Trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey, III and owners Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable (Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps) said numerous times leading up to Orb’s Kentucky Derby win that they were letting the horse take them to the Kentucky Derby, not the other way around. Their patience paid off and gave the Hall of Fame trainer and lifelong owners and breeders their first Kentucky Derby win. Now, this old school team is set to tackle the second leg in the Triple Crown series, Saturday’s $1 million Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.
As is often the case, the Kentucky Derby winner has been installed as the even-money favorite going into the Preakness. From past performances alone, Orb should win this race. Although it took him three tries to break his maiden, he’s undefeated in five starts since. Orb overcame a troubled start in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field and rallied through the slop to win by 2 ½ lengths, earning a 111 Brisnet speed figure for the effort. He’s beaten the bulk of this Preakness field and appears to be blossoming with more petals yet to unfurl. Orb turned in a sharp four furlong work in :47 earlier in the week that McGaughey described as “breathtaking” and giving him chills.
The only foreseeable drawback for Orb is his post position on the rail. Many have called the rail the kiss of death in the Preakness with only nine winners emerging from post position one in 137 runnings of the race. One reason could be because the bulk of horses drawing the rail have been great longshots with little chance of winning, regardless of position. Some of those that have won the Preakness from post one are Gallant Fox (1930), War Admiral (1937), and Whirlaway (1941)—all Triple Crown winners.
It’s hard to root against a likable favorite such as Orb, especially when another victory means a Triple Crown on the line in three weeks, but it’s not easy to make money wagering on such a favorite. The challenge then would be to analyze the reminder of the field to bet with Orb in the exotics or look at playing Orb in a multi-race wager.
Three new shooters have stepped up to challenge the Kentucky Derby winner: Paul Hornung’s Titletown Five, Illinois Derby winner Departing, and Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie. Of these, Govenor Charlie offers the most bang for the buck. At odds of 12-1, which could float up, this grandson of Preakness winner Real Quiet definitely has the pedigree to hit the board. Departing is also likely to hit the board, but will probably be bet down from his 4-1 morning line.
Two Kentucky Derby contenders likely to figure in the Preakness exotics are Mylute and Itsmyluckyday. Mylute finished a strong fifth in the Kentucky Derby and, prior to that, lost the Louisiana Derby by a neck to Revolutionary. This Tom Amoss runner seems to be getting better and better and is likely to show another strong performance on Saturday.
Itsmyluckyday finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby, beaten 22 ¼ lengths. Why then might he be a play in the Preakness? Trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. has said that this son of Lawyer Ron didn’t like the sloppy track Derby Day, although he’d won on an off-track before. Maybe it was the degree of mud the colt took to the face in the 20-horse field. Throwing out the Kentucky Derby, Itsmyluckyday has been a formidable competitor with multiple three-digit speed figures on his resume. If you liked him going into the Kentucky Derby, there’s no reason not to include him on your ticket Saturday.
The complete field from the rail out, with odds, is: Orb 1-1, Goldencents 8-1, Titletown Five 30-1, Departing 6-1, Mylute 5-1, Oxbow 15-1, Will Take Charge 12-1, Govenor Charlie 12-1, and Itsmyluckyday 10-1.
The Preakness Stakes will air as part of a two-hour broadcast on NBC beginning at 4:30 p.m. EDT. Post-time for the Preakness race is 6:20. Click here for free past performances for the race courtesy of Brisnet.
Photo: Kentucky Derby/Dan Dry/Power Creative