In team sports, the saying goes that winning the first championship is always the hardest.
It's a cliche that dates back at least to legendary Boston Celtics head coach Red Auerbach, and it's stood the test of time. Throughout team sports, dynasties are created when a team finally gets over that hump after first tasting the bitterness of defeat.
In horse racing, the opposite is true—especially for thoroughbreds looking to win the Triple Crown. There has not been a Triple Crown winner since 1978, and more often than not it's winning the Preakness Stakes that trips these top-flight horses up.
Only 12 Kentucky Derby winners have gone on to win at Pimlico since Affirmed's rampage through the horse racing world. And though two such horses have done so in the last five years (Big Brown in 2008 and I'll Have Another in 2012), neither have finished their Triple Crown quest at the Belmont.
It's those and many other discomforting pieces of history facing the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner, Orb, as he attempts to buck history at the 138th Preakness Stakes on Saturday. Trained by the renowned Shug McGaughey and ridden by Joel Rosario, Orb has all the momentum heading into the Preakness.
Or, well, had the momentum. Wednesday's post draw came as a massive disappointment in the McGaughey camp, as Orb drew the inside lane—usually an unfortunate sign.
But Saturday's event is mere hours from getting underway, so the time for being despondent over unfortunate placement has concluded. With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of how the entire field will line up and how it will shake up 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
Horses to Watch
No. 1 Orb
If mitigating factors were a landmark, they would be the Rocky Mountains for Orb. The Kentucky Derby winner comes in as a massive favorite in this nine-horse field, but seemingly every nugget of historical information reported points to Orb disappointing on Saturday.
For starters, Orb’s post position has been dreadful over the past six decades. According to Daily Racing Form's David Grening, only since 1961 (Tabasco Cat in 1994) has a horse won the Preakness from the inside post:
Tabasco Cat (1994) only Preakness winner from the rail since 1961. #orb— David Grening (@DRFGrening) May 15, 2013
With Goldencents, another notable favorite, sitting in the No. 2 post, Orb’s ride could only be more difficult. And while the nine-horse field would ostensibly clear some running room for the inside post—smaller fields tend to be more straight-lined at the beginning of a race—recent history is again working against Orb.
Since 2000, there have been fields of nine or fewer horses three times (before this year). According to Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form, those Kentucky Derby winners are 0-for-3 in those events:
Orb isn’t immune to breaking recent historical trends. He’s already become the first Kentucky Derby favorite to win the race and is for ending Shug McGaughey’s longtime draught at the storied track.
What’s more, it’s becoming increasingly hard to bet against any horse jockeyed by Joel Rosario. The red-hot rider has been on fire of late and had his latest triumph on Fifthshadesofhay at Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan.
And even though the three-year-old filly rode nice for Rosario to win this week’s secondary event, the jockey could not help but compare his Preakness ride to an infamous sports car, per Claire Novak of Blood-Horse:
There are plenty reasons—especially monetary ones for bettors—for folks to pick against Orb on Saturday. But this horse gets mentioned in the same breath as Big Brown for a reason. Orb’s run may end at the Preakness, yet it’s something I wouldn’t lay a dime on.
No. 2 Goldencents
The one horse perhaps most capable of singlehandedly preventing Orb taking home the Triple Crown is Goldencents. A top-notch horse with its own impressive pedigree, Goldencents will lineup right next to the Kentucky Derby winner in the No. 2 post on Saturday.
That’s important for one reason from both sides’ perspective: positioning. Though Orb benefits from the Preakness field being relatively small and thus more forward-moving than a Kentucky Derby mess of bodies, Goldencents is a horse that likes being on the inside as much as possible.
The field may not be impeding Orb’s progress as much as it would at Churchill Downs, but a quick start from Goldencents could put the Derby winner in an untenable situation. And don’t expect jockey Kevin Krigger or trainer Doug O’Neill to have any mercy. After seeing Goldencents perform all week, the legendary trainer seems confident his colt could give him consecutive Preakness victories.
"Orb obviously looks like the horse to beat," O'Neill said per the Associated Press, via Sports Illustrated. "He's looked great here at Pimlico, but we've seen Goldencents do some brilliant things in the afternoon. If he does, I think we can beat him."
From an objective perceptive, we’re not hopping aboard the optimism bandwagon quite yet. Goldencents is coming off the most miserable performance of his young career, as he struggled with the muddy surface en route to a 17th-place finish at the Kentucky Derby.
And though the Krigger-O’Neill combination gives some hope, it would be a historical anomaly for a horse to make that sort of comeback.
However, one quick start followed by a shading to the inside post could be the factor that keeps Orb from rocketing to the front.
Be sure to watch the first quarter-mile or so to see how that shakes out.
No. 5 Mylute
If past performance is an indicator of future results, Mylute’s high praise heading into the Preakness is a little strange. The three-year-old colt has finished 10 races in his young career. He’s finished fifth or worse (three) more times than he’s won (two)—and neither of those victories have come during the 2013 calendar year.
So why the hype? Well, there is a multitude of reasons but let’s start with the one everyone’s talking about, jockey Rosie Napravnik.
The 25-year-old Napravnik heads into Saturday’s race looking to make history. Never in the 137 previous runnings of the Preakness Stakes has a women won the second leg of the Triple Crown—nor the first one for that matter. Napravnik failed in her journey at Churchill Downs, but her experience at Pimlico could be huge for Mylute’s chances.
A native of New Jersey, Napravnik spent her summers in Maryland and Pimlico became her home track. Her first career win—she’s since won more than 1,300 races, per the Baltimore Sun’s Colleen Thomas—came at the legendary Baltimore surface and she’s seemed excited about Mylute’s possibilities all week. She seems far more worried about victories than any trailblazing she could do as well.
"I'm not doing this because I'm a girl," Napravnik said. "I'm not trying to win the race because I'm a female jockey, I just want to win the race."
Also going in Mylute’s favor is that the field has cleared out. The only Derby horse in the Preakness field that finished better than Mylute at Churchill Downs is Orb—the race’s winner.
With trainer Tom Amoss desperately looking for his first Triple Crown victory, expect Mylute to finish in the money. Whether that leads to history being made at Pimlico on Saturday, that’s questionable. But Mylute has the best chance to make it happen.
Projected Finish for 2013 Preakness Stakes
|6||Will Take Charge|