With only nine contenders slated to go to post in the 138th Preakness Stakes, the post-position draw is not the make-or-break event like it is in the Kentucky Derby. However, the luck of the draw is still crucial to setting a horse up to have the most successful race possible, and strategies can change depending on the post position.
Of the nine Preakness contenders, six competed in the Derby two weeks ago. Orb will be looking to extend his dominance, while five of those rivals will be looking for redemption. Also in the mix are three fresh faces intent on dethroning the Kentucky Derby champion.
The second jewel of the Triple Crown has shaped up to be a deep and exciting field. Here is a rundown of the field with potential strategies and predicted outcomes for Saturday's race.
Orb on track preparing for the Preakness
Post Position: 1
Best Strategy: If it isn't broken, why fix it? His ability to come from off the pace figures to be advantageous in a race heavily stacked with speed. Breaking from the inside will require jockey Joel Rosario to take hold of him out of the gate and drop back, allowing the front runners to drop over on the rail. With only eight rivals to navigate, he should be able to avoid any traffic pitfalls and be flying late. He has a monstrous, long stride and though this race is slightly shorter than the Derby, it is well within his scope.
Outlook: Orb has given every indication this week that he is sitting on another huge performance. The most exciting part is that he may even be sharper and better than he was two weeks ago when he dominated in the Run for the Roses. He should get an ideal pace scenario at which to run here, and it is his race to lose. Though the inside post is not ideal under any circumstances, it should not be too much of an obstacle for this colt to overcome.
Predicted Finish: 1st
Goldencents trains towards the Preakness
Post Position: 2
Best Strategy: Jockey Kevin Krigger has no choice but to get Goldencents to the lead. As he showed in the Kentucky Derby, it does not go well for him when he is unable to secure a position out front. Though he should be able to secure the rail if he breaks sharply, he will have to contend with the very fast Titletown Five immediately to his outside. With real front-running threats in Govenor Charlie, Oxbow and possibly Itsmyluckyday, he is up against some stiff competition to get the lead and may have significant pressure if he does land out front.
Outlook: Doug O'Neill sent I'll Have Another out to victory in the Preakness Stakes last year and is trying to recapture that magic here. Goldencents is not I'll Have Another and will have to show major improvement coming off of his disappointing Kentucky Derby effort to hit the board here.
Predicted Finish: 5th
D. Wayne Lukas will saddle three of the nine horses in the Preakness
Post Position: 3
Best Strategy: The only win of his career came against maiden company and he has not been successful against graded-stakes company. He has speed and that seems like his only option. Jockey Julien Leparoux will try to conserve his speed so he can potentially get the distance, but will have pressure out front.
Outlook: Titletown Five has not hit the board in a graded stakes and may need more than a good post position to help his chances here. He looks like he is outclassed and in over his head in this field. He may flash some early speed, but will not be much of a factor beyond that.
Predicted Finish: 9th
Post Position: 4
Best Strategy: His running style is similar to Orb in that he does come from off the pace. However, he has been slightly more involved early, too. He has tactical speed and may be able to sit fifth or sixth off of a potential speed duel before launching his bid. Jockeys Brian Hernandez Jr. and Joel Rosario may be playing a strategic chess match with each other, watching to see who moves first.
Outlook: Departing and Orb spent their early days together at Claiborne Farm as foals romping and racing each other as babies do. Of this field, he has the best chance to upset his former playmate and will get the stiffest test of his career here. Is he good enough to beat Orb? I don't think so, but he is a contender.
Predicted Finish: 2nd
Rosie Napravnik will try to become the first woman to win the Preakness
Post Position: 5
Best Strategy: If hoping for rain is not a realistic plan, Mylute will be doing his running from off the pace. His effort in the Derby may have looked better than it actually was, as all he was doing was passing tired horses. In a smaller field, he will not have as many rivals slowing down to pass.
Outlook: There is not a jockey in the field that knows Pimlico quite as well as Rosie Napravnik. In 2005, she earned her first victory as a jockey at Pimlico and spent the early part of her career honing her craft in Maryland, even capturing multiple riding titles at Pimlico. Home-track advantage does count for something. Even with Napravnik aboard, this inconsistent colt still seems to have a tough task ahead to be a factor.
Predicted Finish: 7th
Oxbow gets a snack
Post Position: 6
Best Strategy: For a horse that has been plagued with poor post positions and bad racing luck, he finally caught a break with this draw. Jockey Gary Stevens will have to decide quickly if he wants to send for the lead or not, but this horse does seem like he is most effective on or near the lead.
Outlook: Oxbow ran a deceptively good race in the Kentucky Derby. He chased the runaway Palace Malice gamely over a demanding, sloppy track and held on for sixth. Of the speed in this race, he has the most depth and the most stamina, and may be able to stick around for a piece of the action.
Predicted Finish: 6th
The very flashy Will Take Charge
Post Position: 7
Best Strategy: In the Kentucky Derby, Will Take Charge was matching strides at one point with Orb as both colts were launching their bids. However, whereas Joel Rosario opted to take Orb outside and avoid the risk of getting his momentum stopped in traffic, Will Take Charge had the opposite trip. He gets a jockey upgrade to Mike Smith here and those two will be making their run from off the pace.
Outlook: This massive colt has upset potential here. He entered the Kentucky Derby off of a seven-week layoff and fitness was a question mark. With that race under his belt as a tightener, he could be sitting on a big effort and will have far less traffic in this field to weave through.
Predicted Finish: 3rd
Bob Baffert will saddle Govenor Charlie and try to win his sixth Preakness
Post Position: 8
Best Strategy: From his limited racing experience, he has contested the lead in both of his winning efforts around two turns. He put up sharp times in the Sunland Park Derby and if he is able to replicate that effort, he may be the quickest of the speed here.
Outlook: He does his best running forwardly placed and will have to contend with more experienced horses if he wants to get the lead. He is certainly fast, but questions remain about how good he is and how far he can actually go. He is the biggest mystery of the field and could be either freakishly good or forgettable.
Predicted Finish: 4th
Post Position: 9
Best Strategy: Breaking from the outside may not be ideal, but it is not as much of a hindrance as the outside post would be for a front runner in the Derby. Itsmyluckyday is a versatile, tactical colt and while he does have plenty of speed, he is able to rate and that may work to his advantage in this race. Providing he breaks well, he may still have to give up some ground around the first turn, but may be able to get a good stalking position just off the front-running speed.
Outlook: Even if his race in the Derby can be forgiven and blamed on the off track, his effort in the Florida Derby behind Orb was a flat performance and this colt could be starting to look like the type of precocious horse that hit his physical peak over the winter and is no longer progressing. He needs to rebound in a big way to hit the board.
Predicted Finish: 8th