Orb was dominant in the Kentucky Derby (above). Can he do it again in the Preakness on Saturday? (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase
The field for 138th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Preakness Stakes dwindled a bit since the days following the Kentucky Derby. At one time there were as many as 11 potential challengers to Derby winner Orb, but considering how dominant the son of Malibu Moon was two weeks ago there were just eight challengers entered. In the Derby, Orb continued to demonstrate the physical and mental prowess of a champion when sweeping by the field to win by 2 1/2 lengths, so he should be a formidable foe once more. Of those attempting to derail the Derby winner from his shot at going for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes three weeks hence, Illinois Derby winner Departing deserves first mention as another improving colt who has won four of five career races. Departing enters the Preakness off a four-week rest compared with two weeks for Orb and the other Derby participants. Govenor Charlie is another fresh face, having won the Sunland Derby in March when making only the third start of his career. Derby fifth-place finisher Mylute rallied from 17th in the early going and although he was outfinished by Orb in the last quarter-mile could also have a say in the outcome. Will Take Charge was moving in tandem with Orb with about three-eighths of a mile to go in the Derby but ran into a bit of traffic trouble and so the winner of the Rebel Stakes could rebound to competitive form as well. Oxbow raced up close in fifth in the early stages of the Derby and actually made the lead with just over a quarter-mile to go but tired late to finish sixth. Titletown Five’s finished a non-threatening fourth in the Derby Trial Stakes three weeks ago and appears overmatched, but considering he is one of three trained by five-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas (the other two being Oxbow and Will Take Charge) is difficult to completely count out. Goldencents started out fourth in the Derby but backed up throughout to end up 17th, while Itsmyluckyday tired from sixth to 15th. Even though both Goldencents and Itsmyluckyday were competitive in Derby prep races earlier in the year, it’s hard to imagine either improving enough to win the Preakness.
Orb earned a career-best 105 Equibase Speed Figure winning the Kentucky Derby in visually impressive fashion two weeks ago, rallying from 17th in the early stages and sweeping by the field to draw off by 2 1/2 lengths. Having won five races in a row, including the Florida Derby prior to the Kentucky Derby, Orb has continued to show the kind of push-button acceleration that could make him the first Triple Crown winner in 35 years, fittingly enough on the 40th anniversary of the Triple Crown win by the amazing Secretariat. With a recent half-mile workout in 47.18 seconds at trainer McGaughey’s home base in New York that was incredible for a horse that just raced 1 ¼ miles for the first time, Orb is showing no signs of declining form and should move on to the Belmont Stakes in three weeks ready for his date with history.
Mylute made a steady run in the Derby to go from 17th to fifth, beaten just a pair of heads (the equivalent of a half-length) for third at the finish. Having battled head-and-head with Revolutionary the entire length of the stretch in the Louisiana Derby (with a career-best 111 Equibase Speed Figure) prior to the Kentucky Derby, Mylute may have still been recovering a bit from that big effort. Considering that even though Orb blew by him in the stretch in the Derby, Mylute really tried hard in the last few yards to pass the other two horses he was battling with for third. In this much shorter field and expected to be a bit closer to the pace than he was in the Derby, Mylute could be passing quite a few of these to get second at the least, perhaps going by them all if Orb regresses in any way.
Departing has the benefit of four weeks rest that the horses that ran in the Derby two weeks ago do not, which could help him in the latter stages of the Preakness. Departing won the first three races of his career. Then, in spite of finishing third in the Louisiana Derby (three lengths behind runner-up Mylute), improved to a career-best 106 Equibase Speed Figure that he bettered once again, to 108, when victorious by 3 1/4 lengths in the Illinois Derby last month. That being said, the knocks on Departing are not only that Mylute beat him the only time they faced each other but that the horses he beat in the Illinois Derby were much weaker than the horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby. Just the same, Departing did run slightly faster than Orb in the Illinois Derby and must be considered a contender to win the Preakness.
DEPARTING WINNING ILLINOIS DERBY
Photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos
Will Take Charge is an enigma on a couple of levels. First he appears to be incapable of putting two big efforts together, evidenced by his last four finishes of first, sixth, first and eighth. He won the Rebel Stakes on perseverance alone as he did not look like the winner until the final yards. Then in the Derby, Will Take Charge was in front of Orb in the early stages when 11th and moved with Orb when that one came alongside him but got into a little traffic trouble late and either that and/or the fact he just couldn’t keep up with the eventual winner stopped his momentum such that he ended up eighth. With a jockey change to Hall of Famer Mike Smith and a return to the form shown in the Rebel, Will Take Charge can’t be counted out as a potential upsetter in this year’s Preakness.
The rest of the Preakness field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Goldencents (111), Governor Charlie (103), Itsmyluckyday (109), Oxbow (110) and Titletown Five (98).
2013 Preakness Stakes
Saturday, Pimlico Race Course, 6:20 p.m. ET
1 3/16 miles, 3-year-olds
|1||Orb||Shug McGaughey||Joel Rosario||1-1|
|2||Goldencents||Doug O'Neill||Kevin Krigger||8-1|
|3||Titletown Five||D. Wayne Lukas||Julien Leparoux||30-1|
|4||Departing||Al Stall||Brian Hernandez Jr||6-1|
|5||Mylute||Tom Amoss||Rosie Napravnik||5-1|
|6||Oxbow||D. Wayne Lukas||Gary Stevens||15-1|
|7||Will Take Charge||D. Wayne Lukas||Mike Smith||12-1|
|8||Govenor Charlie||Bob Baffert||Martin Garcia||12-1|
|9||Itsmyluckyday||Eddie Plesa Jr.||John Velazquez||9-1|
ORB: DEVELOPMENT OF A STAR
The connections of Orb explain how he developed from an allowance race winner to Kentucky Derby victor in just a few short months.