Orb charged to victory in the Kentucky Derby with an impressive stretch run. The field the Triple Crown hopeful will face in the Preakness Stakes includes several of his counterparts from Churchill Downs which are hoping for a better run on Saturday.
The post position draw revealed Orb will break from the inside gate. At the derby, that would have been a major concern due to the huge field. With just nine horses, it shouldn't be nearly as much of an issue for the talented colt at Pimlico.
So the biggest challenge is finding horses that are capable of at least challenging the Kentucky Derby winner. Let's examine two contenders that struggled two weeks ago, but should put together a far better showing in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
A popular pick leading up to the biggest race of the year, Goldencents was a non-factor during the final sprint, as he faded toward the back of the pack. The result was a 17th-place finish, but it's not as bad as it seems on the surface.
Jockey Kevin Krigger backed off the pace once he realized Goldencents didn't have the final kick necessary to contend. An unsustainable early pace drained the Santa Anita Derby winner. It was the right move to concede and avoid pushing him too far.
Clearly trainer Doug O'Neill was happy with how Goldencents emerged from the derby and is giving the horse a chance to bounce right back. The talent to win a Triple Crown race is definitely present, as illustrated with four wins in his first six starts.
Breaking from the No. 2 post should allow Krigger to establish a more reasonable pace in the Preakness. After Orb showed off his tremendous closing speed, Goldencents will need to hold the advantage heading into the final turn, but can't expel too much energy to get it.
That's the delicate balancing act Krigger must pull off. Keep his colt within striking distance of the lead while still keeping him ready for a late burst. A perfect ride and Goldencents would have a realistic chance to pull off the upset.
Like Goldencents, Itsmyluckyday wasn't able to make a serious run toward the Kentucky Derby victory due to the early pace. The lead pack was simply moving too quickly for any horse in it to finish with the same type of stretch speed.
Itsmyluckyday finished 15th. It was a very disappointing result for a horse that had only finished outside the top three in two of his first 10 races. He used impressive top-end speed to win five of those starts, but utilized it too early in the derby.
Even though he'll be forced to break from the outside, his early pace and the nine-horse field should allow him to avoid any serious pitfalls. The key for John Velazquez is finding a spot for Itsmyluckyday to settle in after the quick break.
The other thing to understand about the colt is that he's inconsistent. His performance at Churchill Downs was obviously subpar, but his fantastic showing in the Holy Bull Stakes illustrated that he can hang with Orb if everything falls into place.
It's tough to have supreme confidence in Itsmyluckyday because there's always a chance he has another clunker in the Preakness. At the same time, he's got the upside to pull off a shocker and is a name to keep in mind heading into the second leg of the Triple Crown.