There might be eight other horses in Saturday's 138th running of the Preakness Stakes, but there's no denying the thoroughbred at the center of the show.
Orb, having won this year's Kentucky Derby, heads into Saturday's race at Pimlico Race Course fighting against history. Affirmed in 1978 is the last horse to win all three of the United States' most storied three-year-old races, and the desperation for Orb to give it a good run is palpable.
Horse racing, once a bastion of American culture, has slowly devolved into a niche sport. It's only in these Triple Crown races where the pageantry and beauty of horse racing in high-definition creates a reverberating shock through the culture.
And to see Orb lose on Saturday at Pimlico would rob those grasping to those Triple Crown straws. Triple Crown season would peter out at the Belmont, yet another season having passed without a transcendent colt.
The last two horses to win at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, I'll Have Another last year and Big Brown in 2008, failed in the most heartbreaking of fashions. I'll Have Another didn't even start the 2012 Belmont Stakes while Big Brown stopped in his tracks down the stretch and failed to finish the race.
Having already become the first favorite since Big Brown to win a Kentucky Derby, Orb is an overwhelming favorite for the Preakness. At 10-11 morning line odds, Orb is viewed as being so superior to his competition that it almost seems skewed too far in his direction. And with the Shug McGaughey-trained horse drawing the inside post on Wednesday—a historic death knell for Preakness contenders—it might behoove folks to start taking a deeper look at the other horses in the race.
With that in mind, here is a quick look at a few horses most likely to take down Orb on Saturday.
Where: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, Md.
When: Saturday, May 18
Post Time: 6:20 p.m. ET
Purse: $1 million
Post Positions and Odds for 2013 Preakness Stakes
|1||Orb||Joel Rosario ||
Shug McGaughey ||10-11|
Goldencents ||Kevin Krigger ||Doug O’Neill ||8-1|
|3||Titletown Five||Julien Leparoux||D. Wayne Lukas||28-1|
|4||Departing||Brian Hernandez Jr||Albert M. Stall, Jr||13-2|
|5||Mylute||Rosie Napravnik||Tom Amoss||13-2|
|6||Oxbow||Gary Stevens||D. Wayne Lukas||16-1|
|7||Will Take Charge||Mike Smith||D. Wayne Lukas||12-1|
|8||Govenor Charlie||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||10-1|
|9||Itsmyluckyday||John Velazquez||Eddie Plesa Jr.||10-1|
Odds via Bovada
No. 2 Goldencents
Buoyed by a high-profile and scintillating pedigree, Goldencents came into the Kentucky Derby as one of the horses to watch. Trained by I'll Have Another's Doug O'Neill and partially owned by Louisville Cardinals basketball coach Rick Pitino, the horse seemed to have everything going for it prior to Churchill Downs.
And then the gun sounded. With Kevin Krigger atop the three-year-old colt, things quickly fell apart. Goldencents was obviously not in his finest form whatsoever, and the horse languished toward the back of the pack.
In a field of 19 horses, Goldencents finished 17th. The thoroughbred could not handle the untenable conditions at Churchill Downs, as a cascading rain turned the entire infield into a mud pit. With so many formerly respected contenders pulling out at Pimlico, many wondered whether it was even worth it for O'Neill to bring his horse to the second Triple Crown race.
In typical O'Neill fashion, he and Goldencents arrived first. With a promising forecast (per Weather.com) and Krigger, one of the world's best jockeys, atop Goldencents, O'Neill is feeling quite confident again heading into the Preakness.
"I think we're going to see a much better result Saturday," O'Neill said (per the Associated Press).
Derby disappointment aside, O'Neill has plenty of reasons for confidence. Lining up at the No. 2 post, Goldencents and Krigger have the best opportunity to block off Orb's journey to the front. As pointed out by Rick Snider of the Washington Examiner, grabbing early position will be critical to the effort:
Goldencents big winner with 2 post. Can grab early lead and try to steal it.— Rick Snider (@Snide_Remarks) May 15, 2013
That makes the beginning of this race absolutely critical for Goldencents' chances. If you see Krigger successfully get to the inside without creating havoc, his colt might finally live up to its prestigious hype.
