Kentucky Derby Winner: Evaluating Orb's Chances at Preakness Stakes

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Kentucky Derby Winner: Evaluating Orb's Chances at Preakness Stakes
Rob Carr/Getty Images

On a sloppy track with a field of tremendous challengers, the best horse clearly won on Saturday.

The favorite prevailed in the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby, and Orb handed trainer Shug McGaughey his first ever win in the Run for the Roses by besting the field with a time of 2:02:89, outpacing second-place finisher Golden Soul by 2.5 lengths.

Despite his first big race on a sloppy track (soaked and muddied by constant rains throughout the day), the pre-race 6-1 co-favorite appeared poised and in control. More importantly, Orb also looked like a horse that can contend for the Triple Crown this year.

The Derby represents a time for thoroughbred racing fans to get excited about the prospects of a repeat performance. When the dust has settled and the garland of roses is presented, we almost immediately begin looking ahead to the next leg of the Triple Crown.

Orb may have triumphed in impressive fashion at Churchill Downs, but there’s plenty more work to be done if he hopes to secure the first Triple Crown in 35 years.

The Preakness Stakes is the next in line for Orb in his pursuit of the first completed Triple Crown many racing fans will have ever seen. With just under two weeks to prepare, it won’t be long before we find out just how capable the three-year-old colt is of winning another major race.

Orb is certainly in position to be the favorite entering the Stakes. He hasn’t lost a race since last November, encompassing six first-place finishes in that span—many like the one we saw Saturday in which Orb emerged from the pack to take the lead in the final stretch of the race.

While the pre-race odds waivered and several top contenders were expected to challenge for the roses, few will doubt Orb’s ability to win when he takes to Pimlico Race Course on May 18. The wheels are starting to turn and that old familiar Triple Crown debate is starting to heat up.

But what really makes Orb a Triple Crown contender? Why can he win at the Preakness Stakes?

The answer is more than what he did at Churchill Downs on Saturday, but that’s certainly a part of it.

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It takes stamina and speed to triumph at Pimlico’s 1.5-mile track, and Orb has plenty of both. With a running style that translates well to any track of nearly any distance, the colt won’t find many disadvantages in what will be another tremendous field.

Just as he did Saturday, Orb has the ability to explode from the back of the pack to take the lead in a short period of time. Even as a deep closer with incredible sprinting speed, Orb can jump out in front just as easily and set the pace from start to finish—a necessity for closing on a longer track.

Orb also has the pedigree to suggest a win at the Preakness Stakes is a distinct possibility. The son of Malibu Moon and Lady Liberty (both bred from impressive thoroughbred lineage), the colt comes from a line of horses with tremendous success in thoroughbred racing.

And of course, Orb also has a Hall of Fame trainer in McGaughey, who understands the patient approach it takes to train an elite thoroughbred (as quoted by Gary Mihoces of USA Today):

I always thought whether it happened yesterday or not that there was one (Derby trophy) out there with my name on it. It wasn't going to be the end of the world if it didn't happen. But obviously I really, really wanted it to happen.

McGaughey understands winning horses aren’t trained for one big race. He didn’t train Orb just to run at the Derby; he’s training Orb to be the best three-year-old in the sport.

With a massive win in tow and the experience of triumphing in front of a crowd of more than 150,000 spectators—on unfamiliar track conditions, no less—Orb is in tremendous position to make another big run at Pimlico in less than two weeks. And there’s no doubt he’ll be the favorite to do so. 

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