The Preakness Stakes is designed to test a horse's speed at 1 3/16 miles. That's why Kentucky Derby winner Orb faces his greatest obstacle for the Triple Crown at Pimlico in Baltimore.
It's not that Orb doesn't have speed. We saw at the Kentucky Derby that he can make up distance down the stretch. But his greatest strength is his endurance, which helped him at Churchill Downs and should help him at the Belmont Stakes later in the year.
Orb gets world-class endurance from dam Lady Liberty, who won at 1 1/2 miles back in the day. In addition, Lady Liberty's sire was 1990 Kentucky Derby champion Unbridled, who also sired 1996 Derby winner Grindstone, 2000 Preakness champion Red Bullet and 2003 Belmont Stakes victor Empire Maker.
Orb's sire, Malibu Moon, had his career cut short by injury, but he did sire 2004 Derby champion Declan's Moon, as well as headliners Life at Ten, Devil May Care, Ask the Moon and Funny Moon, who have all won at 1 1/4 miles. He's also sired current speedster Kauai Katie.
So while Kauai Katie and Red Bullet have shown Orb has some speed in his family, the majority of his pedigree is endurance-based.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who will bring Derby horses Oxbow and Will Take Charge to Pimlico this year, said of Orb, via USA Today Sports:
I think the Preakness will be the biggest hurdle for him for the Triple Crown. If he gets by that, he gets to go back home to Belmont and run right out of his stall.
The Derby proved that Orb has an impressive combination of endurance, speed and composure, but speed comes to the forefront more than ever at the Preakness Stakes. In that sense, you would have to think Orb's camp would prefer not to race from the outside in Baltimore, where Orb's speed would be tested.
Orb has a legitimate chance to win the first Triple Crown since 1978 if he gets past the Preakness Stakes, but he has to get past the Preakness Stakes first. It looks like Orb is going to have to tap into the speed in his family to have a chance at history this year.