Orb rallied through the center of the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby (above). He will try to score a second classic win on Saturday in the Preakness, this time starting from post position one. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
You can talk about horses all you want, the biggest threat to Orb’s hopes in the Preakness seemingly has little to do with his competition. As proven in all four of his wins in 2013, this horse needs to be outside where he gets a clear run – a bad (inside) draw, along with the right (wrong) combination of competitors around him, could spell trouble for the impressive Derby winner.
And then, in the blink of an eye on Wednesday, the Kentucky Derby winner was installed as an even-money favorite for the Preakness, drawn against the pine in post position one at Old Hilltop.
Is it terrible? No.
Is it ideal? No.
Is the draw, alone, the greatest likely impediment to Orb winning the Preakness? Yes.
Orb has covered more ground in his four wins this year than any almost every other horse in those races. He has a long, fluid stride, which has been allowed to flow freely with the benefit of wide runs, out in the clear and away from trouble. In some ways, Orb remains “untested,” in that he has always covered extra ground but never really had to overcome any significant trouble in running. We don’t know if Orb is indeed an equine Superman. The Preakness could go part of the way in answering that question.
As much as this blog has harped on the fact that “ground loss matters,” it is always necessary to remind that the running styles of certain horses dictate that wider can be better on occasion. For the most part, ground loss matters because in many of the tracks where Trakus is installed, studies of data in aggregate have shown that the average winner DOES cover the shortest trip. Say what you want about horses racing in the clear, out of trouble. When the average winner is covering a shorter trip than the average second-place finisher - straight on down through the also-rans - saving ground is a good thing.
But Orb isn’t the average horse, and the Preakness isn’t the average race.
The chances of Orb getting in trouble in the Preakness are amplified by the draw but mitigated by the smaller field size and the presence of several horses expected to go forward to certify a solid pace (Govenor Charlie, Goldencents, Titletown Five). The strong early gallop in the Kentucky Derby was identified as one of the reasons the race was relatively clean, with really only Will Take Charge encountering a move-stopping hindrance in the form of a tiring Verrazano.
On paper, the Preakness’s expected pace should certify that Joel Rosario can maneuver Orb to their preferred spot in the clear at some point.
Horse racing is a superb experience, and vexing topics such as this make racing all the more fun to follow. The near two minutes of the Preakness, and the hours of build-up to the race, leave us with a mind-bending tease in Baltimore. Good luck and enjoy!
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|
PREAKNESS: GET IN THE GAME