No. 5 Mylute
Any conversation about Mylute's chances begin with jockey Rosie Napravnik. The ascendant young jockey has become the toast of the town during this Triple Crown period, as her journey to semi-national stardom has been one of this week's biggest storylines.
If Mylute wins, Napravnik would bring forth a cavalcade of firsts. Trainer Tom Amoss would win his first Preakness after having so long been among the most respected names in the business. The Fair Grounds Hall of Fame member has never captured a Triple Crown race
And Napravnik, who rode Mylute to a respectable fifth-place finish at Churchill Downs, will be looking to become the first female jockey in history to win the Preakness. She is the only female jockey in the field, so that cross is hers alone to bear.
While the odds might seem stacked against her on the surface—I mean it is the138th race—that's not completely the case. The New Jersey native spent her youth riding at Pimlico, winning her first race at the legendary track and eventually capturing all the riding titles.
She spoke to the Associated Press' David Ginsburg (h/t The Boston Globe) about the kinship she feels at the Baltimore track earlier this week.
‘‘It’s always an advantage if you know a track well,’’ Napravnik said. ‘‘I won a lot of races at Pimlico and I like the track. I know the track like the back of my hand, and I appreciate that fact.’’
That's one of just many things pointing toward a strong run from Mylute Saturday. The three-year-old colt is the highest finisher other than Orb to enter the Preakness Stakes this year, and is looking to make some strategical changes to improve that standing.
According to TVG's Twitter feed, Amoss is considering pushing for a more aggressive pace throughout the run on Saturday:
Tom says Mylute's tactics may change. Could be more forwardly placed. Rosie N may ride a just behind the pace #Preakness— TVG (@TVG) May 18, 2013
It's an interesting strategy, one that could only work on the Preakness' semi-short track. But there's a decent enough shot that the risk pays a massive reward—especially with a veteran like Napravnik leading the way.
No. 8 Govenor Charlie
Legendary trainer Bob Baffert's decision to not enter any of his horses into the 2013 Kentucky Derby came as a major shock. Baffert has become a yearly fixture at the track, with three wins at the sport's most prestigious race on his resume. And with a well-respected horse like Govenor Charlie in his stable, the decision was shocking to almost everyone.
Though he waited until the very last minute, Baffert wouldn't give the remaining trainers that same pleasure at the Preakness. He entered Govenor Charlie in this week's race, and though there are three "new shooters" in this field, it's hard to argue against the Baffert-led colt being the best contender among them.
Baffert, though, has spent his entire week effusively praising Orb. As pointed out by the Lexington Herald-Leader's horse racing feed, Baffert has a healthy adoration of the Preakness favorite:
Bob Baffert on Orb "Anybody who is not rooting for Orb there is something mentally wrong with them. I have a lot of respect for that horse."— horseracinghl (@horseracinghl) May 17, 2013
That being said, Govenor Charlie won't be entering this race merely hoping to finish second. Speaking with the Baltimore Sun's Chris Korman, Baffert noted he thinks he's bringing a real contender to Pimlico.
"Can we beat Orb?" he said. "We don't know, but I think he could be 1-2-3."
Contending at Pimlico is something Baffert knows quite a bit about. He's won five Preakness Stakes championships in 13 races entered prior to Saturday's race, and the legendary trainer is already off to a strong start.
Fiftyshadesofhay, a Baffert-trained three-year-old filly, won this year's Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on Friday. The victory was yet another indication of Baffert's expert navigator skills on this course, and jockey Martin Garcia is no slouch, either.
Govenor Charlie might not join Fiftyshadesofhay in the winner's circle, but anything less than a top-three finish would be a shocker.