plenty of confidence going forward in the Triple Crown races.
Should Orb be considered the favorite at the Preakness Stakes?
Rosario ran a great race. This was a nice example of how skilled a strategist he is. Starting at the 16th position allowed Orb to get on the outside early, and Rosario made that count. He timed the final run perfectly in order to jump out ahead before the finish line.
When it comes to trainers, they don't come much better than Shug McGaughey. He's a legend in the sport, and this was the first Kentucky Derby win of his illustrious career.
At this point, it's hard to see who else could challenge Orb. Goldencents and Verrazano were two of the Derby favorites, but they had disappointing showings in the race. Revolutionary did well, but you wouldn't favor him over Orb at Pimlico on May 18.
Orb doesn't look to be a transcendent horse, but if he repeats his Derby-winning performance at the Preakness, there isn't another horse who would be able to touch him.