Post time is nearing for the much anticipated second jewel of the Triple Crown. One of the most watched races of the year, the 138th Preakness Stakes will have sports fans from across the country tuning in for the answer of a single, 35-year question: will this be the year of a Triple Crown winner? While a win in the Preakness would not guarantee Orb a spot as the 12th victor of racing’s most prestigious title, it is a race notorious for spoiling the bids of impressive, seemingly invincible Derby winners year after year. Many suppose that the Preakness Stakes will be Orb’s biggest hurdle on the way to immortality.
Here I have examined the Preakness field, weighing each contender’s odds of having their picture taken with the most valuable trophy in American sports.
1. Orb - A 2 /12 length winner of the Kentucky Derby, Orb has been on a 5-race win streak since breaking his maiden last November. While a brisk pace set him up for success in his late-closing rally at Churchill Downs, in the Florida Derby he proved his ability to sit close to crawling fractions and still win with something left. Judging by how well he has come out of the Derby, it is hard to envision Orb getting handed his first defeat in 6 months. While some say his biggest obstacle may be the #1 post position, which has only produced one Preakness winner in the last 55 years, I do not think this will present a major problem. In the Fountain of Youth he won from post #1, and in fact, a large percentage of the horses to have failed from this post were 30-1 or greater and stood little chance in the first place. He is the cream of the 3-year-old crop, and keeps proving it with every race. You will receive very poor odds on him, but with the way he has been running, his presence is hard to ignore.
2. Goldencents - An impressive winner of the Santa Anita Derby, he faded to 17th in the Kentucky Derby, plagued by both a muddied track and a suicidal pace from Palace Malice. Coming off a similar loss in the San Felipe, he went on to dazzle in the Santa Anita Derby. While it is likely we will see a similar improvement going from Kentucky to Maryland, I am not sure if Goldencents will still be around after 1 3/16 against top company — possibly going too fast too soon, which has often been his downfall. Santa Anita is unusual in that horses can run faster than usual early-on, and still maintain the lead; in this way, the Santa Anita Derby has mislead many people about Goldencents’ ability to stay a route of ground. That said, the Preakness has been won by horses like Shackleford, who like Goldencents, fared best a 8.5 furlongs, yet was able to pressure the pace and draw off with it. This race sets up perfectly for him, and although I’m not going to include him, let me go on record saying that he will either fire in a big way or finish up the track. If he wins, I would not be surprised — but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a bad setup and fade.
3. Titletown Five - Has not won since a 7 furlong MSW win last October. Stretched out from sprints for the first time in the Louisiana Derby, and faded to 9th. In his most recent effort, he faded to fourth in the Derby Trial. He is the classic quitter, and I almost have to wonder why his connections are sticking him in here.
4. Departing - Followed up a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby with a strong score in the Illinois Derby. Everything looks good except for the horses he beat, Fordubai and Siete de Oros, who don’t look like top company. King Henny, the runner-up in the Texas Heritage Stakes, went on to perform poorly in his subsequent starts. His pedigree is okay, but not spectacular, so far as distance is concerned. Lasix is a performance restorer, not enhancer, so I don’t believe second time will give him any more of an edge, given it worked first try. Lasix either helps or doesn’t, and once it does, it will maintain that effect on the horse each time he uses it — not continue to improve them start after start. Some horses may take 2 tries to work well off Lasix, but if they work well the first, that is as good as they will get. While I can certainly imagine Departing finding himself a good chunk of the money, he was outkicked by horses that in turn, Orb outkicked with ease. He can place, but probably not beat Orb.
5. Mylute - Won an allowance opt. claiming in December, and has since finished 7th in the Risen Star, second to Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby, and a late-closing fifth in the Kentucky Derby. He is the perfect horse for place or show, as his late charge should be aided by the shortened distance, or in the event of a brisk pace up front. One of the biggest myths in racing is that “if there had been more ground, he would have gotten there”. This horse is not quite good enough to actually get there (or he would have done so in one of the many opportunities that have arisen), but he’s well equipped for bringing his fans and connections devastatingly close.
6. Oxbow - Has only come in the money once since his 11-length romp in the LeComte. This is a horse who runs his best when left alone on the lead. In the presence of multiple speedsters, I do not envision him getting this sort of ideal setup. In the end, I believe he is too tired from what has been a very grueling spring campaign to show up with his best game.
7. Will Take Charge - After capturing the Rebel over Oxbow, he came in to the Derby off of an atypically long layoff to run eighth. It was his second time running out of the money on a sloppy track. While on one hand the Derby makes for an understandable loss that will set up for a big upswing in the Preakness, it is disheartening that the horses he has beaten (Texas Bling, Oxbow) have not returned to run well. With the added perk of second off something of a layoff, I expect him to run to the best of his abilities. The question is if his abilities are good enough to leave a mark against the likes of this company.
8. Govenor Charlie - Comes in from a track record setting victory in the Sunland Derby (albeit on a day that several other track records were set). Given the third place finisher went on to place fourth in the Illinois Derby, you can disregard the runner-up’s poor performance in the Illinois as any sort of class indication. GC skipped the Derby after suffering foot issues and displaying no extension in his workouts. Although he is now working well, GC has yet to prove his class against anything more than a fairly mediocre Sunland lot. The layoff won’t help.
9. Itsmyluckyday - Winner of the Fountain of Youth and runner-up in the Florida Derby, he struggled home 15th in the Kentucky Derby; he is said to have struggled with the sloppy going. Given how easily Orb passed him up in the Florida Derby, how he failed to fire at Churchill, and the softness of his pedigree, I have arrived at the conclusion that he does not want any part of running beyond 8.5 furlongs.
The Trifecta (In Order)
2. Will Take Charge
To prepare for the event, however unlikely, of Orb failing to fire, this trifecta will be BOXED.