Wednesday, May 15, 2013

2013 Preakness Stakes Field Analysis

All eyes will be on Orb this Saturday at Old Hilltop, where he will attempt to win the Preakness Stakes (GI) in order to continue his bid for the Triple Crown. The excitement of the Kentucky Derby (GI) has been transformed into the anticipation of Orb’s Triple Crown run. # rivals have aligned to face the Derby victor with the goal of dethroning him before he even reaches Belmont, including a horse he grew up with in Departing. Will it be Orb, or will he be taken down by one of his competitors? Tune in to NBC at 4:30 Eastern Time to find out!

Listed below are all of the horses entered to run in the 2013 Preakness Stakes, along with descriptions of their recent racing and training endeavors, as well as the chances I believe they each have. The entrants are listed in post position order.

1. ORB: The Derby winner has been unbeatable this season, winning all four of his starts this year. His Derby win came in a rather easy manner, having come off the pace prior to going wide to score by a going-away 2 ½ lengths. He can close into a slow, moderate, or fast pace and also does not have to close from far off the pace. This versatility will be a major advantage for him.

Orb’s final work for the Preakness, like his final work for the Derby, was a scintillating move that left his trainer, Hall of Fame conditioner Shug McGaughey, awestruck. This bodes very well for the Derby winner, although the work came at Belmont and not Pimlico.

The last horse to win the Preakness from the rail was Tabasco Cat in 1994, who was number two in the program but broke from the rail due to a coupled entry. Although the rail post is not perfectly ideal, this is not the Derby – breaking from the rail at Pimlico is a less uncomfortable position than at Churchill and there will be less horse and jockey combinations jostling for position. In addition, Orb won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) from the rail this February. A horse that has been on an extraordinary road of improvement, Orb is my top selection in the Preakness. Read about Orb in greater detail here.

Photo by Brittlan Wall

2. GOLDENCENTS: Goldencents’ seventeenth-place finish in the Derby, in which he was eased, was incredibly disappointing off his Santa Anita Derby (GI) triumph. Whether it was the sloppy track or the distance that resulted in such a poor effort from the colt is a mystery, but should the track conditions be fairer at Pimlico on Saturday, Goldencents will have a better chance. A colt who is solely galloping up to the Preakness, Goldencents is a classy individual, but it would require the race of a lifetime for him to win the Preakness. Read about Goldencents in greater detail here.

Photo by Brittlan Wall
3. TITLETOWN FIVE: This colt took four attempts to break his maiden, even defeating Orb in the Derby winner’s debut. But Titletown Five’s maiden victory is his only win to date. Following a runner-up effort in the Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Titletown Five was a poor ninth in the Louisiana Derby (GII) prior to finishing fourth in the Derby Trial Stakes (GIII). He appears outclassed here.

4. DEPARTING: Following an easy win in his debut, Departing won an allowance optional claiming event in an even more effortless manner at the Fair Grounds. Making his stakes debut in the Texas Heritage Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park, Departing stalked the pace prior to drawing off to a 2 ¾-length triumph. His first graded stakes attempt resulted in a third-place effort behind eventual third-place Derby finisher, Revolutionary, and fifth-place Derby finisher, Mylute, in the Louisiana Derby (GII). A 3 ¼-length win in the Illinois Derby (GIII) served as his biggest victory to date.

Departing’s final work for the Preakness was an easy half-mile breeze at Churchill Downs. He will be a tough rival for Orb, but he has already been defeated by horses that Orb has conquered. Departing will need to continue his improvement in order to win this race and his improvement will need to outshine Orb’s, which would be a very difficult feat.

MYLUTE: Following a strong runner-up effort in the Louisiana Derby (GII), Mylute closed to finish a strong fifth in the Kentucky Derby. His final work for the Preakness was a good half-mile move at Churchill Downs. He was outfinished by Orb last out and though I do not foresee him beating Orb, a good performance from Mylute is expected.  Read about Mylute in greater detail here.

Photo by Brittlan Wall
6. OXBOW: Rather forwardly placed in the Derby, Oxbow had every chance to take the lead but could not sustain his rally and finished sixth. Nonetheless, he ran a good race and has trained well since. He should not be ignored in the Preakness. Read about Oxbow in greater detail here.

WILL TAKE CHARGE: This D. Wayne Lukas trainee trained up to the Derby following his game Rebel Stakes (GII) win. He was given no chance in the Derby after being forced to check at the top of the stretch, but ran on well to finish eighth. His final preparation for the Preakness was an easy half-mile breeze at Churchill Downs. Should he receive a cleaner trip on Saturday, Will Take Charge may surprise people with a good rally, though I do not expect him to win. Read about Will Take Charge in greater detail here.

Will Take Charge
Photo by Brittlan Wall
8. GOVENOR CHARLIE: Second in his debut behind future stakes winner Let Em Shine, Govenor Charlie was a game winner in his second start. He then was a dominant winner of the Sunland Derby (GIII), in which he broke the track record over a very speedy track. A foot bruise kept him out of the Derby and although his final work for the Derby was a brisk six-furlong work at Churchill Downs, the fact that he had this physical issue could be to his disadvantage. Although talented and capable of running a good race, Govenor Charlie may be outclassed and somewhat unprepared here.

9. ITSMYLUCKYDAY: A disappointing fifteenth in the Kentucky Derby, a crucial question looms for Itsmyluckyday. Was it the sloppy track or the distance that resulted in such a poor performance? His final work for the Preakness was postponed, resulting in him going four furlongs in between races at Monmouth Park on Sunday. He will have to show major improvement to find success on Saturday. Read about Itsmyluckyday in greater detail here.

The racing world has pinned their dreams upon Orb, hoping that he will be the one to finally end the Triple Crown drought. The prestigious series may be only five weeks long, but Orb has a long road ahead. However, he is clearly my top selection in the Preakness. I also expected good performances from Departing and Mylute, as well as Goldencents should he rebound, which is possible considering how strong he has appeared in his gallops at Pimlico. I will also not throw out Will Take Charge, but Orb is the horse to beat.

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