The 2013 Preakness Stakes will be a much more exciting race than at first glance.
With Orb needing a victory to remain a Triple Crown challenger, all eyes will be on him and jockey Joel Rosario.
There is, however, plenty of solid competition capable of contending at Pimlico. Will they pull the win and ruin Orb's chances at horse racing's hat trick?
Well, before the gates open Saturday let's predict the Preakness' top finishers.
This race is Orb's to lose.
Winning the Kentucky Derby in impressive comeback fashion, Orb took the Triple Crown's first leg by a strong distance. It wasn't the nail-biter that I'll Have Another gave us in 2012.
Possessing the stamina to hang with a quick pace from the get-go, Orb displayed a tremendous kick down the stretch at Churchill Downs. Although Rosario will need to make his move sooner at Pimlico, Orb's top speed will catch up fast.
The shorter track doesn't play to his advantage; however, the field isn't as strong as the Kentucky Derby. On May 5, Alex Brown of the New York Times wrote of the dwindling competition:
Revolutionary, who finished third, was the best finisher of the trainer Todd Pletcher’s five starters. At this point, none of those starters are expected to return to challenge Orb in Baltimore. Overanalyze and Revolutionary may return to for the Belmont.
The plans for the fourth-place finisher, Normandy Invasion, appear to be fluid. The goal for the horse will be to ready him for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga this summer, with one or two races in preparation of that goal. The Preakness is not currently being considered as a potential next start.
Revolutionary and Normandy Invasion are not listed on Preakness.com. That said, after Orb the door is open for other contenders to place near the top.
Mylue took fifth at the Kentucky Derby and is expected to challenge Orb.
Don't be surprised by Mylute either, because he placed second at the Louisiana Derby, which is shorter than Churchill Downs. On a faster track with a quicker pace, expect Mylute to hit another gear to remain near the front.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik brings strong experience and chemistry with the horse. She has more than 1,500 victories and knows how to adapt as the race unfolds.
Getting ahead and staying ahead of the pack will be required to win. And that won't be easy to pull versus Orb.
Finishing sixth at the Derby, Oxbow knows how to run a strong race and maintain consistency.
Dating back to October 2012 he placed no lower than fifth until the Churchill Downs gates opened. Possessing the speed to keep up near the front of the pack, Oxbow won't suddenly slip back as the race progresses.
Although he fell back down the stretch during the first leg, he didn't drop extensively far. To that end, the shortened course and veteran jockey Gary Stevens will fend off any underdogs from attempting to reach the top.
Oxbow has the top gear to force the issue on Orb, but pushing the tempo sooner must happen before Rosario makes his move.