Orb used a tremendous stretch run to win the Kentucky Derby. The talented three-year-old colt now stands two victories away from the elusive Triple Crown. Up next is the Preakness Stakes, where he should go off as the prohibitive favorite.
The field he'll face at Pimlico Race Course won't be nearly as deep as the one he overcame at Churchill Downs. That said, there are still several horses capable of pulling off the upset and ending the Triple Crown talk before it has a chance to pick up steam.
It should make for an intriguing Preakness. Let's examine the top contenders, starting with Orb, and break down why they are the best choices to find the winner's circle on Saturday. I'll Have Another won the race in 2012.
The Kentucky Derby was a perfect race for Orb. Jockey Joel Rosario watched as several of the top horses in the field raced out to an unsustainable pace. Predictably, they faded in the second half of the race and Orb easily made his comeback.
It was a dominant showing from a horse that went through some early struggles, but is now clearly a serious Triple Crown contender. Randy Moss of NBC Sports passed along some stats to show exactly how good Orb was in the derby.
Randy Moss @randy_moss_TV
And using Trakus ft/sec + Beyer beaten lengths values, Orb beats Mylute by 6 lengths, Normandy by 8.5, GoldenSoul 10 and Revolutionary 11.2013-5-5 10:36:50
Looking ahead to the Preakness, it's Orb's race to lose. If he runs his best and gets a good ride from Rosario, there isn't a horse in this field that can beat him as he showed a couple of weeks ago. It would only take a minor drop off to open the door for the other contenders, though.
It didn't take long to figure out Goldencents was doomed in the derby. He was forced toward the front, which wasn't a surprise. The pace of the race was a shock, however, especially given the mediocre conditions. He had no chance to maintain it the entire way.
So as the field turned for home and Orb began to card, Goldencents faded fast and finished 17th. That's a bit misleading, however. Once it became clear he wasn't going to contend, jockey Kevin Krigger had no reason to overextend him. He smartly backed off.
If things break better for Goldencents in the Preakness, he could easily bounce right back with a win. He already has a Grade 1 victory in the Santa Anita Derby on his résumé. It all comes down to how much energy he's forced to exert in the first half of the race.
Departing is the top horse in the race that didn't take part in the Kentucky Derby. His last start came in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby last month, a race he won in impressive fashion. The couple of extra weeks of rest should come in handy.
The gelding has won four of five starts and finished third in his only non-victory at the Louisiana Derby. Those are the type of consistent results that you want to see from a horse making their Triple Crown debut after the derby. It makes them more than space filler in the race.
Departing's biggest question mark is how he'll handle the competition. He's never been in a Grade 1 race before and the Preakness field has several horses with success at the level. If he's not overmatched early, he should be in the mix at the end.