By Dick Downey
BALTIMORE, MD -- Orb drew post 1 and was made the 1-1 favorite for the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes. Now the Kentucky Derby winner will try to finish number one in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
The post position draw ceremony took place in a crowded International Pavilion located in the infield of Pimlico Race Course. While there were no gasps heard when the number was announced, the luck of the draw immediately caused some concern among backers of Orb -- but not necessarily Shug McGaughey. The trainer expressed confidence in his jockey, Joel Rosario -- and his horse.
"Well, he won the Fountain of Youth from the one," the trainer observed. "His first race was from the one, and he finished third in a very good race. Obviously, if I was going to pick it out, I wouldn't have picked the one. But with only nine horses in there to run a mile and three-sixteenths, with a rider like Joel, he's going to figure out what to do."
Orb has a stalking or closing style, depending on whether the early pace is moderate or fast. A couple of entries that have shown good early speed drew just to his outside.
Goldencents drew post 2 and is 8-1 on the morning line after finishing seventeenth in the Kentucky Derby as the third choice in the betting. Doug O'Neill echoed McGaughey's comments being made simultaneously across the pavilion.
"We weren't overly concerned about a post position, because in a nine-horse field, we don't think it's that significant with the speed leaving," the trainer said. "We're completely comfortable with the number two."
Kevin Krigger, jockey for Goldencents, said he believes the draw is advantageous. "We were just looking at the past performances, and we should be able to get a good spot," he said.
D. Wayne Lukas said he was not disturbed about post 3 for Titletown Five, installed at 30-1 by oddsmaker Frank Carulli. Titletown Five was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade III Derby Trial.
“He’s got good tactical speed, so I think that’s fine. He will be somewhere in the mix early, so that’s OK,” the trainer said.
Second favoritism on the morning line at 5-1 went to Mylute, fifth in the Derby, partly on the strength of being the second-best finisher in that race to go forward in the Preakness, and partly due to backing expected for his jockey, Rosie Napravnik. The race will be a homecoming of sorts, her career having begun at Pimlico in 2005. Mylute drew post 5.
"We're ecstatic about it. With this horse, it doesn't matter as much, but it sure is nice being inside, a little bit toward the middle, and then having Orb inside us and Departing inside us, the two big threats," said Todd Quast, general manager of co-owner Goldmark Farm.
Grade III Illinois Derby winner Departing, one of the three new shooters in the field, drew post 4 and was installed at 6-1. His trainer was clearly pleased with the draw of his main rival.
“Everything’s fine. There are only nine horses, so the position isn’t that important," said trainer Al Stall, Jr. “(Orb) isn’t going to go on with it, so he’s going to have to go around. Out of the nine numbers, the one is probably the one you want the least.”
Two horses with tactical speed drew outside: Govenor Charlie (post 8, 12-1) and Itsmyluckyday (post 9, 10-1).
Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes is taking care of Grade III Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, who bypassed the Derby after missing training due a minor foot issue. Bob Baffert will arrive in Baltimore Thursday afternoon.
“Perfect," Barnes said. "When it was one, seven and eight left, eight is perfect. I couldn’t be happier. Really, nobody ever wants to be down inside. You always think, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK,’ but it just adds a little more pressure to you because you need the trip. Orb is a good horse. Hopefully, he will overcome it.”
Itsmyluckyday will try to rebound from a fifteenth-place finish in the Derby. His trainer is hoping for much better on Saturday and said his spot in the gate is a good omen.
“My lucky number, nine," Eddie Plesa, Jr. said. "I feel good about it. My horse is training excellent. I like being on the outside. I’m going to leave it up to John Velazquez. We’ve got tactical speed, so he can put this horse wherever he wants. You can just draw a line through that last race and forget about it.”
Lukas filled out the remaining two spots in the starting gate with Oxbow in post 6 at 15-1 odds and Will Take Charge in post 7 at 12-1.
Oxbow was close to the fast early pace of the Kentucky Derby -- and was one of two horses that did that to be around at the end with a sixth-place finish. Normandy Invasion was never very far back and finished fourth.
“I was satisfied all the way around with my three horses, especially Oxbow," Lukas said. "It’s a small field with a good run to the turn. I don’t think it’s very significant, except maybe for Orb. Oxbow for a change got a decent post position, so that’s going to help there. I like what happened there very much.”
Will Take Charge had to be checked toward the top of the stretch in the Derby, finishing eighth.
“It’s of no consequence out there. That’s good," Lukas said. "I don’t think I can make an excuse for any post positions at all. I think I did fine. I’ll have to come with a different alibi tomorrow. I don’t know that the rail’s all that bad or the outside either.”
The Preakness is race 12 on a 13-race card that includes nine stakes races in all, five of them graded. Post time for the Preakness is 6:20 ET.
The other four graded stakes are the the $300,000 Grade II Longines Dixie Stakes, the $150,000 Grade III Maryland Sprint Handicap, $150,000 Grade III Gallorette and the $150,000 Grade III Allaire DuPont Distaff.
Post time for the day's opener is 10:45 ET.
Preakness Field with Morning Line
|1||Orb||1-1||Shug McGaughey||Joel Rosario||Stuart S. Janney III & Phipps Stable|
|2||Goldencents||8-1||Doug O'Neill||Keven Krigger||W. C. Kenney, Dave Kenney & RAP Racing|
|3||Titletown Five||30-1||D. Wayne Lukas||Julien Leparoux||Paul Hornung, Ed Martin, D. W. Lukas, Willie Davis & M. Shade|
|4||Departing||6-1||Al Stall Jr.||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Claiborne Farm & Adele B. Dilschneider|
|5||Mylute||5-1||Tom Amoss||Rosie Napravnik||GoldMark Farm LLC & Whisper Hill Farm (Theodore P. Bulmahn, Amanda Pope)|
|6||Oxbow||15-1||D. Wayne Lukas||Gary Stevens||Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley)|
|7||Will Take Charge||12-1||D. Wayne Lukas||Mike Smith||Willis D. Horton|
|9||Govenor Charlie||12-1||Bob Baffert||Martin Garcia||Michael E. Pegram|
|9||Itsmyluckyday||10-1||Eddie Plesa Jr.||John Velazquez||Trilogy Stables and Laurie Plesa|
Oddsmaker: Frank Carulli
Breeders: 1 - Stuart S. Janney, III LLC. & PhippsStable; 2 - Rosecrest Farm & Karyn Pirrello; 3 - Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC; 4 - Claiborne Farm & Adele B. Dilschneider; 5 - Mike G. Rutherford; 6 - Colts Neck Stables LLC; 7 - Eaton; 8 - Michael E. Pegram; 9 - Liberation Farm & Brandywine Farm