Race of the Week 2017

Orb Facing a Difficult Preakness Challenge

With the 139th Kentucky Derby recorded in the history books, attention shifts to Maryland and the Preakness. The question on everyone's lips is “Does he have what it takes to win the Triple Crown?” Of course, I'm talking about Orb, the Derby favorite who didn't disappoint. 
We've seen how Orb, wisely piloted by Joel Rosario, lingered near the back of the pack while suicidal fractions were set by Palace Malice up front. Orb picked it up around the far turn and blew by a tiring Normandy Invasion to win the roses by 2 ½ lengths. Now it's on to what could be the most difficult challenge of Orb's career.

Looking Forward
According to this report, most of the Derby contenders won't tangle with Orb in the Preakness and a few will await the Belmont Stakes to take on the champ. Orb's greatest challengers in the second leg of the Triple Crown may come from the speedy Goldencents, or perhaps a newcomer will try to upset the race. Good luck with that. Since 1984, only three horses that didn't compete in the Kentucky Derby won the Preakness – Red Bullet, Bernardini and Rachel Alexandra.

At this point, Orb is the likely favorite for the Preakness Stakes, unless the public feels that Goldencents will rebound. That doesn't bode well for Orb. Since 1984, only four favorites have won the race. Last year, front-running Bodemeister was favored over the Derby champ I'll Have Another, but was beaten by a heartbreaking neck. The year before that, Animal Kingdom was rightfully made the Preakness favorite after his dominating Derby win. While Animal Kingdom dawdled at the back of the pack during the opening quarters, the swift, tenacious Shackleford used his tactical speed to sit a couple of lengths off of the leader. Turning for home, Animal Kingdom cut into Shackleford's lead with every stride, but he was left with too much to do. Shack spoiled the Animal's Triple Crown quest by a dwindling ½ length.

Does Orb's running style fit the Preakness?
That brings us to running styles in the Preakness. There's a wildly held theory that inside speed rules at Pimlico. Speed defined as a horse that runs on or within two lengths of the lead. Since 2000, this has been true half of the time, and only one horse, the pronominal Rachel Alexandra, wired the field. Six Preakness champs since 2000 proved that they could sit between fourth and tenth place and still get the job done. Remember, the 1 3/16 race distance is only half a furlong shorter (330 feet) than the Kentucky Derby, so a horse that is suspect to navigate the nine to ten furlong range won't find the Preakness a cakewalk.

What about the tight turns? The turns at Pimlico aren't any tighter than those at Churchill. Both tracks are a mile oval, but Pimlico is 50 feet narrower and the stretch is 1,152 feet compared to Churchill’s 1,234, so the main concern shouldn't be how our champ corners, but how quickly he can gun them down in the stretch.

Tactical speed is beneficial at Pimlico. Orb customarily likes to sit mid-pack or further back and unleash his run around the turn. The colt is learning more with every race, and his jockey remarked that the horse puts himself where he needs to be in order to win. In the Florida Derby, Orb sat a little closer to the pace than usual. He runs his own race and isn't hampered by what is gong on up front. The good horses do that.

What about the jock?
Joel Rosario Kentucky DerbyRight now, Joel Rosario is hotter than a Scotch Bonnet pepper. He rode the aforementioned Animal Kingdom to victory in the Dubai World Cup, broke a 22 year record for the most wins at Keeneland and won the Kentucky Derby. He has experience riding in the Preakness Stakes, too. Last year, he piloted Creative Cause to a third place finish, so he knows what it will take to place Orb into position for the optimal trip to the winner's circle.

Orb will ride a five race win streak into the Preakness. At this point there doesn't appear to be chinks in his armor or a rival that comes close to the talent he's shown. His trainer Shug McGaughey has navigated this route before, most notably with Easy Goer, but this time, there's no Sunday Silence in sight.


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Older Comments about Orb Facing a Difficult Preakness Challenge...

All the jewels have taken their fair share of would be TC winners.
So does the second jewel as well.
that is what MANY connections said, but the third race had a funny way of denying it happening you know
Orb has a lot of things in his favor. They include classic breeding, world class trainer, hot jockey and kharma. I generally play against favorites as a contrarian but he will be hard to deny asusming he bounces out of the big Derby effort in good order.
If he wins the Preakness, he should be home free.
I think Dani's analysis is spot on, as usual.
I have to agree with everything Dani wrote below, I believe Orb has a great shot at the Triple Crown if the stays healthy and gets a little luck. As you said he looks like Easy Goer without a Sunday Silence.
He beat the favorite curse once, think he can do it again. He has a great juvenile foundation, was not coddled with only two races at three, but instead never ran less than 8.5f in four races. Gulfstream doesn't have a long stretch by any means, and for a closer to be able to gun down speed over that track is telling, and i should have noticed that. If he can gun them down at that track, I see no reason he why can't at Pimlico. Southern Humor, I doubt this will be a tired colt in the Belmont. He has a very very solid foundation, unlike many who have attempted the TC recently. IHA only had two races at two, and two races at three before he won the Derby and Preakness. Big Brown had even less, only three races total. Our most recent hopes have been carried by horses not used to the rigors of racing. Orb race a total of 7 times before this. He has also only raced less than a mile twice in his career. He is used to running and he's used to running long periods. He has gotten better with each race, instead of regressing. His progression is steady, unlike many colts today. I don't see this one losing the TC because he is too tired to handle the rigors of it. If he is to be beaten it will be because he was not the best horse in the race.
favourite should read favour.
There is no question that the race conditions of the KD worked hugely in Orb's favourite. I think if they can avoid a suicidal pace in the Preakness, there are a number of horses from the KD who will be more competitive. Hopefully, they won't have to run through gummy muck like they did in the KD.
Very good article, Laurie. A lot of it has to do with how the field shapes up. If several speed horses enter the Preakness, it will help Orb. The irony is that a speed horse actually is more likely to win the Belmont because so few speed horses enter it.
I don't believe anyone who ran against him in the Derby can beat him two weeks later... If he loses it will be to a fresh horse...
Good job, Laurie...The one thing I might question is track conditions. Did they hamper some of the horses in the Derby, but might not at Pimlico? Maybe...but we'll find out I guess....and then there is a fresh Departing comming to town. I hope Orb pulls it off.
I completely dissagree natasha.armstrong. The Preakness is going to be hard because of his running style. The Belmont will be much hard because of the competition. Orb will be tired, and going up against a rested Revolutionary.
I think if Orb wins the Preakness then the Belmont will be a walk in the park, but the only way to Goldencents will even come close to winning the Preakness is if he gets a jockey change!
Good article. Thanks!
Informative article. Thank you:)

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