One down, two to go. That's the status applied to Kentucky Derby winners, past, present and future, attempting to capture the Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing. Only eleven equines have succeeded, none since 1978. Following the convincing win by Orb in Derby 139 at Churchill Downs two weeks ago, all eyes will be fixated upon Pimlico Race Course to see if the Shug McGaughey trained colt can make it two-thirds complete with a win in the 138th Preakness Stakes, and move a step closer to horse racing immortality.
Eight opponents stand in Orb's way, five that he thumped in Louisville May 4th, and three non-Derby participants. A $1 million purse is on the line, and the talented group of three-year-olds colts cut back in distance slightly - they go 1 3/16 miles instead of the 1 1/4 miles covered in the "Run For The Roses." Will that help some of the Derby runners that raced well, only to fade late in the race?
If you fancy any of new faces to win, here is a fact to highly consider: Horses that compete in the Kentucky Derby tend to win the Preakness. Since 1984, only three Preakness winners did not run in the Derby. If that trend continues, this year's Preakness winner will be one of the six that ran in this year's Derby. Only question remaining is, will it be Orb?
Here is a closer look at the nine from the rail out for the 2013 Preakness Stakes:
1-- ORB/Rosario/McGaughey--All eyes will be focused on this Malibu Moon colt who has strung together an impressive five race winning streak. Derby winner was in command while outrunning the field at Churchill Downs. Has successfully proven he can adapt to any pace scenario being played out in front of him. Continues to be on top of his game for round two.
2--GOLDENCENTS/Krigger/O'Neill--Disappointing 17th place finish in Louisville can be attributed to having a miserable time over the sloppy track while racing just in behind the insane pace.Was smartly eased up after three-quarters by jockey Krigger. Expect him to be on or near the lead here, and a much better showing, especially if the track is fast.
3--TITLETOWN FIVE/Leparoux/Lukas--This newcomer to the Triple Crown scene is owned in partnership by former Green Bay Packer football legend, Paul Hornung. Is a maiden winner only from seven starts and hasn't fared well at the graded level in two attempts. Always risky to discount Lukas in these classics. but the overall record suggests this colt is totally outclassed by these rivals, including his two stablemates, and therefore should be a non-factor.
4--DEPARTING/Hernandez/Stall-- Enters the Preakness off a convincing victory in the G3 Illinois Derby, where he raced very wide much of the way. Runner is on the improve, but now steps up in class and will be traveling further than he has ever been asked before. Only blemish in five starts on this ones resume came in the G2 Louisiana Derby where he finished third behind Revolutionary and Mylute. That's a positive because we know how those two fared in the Kentucky Derby.
5--MYLUTE/Napravnik/Amoss--Big step forward needed to win the Derby wasn't there, but this colt outran his odds at Churchill with a late run through the slop for a respectable fifth-place finish, beaten just a quarter-length for the show spot. Rosie stays aboard, and now returns to the track where it all began for her. Her presence is always a plus. Could this be her first win in a Triple Crown race?
6--OXBOW/Stevens/Lukas--Connections of this colt should hold their heads high after a sixth-place Derby finish. Stayed with the leaders, was 2nd after one-mile with a chance to win turning for home, did his best to hang in, but tired down the lane. Has danced all the dances this year (Fifth graded stakes appearance). Smaller field, shorter distance and slower fractions may bode well for this runner whose HOF trainer and rider have combined for 7 wins in this event.
7--WILL TAKE CHARGE/Smith/Lukas--Raced mid-pack in the Derby before launching a wide rallying move on the far turn alongside the eventual winner, but had his run impeded by a tiring Verrazano. He then regrouped and came running again before checking in eighth. The Derby was his first try beyond 8.5 furlongs and first race in seven weeks following his win the G2 Rebel. He should give a better account of himself here if his Preakness trip is trouble free and the racing strip is fast. Look for this colt to be charging late under new rider Smith.
8--GOVENOR CHARLIE/Garcia/Baffert--Foot bruise kept him out of the Derby. Was unraced as a 2-year old, so his three lifetime starts have all come this calendar year. Made a outstanding showing in his graded stakes debut - G3 Sunland Derby, where he won by five lengths in track record time. His five-time winning Preakness trainer has him healthy and ready to contend. Talented colt, but untested in top company.
9--ITSMYLUCKYDAY/Velazquez/Plesa--Drew a lot of pre-Derby buzz, but things went sour in Louisville where this colt was never factor and tired to finish 15th, the worst showing in his career. Maybe it was the track conditions, or maybe its just that he clearly isn't in the same form as at Gulfstream in January. Despite a significant rider switch, and an expected fast Pimlico surface, those changes may not be enough to get things clicking again.
In this race, as in all others, it's imperative to get a sense of what the likely pace scenario will be.
Titletown Five will break quickly and will probably be joined or followed closely by Goldencents, who had absolutely no chance to show his best in the Derby. He has a much better opportunity in here to display his front running talents or can take up the role as early/presser. Govenor Charlie will also be close pursuit.
Following just in behind, and not to far off that trio will be Oxbow and Itsmyluckyday. These two runners could also add-in some of their own natural speed to the early mix if their respective jockeys decide to go for that option.
The middle to rear end of this pack is going to consist of horses that prefer to make a late run: Orb, Departing, Mylute and Will Take Charge. The riders aboard this quartet will have to keenly judge when the right moment is to move.
The running styles indicates a relatively fast pace and enough early pressure to take the starch out of front-runners late and allow the winner to come from off the pace. Which of the mid-pack runners or closer's can best fill that win slot?
I'm not going to get fancy. It's Orb's race to lose. He has again been working very well heading into this race and tackles three newcomers that are stepping up in class and a group of horses he beat very convincingly in less than ideal conditions two weeks ago. The inside post is not ideal, but it may work to his advantage after all. All the speed is to Orb's outside, so that should prevent him from getting trapped along the rail and allow jockey Rosario to drift him to the center of the track and then settle in. Orb has so far shown no weaknesses. He is by far the strongest of the closer's in the race, and although he got a perfect race setup in the Derby, he has proven he doesn't need one to strut his best stuff. However, another strongly contested pace is likely to occur. And with the hottest jockey on planet earth aboard, it just strenghthens the basic case. If Orb receives another good trip and gets to the top of the lane with clear sailing, turn out the lights the Preakness party is over for his opponents.
The monumental effort turned in by Oxbow in the Derby certainly isn't reflected in the morning line (15-1). He is appealing in here off that run as the shorter distance can do wonders given he is likely to get a ideal stalking trip, but probably unlikely to hold off the oncoming charge of Orb.
Also, Will Take Charge, who was moving right along with Orb on the far turn in the Derby and was about to make a menacing move before being checked sharply, should deliver a truer and more representative showing.
Exactas: Orb over both Oxbow & Will Take Charge
As always, good luck and enjoy the race!!