Noble Moon gets 10 points towards the Kentucky Derby gate, moving him to #7 in the official standings, and a Beyer speed figure of 85 for winning the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday. The Malibu Moon colt may start next in the Withers on February 1. View the updated leaderboard, chart, and replay via the big 2014 Kentucky Derby prep schedule and results spreadsheet.
There are cowboys, a bucking horse, and jockey Calvin Borel playing himself in the trailer for “50-1,” the movie loosely based on Mine That Bird’s improbable victory in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, but the image that arrested me was of Bob Baffert, played by Bruce Wayne Eckelman in a role that’s definitely true to one thing — the trainer’s distinctive hair. I tweeted about what I thought was a wig:
Hold up, @HeadRacingTwit, aka Penelope Miller, tweeted back:
“Gotta tell you,” she said. “I saw the guy at BC and he had the same ‘do. Either it’s not a wig or he’s going Method.” She was right — there was Eckelman looking for all the world like Baffert’s twin — and she wasn’t the only one who remembered the actor causing doubletakes at Santa Anita.
Good thing I didn’t have any money on the wig.
“I think the lesson here for us all,” tweeted Jen Montfort to me and Penelope, “is that the direction of the part really is crucial.”
The horse agrees.
Related: Churchill’s Darren Rogers recalled how that fateful call to trainer Chip Woolley went down: “I said, ‘You know you’ve got the earnings, right?’”
(All GIFs taken from the “50-1″ trailer.)
Orb is confirmed for the Belmont Stakes after a sharp work in company at Belmont on Sunday, joining Oxbow and what might be as many as many as 13 other starters in the final leg of the Triple Crown — neither the Kentucky Derby nor the Preakness winner is scaring anyone away. Of the two, history suggests Oxbow is more likely to win — in the 21 times that the Derby and Preakness winners have met again in the Belmont, the Preakness winner has come out on top nine times, the Derby winner five, and the last time that happened was in 1984, when Swale redeemed himself after a historically bad Preakness loss (one that’s only been matched by Orb). Derby-Preakness winner exactas aren’t too common either, as Steven Crist points out in his discussion of Derby-Preakness winner rematches:
Only twice [since 1973] have the winners of the first two legs accounted for the Belmont exacta: Tabasco Cat-Go For Gin in 1994 (that exacta paid $19.20), and Hansel-Strike the Gold ($39.20) in 1991.
In recent years, the Belmont has been a rewarding race for longshot players, with bombs galore. The upcoming edition promises to keep the payouts up.
Last time a sub even-money Derby winner failed to hit the board in the Preakness? Not in 20 years or more? Anyone got the answer?
Swale was the answer. The 1984 Kentucky Derby winner, running second for much of the Preakness to pacesetter Fight Over (who held on for third), failed to kick in the stretch and finished seventh as the 4-5 favorite, beaten seven lengths by Gate Dancer (fifth in the Kentucky Derby*). Steven Crist, reporting for the New York Times, described Swale’s stunning defeat as:
the worst by any odds-on favorite in the history of the Preakness and the worst by any favorite since First Landing finished ninth in 1959.
No excuses were made for Swale, who would win the Belmont Stakes. “It was the consensus of most of us in the barn,” the colt’s groom Michael Klein wrote in his memoir, Track Conditions:
that Swale was running the race only because the Preakness was a jewel in the Crown, and to fulfill a theoretical obligation, he had to make a showing. The last jewel — the Belmont Stakes — was much more to his taste, both in terms of distance and quality of racing surface.
We’ll find out in a little less than three weeks, if Orb starts in the Belmont, whether the same can be said of him.
Below, Preakness winners and beaten Kentucky Derby winners, 1984-2013:
Preakness winners 1984-2013, where they finished in the Kentucky Derby, and their Preakness odds / Kentucky Derby winners, where they finished in the Preakness, and their Preakness odds / * = Preakness post-time favorite
Worth noting — Oxbow is the highest-priced Preakness winner of the past 30 years, confirming that the second leg of the Triple Crown hasn’t been the best race to look for longshots (the Belmont, though, is another matter).
*Fourth, actually, but the eccentric colt was disqualified and placed fifth for interference. It was the first DQ in Kentucky Derby history.
An essential part of Kentucky Derby winner Orb’s origin story is that he almost didn’t exist. His dam, Lady Liberty, seemed a subpar producer after three foals, only one a winner. Ogden Phipps wanted to sell. Others within Phipps Stable and Claiborne Farm thought the Unbridled mare deserved another shot, and so Lady Liberty visited Malibu Moon. The result was “pretty conventional,” until it wasn’t: “Now that it’s happened you look at that mare, you’re, ‘We knew you had that in you.’” Lucky Liberty, whose stall door now boasts a triumphant news clipping. She’s reportedly in foal to Malibu Moon again.
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Orb, Orb, Orb: The Hello Race Fans Preakness cheat sheet fills you in on the other eight starters. Johnny D has a few wagering tips (beyond Orb on top). Andrew Beyer wants to see “a truly great effort,” if Orb wins, but he doesn’t seem like a blowout kind of beast. (And if he is capable of a truly great, truly dominating win, wouldn’t it be better that he save it for the Belmont?) Orb’s “consistent grinding style” is winning, not flashy. He reminds me of Invasor, a tough, game, champion grinder, never dazzling, running just fast enough.