The outlook of the 2013 Preakness Stakes will change somewhat with Wednesday's post position draw, but one aspect will hold true—Kentucky Derby winner Orb will be the prohibitive favorite.
Barring any unforeseen setback, trainer Shug McGaughey's thoroughbred should be the odds-on top choice to notch the second jewel in the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course. However, some viable contenders should give jockey Joel Rosario and Orb a significant push.
The track in Baltimore is slightly shorter at 9.5 furlongs, compared to 10 at Churchill Downs. That will ever so slightly adjust strategies, and barring arduous weather, will favor the speedier horses.
Below is an early set of predictions for the horses who will finish in the top-three after Saturday's thrilling race for the Black-Eyed Susan Blanket.
Win: Orb (1-1)
At 1-to-1, Orb's odds to win essentially give no other horse a significant chance, and considering how well Orb ran in the Kentucky Derby, it's hard to fault betting experts ahead of the post position announcement.
No witness will soon forget how Orb exploded down the final straightaway to win the Run for the Roses, and it's worth viewing again:
Orb has the hottest jockey in horse racing this season in Rosario, who rode his 130th winner in his maiden Triple Crown triumph in Louisville. Apparently, the horse hasn't cooled down himself, as Pat Forde of Yahoo! documents:
Orb worked half-mile at Belmont today in :47.18. Shug calls work, "Nothing short of magnificent." Preakness competitors, you've been warned.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) May 13, 2013
The ability that Orb showed to overcome a damp track and the burst to close the deal was exceptional to say the least, and journey shouldn't be quite as difficult this time around.
Plus, Rosario's increased—and successful—familiarity with Orb is only going to help matters in their continuing joint pursuit of the Triple Crown.
Place: Departing (5-1)
The massive advantage for Departing is that he didn't run in the Kentucky Derby, but still has the requisite talent to significantly challenge Orb.
Departing placed third in the Louisiana Derby, which was the fourth start of his young career. As it turns out, that was his only loss, and he bounced back less than a month later to triumph at the Grade III Illinois Derby.
The only horses Departing lost to in Louisiana were Revolutionary and Mylute, who finished third and fifth, respectively, at Churchill Downs. Marc Doche of Pick4Blog.com logged what trainer Albert M. Stall Jr. had to say about Departing, and how the horse could adjust to any type of race pace:
Stall says Departing is a versatile, handy horse. Can handle whatever is thrown at him regarding pace scenario.— Marc Doche (@MDoche) May 9, 2013
Ironically, Orb and Departing occupied the same field as they were being brought up to be racehorses, as Chris Korman of the Baltimore Sun reports.
This will be the time that those two ride side-by-side, and though Departing should make a strong push down the stretch, the physical superiority of Orb and experience of Rosario will be just enough to edge out Departing.
Show: Mylute (10-1)
Rosie Napravnik is the big storyline here, more so than the horse she will mount for a second consecutive Triple Crown race.
Which horse will win the Preakness Stakes?
A strong showing at the Kentucky Derby resulted in a fifth-place finish for Mylute, who wasn't necessarily expected to finish so high up in the pack. With just two victories in 10 starts, it's hard to choose Mylute to cross the finish first.
Having said that, Napravnik is a wonderful jockey, and is going to be driven to make more history at Pimlico. Mylute is an exceptional talent, with a blend of lean physicality and stellar speed to be a viable contender.
The fact that this is a shorter track will benefit a horse of Mylute's stature and build. It showed at the aforementioned Louisiana Derby, where Mylute finished second.
Trainer Tom Amoss is great friends with Departing's trainer Stall, and this will be the first time the two have entrants in a Triple Crown event, according to Alicia Wincze Hughes of Kentucky.com. That will spice up the intensity that will inevitably come as Napravnik looks to become the first female jockey to win the Preakness—at the venue where she first began her career at age 17.