The best horse didn’t win the 2013 Kentucky Derby. The Derby was won by the horse who was tons the best. His name is Orb, and there is absolutely no reason why he won’t add the Preakness Stakes this afternoon at Pimlico to his resumé, and proceed to the Belmont Stakes with a chance of being the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Orb’s Derby victory two weeks ago was one of the most impressive in a long, long time. Not only did he win his fifth straight going away, but he actually ran much farther than a mile and a quarter, racing extremely wide on both turns. Yes, he had a ridiculously fast pace to close into, but so did all the other closers in the race.
Orb’s scintillating workout at Belmont Park Monday, four furlongs in :47, suggests that he not only is maintaining his form from the Derby, but that he may still be improving. That doesn’t bode well for the eight 3-year-olds taking him on in the Preakness.
What about his post position, the rail? While it’s true the rail hasn’t produced many Preakness winners recently, we think back to the 2005 Preakness. Afleet Alex, a closer like Orb, had an outside post. When the gates opened, Jeremy Rose did a superb job with Afleet Alex, letting the horses inside him speed away, and immediately angling over to the rail so Afleet Alex wouldn’t have to race extremely wide on the first turn.
Orb is already on the rail. And with two speed horses immediately outside of him — Goldencents and Titletown Five — Orb’s jockey, Joel Rosario, should be able to find a gap of clear space to get off the rail at some point. After all, he’s got more than a mile to do that in a field of just nine.
Orb is a deserving favorite this afternoon. The battle will be for second. In order of preference:
Goldencents — If any horse in the Derby figured to have trouble on a sloppy track, it was this California-based speedster. He didn’t make the lead and barely ran a half-mile before jockey Kevin Krigger wrapped up on him. He was nearly eased home almost 50 lengths behind Orb. Throw that race out. Orb’s biggest danger is a horse near or on the lead who keeps going, and Goldencents is capable of doing exactly that. Before the Derby, he had won four of his six previous starts.
Mylute — He rallied to finish fifth in the Derby, less than a half-length behind the third- and fourth-place finishers, Revolutionary and Normandy Invasion. He was third to Goldencents in last year’s Delta Jackpot, but has improved considerably since then.
Departing — His impressive victory in the Illinois Derby with Lasix added made him 4-for-5 lifetime with one third. His only miss was a third behind Revolutionary and Mylute in the Louisiana Derby. He’s fresh and dangerous.
Itsmyluckyday — After winning the Holy Bull Stakes by two lengths over Shanghai Bobby, Itsmyluckyday finished second by 23⁄4 lengths to Orb as the 8-5 favorite in the Florida Derby, then 15th by a lot to Orb on a sloppy track in the Derby. Previously, he’d won on a sloppy track handily at Calder, but there can be a huge difference between sloppy tracks at different racetracks. Itsmyluckyday worked sharply for this, and should be a factor.
Oxbow — One of three horses trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Oxbow was close-up in the Derby’s suicidal pace and still held on to finish sixth. That being said, it was his fourth consecutive loss.
Will Take Charge — He had to steady behind a tiring Verrazano in the Derby, but he beat his stablemate Oxbow by a head in the Rebel Stakes the race before. The Derby was his first start in nearly two months, so he may move forward.
Govenor Charlie — He won the Sunland Derby in his last start, March 24. Typically, he’s been working extremely fast since then for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Titletown Five — His only win in seven starts was a maiden race. Good luck.
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