Though with different running styles, Orb is every bit as formidable to his peers as Big Brown was to his back in 2008. The way the two of them won their respective Kentucky Derbies left zero room at the top: It was them and nobody else.
Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown, and as it stands, Orb is the only one with a shot in 2013—but first he’ll need to win the Preakness.
And in order to do so, Orb will need to get by the next group of horses, all of whom have a legitimate shot at making Orb earn his oats.
Read on to find out who and why.
There are three new shooters entering the Preakness: Titletown Five, Govenor Charlie and Departing. Two of them are trained by Hall of Famers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas.
New shooters, or horses that skip the Kentucky Derby to run here, haven't fared well in the past 12 years. The only one to win was Bernardini in 2006. (I hesitate to lump Rachel Alexandra in here, as she did run in the Kentucky Oaks [technically skipping the Derby] for fillies in 2009 before running two weeks later against the boys.)
Bernardini won, thanks in part to Barbaro breaking down 200 yards into the race. Would he have won anyway? Perhaps, but we'll never know.
This crop of three-year-olds is less than spectacular, which leaves the door open for the new shooters. Govenor Charlie won the Sunland Derby back on March 24 in record time at 1:47.54.
Departing was the impressive winner of the Illinois Derby on April 20, and Titletown Five, well, he's winless in three starts this year, but he did beat Orb as a two-year-old at Saratoga in a maiden race. So there's hope for him yet.
Derby runners always do well in the Preakness.
Ten of the past 12 winners of the Preakness also ran in the Derby.
If anyone of you read my recent commentary about the Kentucky Derby, you'll know I was high on Goldencents. He was victimized by two things in Kentucky:
1. Wicked pace set by Palace Malice. This subsequently tugged everyone else along with him. Watch the opening quarter mile. Goldencents wanted the lead, but Palace Malice ran like he was being chased by a rattlesnake.
2. Mud. Goldencents didn't handle the off-track.
Sure, he finished 17th, but if you watch the replay, you'll notice that at the 3/8ths pole, Kevin Krigger, Goldencents' jockey, stops riding him. At the quarter pole, he stands up in the irons and trots him home. Goldencents barely ran at all in Kentucky and promises to be very fresh for the Preakness.
So, if there's a fast track, expect Goldencents to run a big one.
Itsmyluckyday was your classic didn't-like-the-off-going kind of horse during the Derby. As they say in racing circles, "Draw a line through that one."
His trainer, Eddie Plesa Jr., trained him at Monmouth Park in New Jersey and got clearance to breeze this colt between Race 3 and 4 on Sunday. The son of Lawyer Ron drilled four furlongs in 47 1/5 seconds, which had Plesa saying (h/t Preakness.com), "He went awesome. But that's him. I couldn't ask for a better work."
Itsmyluckyday finished 15th in the Derby but appeared to have an excuse. Come Saturday, he'll receive the talents of John Velazquez, the jockey who opted for Verrazano over Orb.
How'd that work out?
Oxbow represents one of three horses (along with Titletown Five, Will Take Charge) that D. Wayne Lukas is shipping to Baltimore for the Preakness. Oxbow had a dream trip in the Kentucky Derby and finished sixth. Gary Stevens, his jockey, was all kinds of happy turning for home in the Derby. According to Darren Rogers of KentuckyDerby.com, Stevens was quoted as saying:
Coming into the stretch, I had a big smile on my face. I’m going to win my fourth [Derby]. But five strides later, I was attacked from the outside for a couple strides, and they went on. He was brave. He never gave it up at all. He ran all the way to the finish line and galloped back proud, and I’m proud of him.
But now we're getting warmer. In the last 12 years, five horses that won the Derby went on to win the Preakness. Another three were within a head of winning. Two horses—Point Given in 2001 and Lookin At Lucky in 2010—finished fifth and sixth in their respective Derbies and then went on to win the Preakness.
Oxbow, too, finished sixth in the Derby and stands to, at the very least, have the second-best shot at toppling Orb.
Which leads to Orb's biggest threat...
Afleet Alex (2005), Curlin (2007) and Shackleford (2011) finished third, third and fourth, respectively, in the Derby before winning the Preakness Stakes. Each race was dramatic, to put it mildly. I'll give you six minutes to watch their Preakness races.
Get out the defibrillator.
Alas, there is no third-place Derby finisher here (that would be Revolutionary), so Mylute represents the highest Derby finisher wheeling back to take on Orb. The higher they finish in the Derby, the better they do at Pimlico.
Recent history suggests that Orb and Co. should worry about what Rosie Napravnik will do with Mylute. Napravnik got her start on the Maryland circuit, so Red Rosie is coming home and could wear the black-eyed Susans. Napravnik commented (h/t Preakness.com):
I’m fired up. The Preakness is just as high up on my list as the Derby to win. It would probably mean the most to me to win at Pimlico, where I started out and have all the original supporters, the people who really got me going. It would mean so much to win that race.