I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, folks, but I'm afraid we won't see a Triple Crown winner this year. As much as I would love to see Orb break the 35-year drought, it's not going to happen.
So why am I being so negative?
For one, I don't think the shorter Pimlico track at the Preakness benefits Orb's running style. And I'm not the only one, as Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times notes:
As is always the case after a Kentucky Derby, talk of a Triple Crown begins. Racing wants one and hasn't had it since Affirmed in 1978, an industry-crippling 35 years, some feel.
Experts here say that Orb is bred for the killer 11/2-mile distance of the third leg, the Belmont, but that the shorter, tighter Preakness might be Orb's Achilles' heel.
And if it is Orb's Achilles' heel, it will be horse racing's Achilles' heel too.
Orb's impressive kick down the stretch at the Kentucky Derby was something to see, but it left several questions heading into the Preakness:
- In a race traditionally won by sprinters, can Orb hang close enough to the pack early to win the race late?
- Will a contender like Goldencents—that clearly didn't have the endurance for the Derby but is a talented sprinter that has run much better than his showing at Churchill Downs—outrace Orb at the shorter Pimlico track?
- How much did the muddy conditions at the Derby affect some of the other contenders? If the Preakness is a faster track, will it seriously aid another contender?
Plus, you never know if a horse will emerge that didn't run at the Derby and shock the field. There are as many reasons to doubt Orb as to believe the horse can steal the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Then again, the field at the Preakness could be pretty thinned out from the one we saw at the Derby.
According to Chris Korman of the Baltimore Sun, Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, Charming Kitten, Overanalyze, Palace Malice and Verrazano won't be entered into the Preakness, Mylute and Golden Soul are unlikely to be entered in the race and Oxbow, Will Take Charge and Itsmyluckyday are likely to make the trip.
And it's not as though Orb is some flash in the pan. The horse was one of the favorites leading up to the Kentucky Derby and entered the race as the clear favorite at 5-1, according to KentuckyDerby.com. Given the field heading to the Preakness, he should be a major favorite at Pimlico as well. There are reasons to believe.
But we've only been focusing on the next race. Even if Orb wins two-thirds of the Triple Crown, there is still the mile-and-a-half at the Belmont Stakes. While that track looks more suited to Orb's style, there's plenty of time at that race for another horse to emerge at the end.
The task is daunting for Orb. The odds are stacked against him. History is not on his side.
We all hope that the horse can finally end this Triple Crown drought. But I just don't see it happening. Sorry, folks.