Orb won the Kentucky Derby in dominant fashion and had horse racing fans dreaming of a Triple Crown. Oxbow quickly dashed those hopes by winning the Preakness Stakes. Now the talented colts are set to meet again in the Belmont Stakes.
As always, the allure of a potential Triple Crown winner is the biggest possible draw for the Belmont. People love to see history get made and that's exactly what winning the three marquee races would be after waiting more than three decades since the last one.
Since no horse will be able to match Affirmed's 1978 feat this year, the focus shifts to the rematch between Orb and Oxbow. If either of the horses are able to find the winner's circle in the final leg of the Triple Crown, they will establish three-year-old supremacy.
The reason Orb seemed like a legitimate Triple Crown threat leaving Churchill Downs was his astonishing stretch run. Jockey Joel Rosario asked him to go after settling near the back of the pack and the colt didn't disappoint, flying past the entire field to win.
It was the perfect approach. As the field blistered out of the gate at an unsustainable pace, Rosario held Orb back because he knew the late pace would end up winning the race when the other horses faded. That's why he's one of the best in the business.
They tried the same thing in the Preakness Stakes. It didn't work for two reasons. Most notably, Orb didn't deliver the same type of finish that he did in the Kentucky Derby. It was also a more reasonably paced race throughout, which meant Oxbow was prepared to hang onto the lead.
The key for Orb in the final leg is a good read for Rosario. With the Belmont being the longest race of the Triple Crown at 12 furlongs, he must be patient to make sure Orb is ready to show off that late kick once again.
Like Orb, Oxbow benefited from a very strong ride to win his Triple Crown race. Veteran Gary Stevens is not overwhelmed by the spotlight, which is important in the big races when some jockeys do too much and end up hurting the horse's chances.
Oxbow jumped out of the gate quick in the Preakness. A less experienced jockey might have let him go. Instead, Stevens was able to reign him back in right away and set a reasonable early pace without sacrificing his promising position.
So when the field turned for home, he was prepared for a good stretch run, unlike the Kentucky Derby leaders that faded as Orb flew by them. It showed how important a jockey can be when a field features plenty of talented horses.
The two horses both came out of the Preakness without any lingering concerns, which set up the rematch in the third leg.
There are other contenders capable of knocking them both off if everything breaks their way. Revolutionary, Freedom Child and Unlimited Budget being the most notable trio of the other 12 horses in the field.
That said, all eyes will be on Orb and Oxbow to see if either one can capture a second Triple Crown race.
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