Every horse in the Kentucky Derby arrived to Churchill Downs with questions to answer. The only one who passed the test with flying colors was Orb. That's why he enters the Preakness Stakes as the prohibitive favorite and a legitimate Triple Crown threat.
It's an amazing transformation when you consider there were nothing but question marks about Orb through three career races. He hadn't finished better than third in any of those starts and certainly didn't have the look of an unstoppable force.
Yet, when he turned on the jets during the homestretch of the Kentucky Derby and blew past the rest of the field like they were all moving in slow motion, a statement was made. It marked his fifth straight victory after that early slump.
If Orb runs his best race in the Preakness, none of the other eight horses have a chance. He's the best three-year-old contender in the field, and that's why he was installed as the 1-1 morning-line favorite.
As he showed in the derby, his tremendous closing speed gives him margin for error. Add in the very average level of the competition and it would be a surprise if he doesn't cross the finish line first.
Will Orb win the Preakness Stakes?
The tougher part of projecting the second leg of the Triple Crown is determining which horses will finish in the money behind Orb.
Goldencents is the most talented horse in the race outside of the Kentucky Derby winner. He showed off his tremendous speed at Churchill Downs; it just happened too early in the race and left him without a finishing kick to remain in contention.
A more reasonable early pace paired with a better ride from jockey Kevin Krigger would put Goldencents in contention. The talented colt likes to be near the lead, which is perfectly fine, but he can't afford to race as hard as he did in the first half of the derby.
His run in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, his last start before the Triple Crown, was a better example of the type of race he needs to run to win at Preakness. Even though he hasn't shown that form enough to have confidence he can beat Orb, he should be in the mix.
Triple Crown newcomer Departing has a great chance to round out the Preakness trifecta. He's won four of his five career starts, including the Illinois Derby his last time out. His finishing time in that race was better than Orb's in the Florida Derby, his last race before the Kentucky Derby.
He's never raced against the level of competition he'll face at Pimlico, though. That's the only reason he's only considered as an outside contender rather than a horse with a great chance to dethrone Orb.
When a horse enters the Triple Crown fray in the middle, you always want to see a track record of success. It shows they are a true threat instead of just filling a spot. Departing has that and could sneak into third.
In the end, however, Orb will rule the day once again.
Prediction: 1. Orb 2. Goldencents 3. Departing