The post positions for the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes are official, and heavy favorite Orb fared about as bad as possibly imaginable.
And it won't matter one lick.
First, let's take a look at how the horses will line up:
|1||Orb||Joel Rosario ||
Shug McGaughey ||1-1|
Goldencents ||Kevin Krigger ||Doug O’Neill ||8-1|
|3||Titletown Five||Julien Leparoux||D. Wayne Lukas||30-1|
|4||Departing||Brian Hernandez Jr||Albert M. Stall, Jr||6-1|
|5||Mylute||Rosie Napravnik||Tom Amoss||5-1|
|6||Oxbow||Gary Stevens||D. Wayne Lukas||15-1|
|7||Will Take Charge||Mike Smith||D. Wayne Lukas||12-1|
|8||Govenor Charlie||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||12-1|
|9||Itsmyluckyday||John Velazquez||Eddie Plesa Jr. ||10-1
Yep, the good ol' No. 1 spot—pretty much the exact opposite of what Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was hoping for:
Maryland Jockey Club did not get the memo. Shug said he wanted post 8— David Grening (@DRFGrening) May 15, 2013
Strategically, it's not ideal for Orb, who came from the outside to win both the Kentucky and Florida Derbies, undoubtedly the two biggest races of his career, and is more comfortable working on the outside in space.
But take a look at his win at the Grade-2 Fountain of Youth Stakes:
Just like at the Preakness, the field is made up of nine horses, and just like the Preakness, Orb comes out of the gate at the No. 1 position.
Expect jockey Joel Rosario, who rode a perfect race atop Orb at Churchill Downs, to follow the exact same strategy John R. Velazquez employed here: hang back at the beginning, move freely to the outside while behind the pack and make a late charge.
Not only will the small field allow things to open up quicker, but Orb is talented enough to make the long trek from the rail to the outside—a feat most wouldn't usually dream of—where he is most comfortable. According to Trakus, he constantly (and impressively) covers more ground than any other horse:
If you factor in Orb's ground loss in the Kentucky Derby over rail-riding Golden Soul, his adjusted margin of victory was 12 lengths— Trakus (@TrakusRacing) May 4, 2013
@keithhillier2 Probably true. He covered more ground than all his rivals in his 3 wins prior to today, did it again. He's VERY good.— Trakus (@TrakusRacing) May 4, 2013
Historically, the inside position isn't ideal for Orb. Since 1960, only two horses—one with a very awesome name (Tabasco Cat)—have won from the No. 1 spot.
However, Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden quickly put an explanation behind the history that should quell any worry surrounding Orb:
Orb: Preakness rail history barely applies. Average odds from No. 1 PP since 1994: 36-1. No favorites. One horse under 10-1. #preakness— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) May 15, 2013
Shug and Co. were undoubtedly disappointed to see their horse placed on the rail, but given Orb's incredible talent and the surrounding circumstances, this only moves the Kentucky Derby winner from overwhelming favorite to a-little-less-overwhelming favorite.