Considering Orb’s dominating performance in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago it’s hard to surmise a scenario where we aren’t talking about yet another pending attempt to end racing’s long wait for the twelfth Triple Crown winner after this year’s Preakness. Orb is now perfect this year in four starts since he won his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park in January. He has a jockey in Joel Rosario at the peak of his game; a trainer in Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey who is almost as beloved by the racing community as he is good; and owners whose family has been breeding and racing horses for over a century. The racehorse named Orb has the bloodlines, ability, and human connections that would serve as a perfect prelude to a potentially remarkable story should he win his next two career races.
While Orb will be a well-deserved favorite at the betting windows and in the hearts of race fans, he will face a challenging group in this year’s Preakness. The majority of the starters raced in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago and at least three starters will be “new shooters” coming out of races elsewhere. Since 2000, all but two winners of the Preakness also ran in the Kentucky Derby.
Here are the four that have the best chance to end Orb’s chances of shipping to Belmont with a Triple Crown on the line:
Will Take Charge
As the field made the final turn in the Kentucky Derby, Will Take Charge was making a bold move, step for step with the eventual winner. As they hit the top of the stretch, Will Take Charge was blocked by a tiring Verrazano and lost all chance for an in-the-money finish. Was he going to beat Orb? Maybe not, but his sustained move passing horses in the Derby, makes him an interesting starter in the Preakness. He was off for nearly two months before his eighth place finish at Churchill and could be sitting on a huge race in his second start off that layoff. Hall of Famer Mike Smith will ride Will Take Charge for the first time and should give him a better trip than he had in the Derby.
The winner of the Illinois Derby in his last start did not race in the Kentucky Derby. While those shipping from Churchill have tended to dominate the winner’s circle in the Preakness, Departing boasts a compelling resume including four wins from five career starts. His only loss came in a third place finish in the Louisiana Derby. That race produced the second, third, and fifth place finishers in the Kentucky Derby, which indicates he has the class to possibly spring the upset against Orb.
As the third betting choice when they opened the gates for the Kentucky Derby, he ran the worst race of his life. After breaking well, he sat too close to what turned out to be a suicidal early pace over a sloppy and tiring track. He was done by the time the field reached the mile marker. Jockey Kevin Krigger wisely eased him well before the wire and his connections shipped to Pimlico with little hesitation. With a few speed horses signed on in the Preakness, he will need to relax and not contest the pace to have a chance. A post position on the outside with the other speed horses on the rail would be a big help in carving out an ideal trip. He might be overlooked considering his dismal Derby so he could be a square price come post time.
The fifth place finisher in the Kentucky Derby ran a great race at Churchill Downs. In his three races this year he has never been farther than four lengths from the winner. He just missed winning the Louisiana Derby, a race stacked with strong runners, and had a wide trip during his gallant run in Kentucky. He will be ridden by Maryland-native Rosie Nepravnik, who will be racing in the Preakness for the first time. She will be a crowd favorite in Baltimore and would be a popular winner should Mylute manage to turn the tables on Orb.