If Orb’s Kentucky Derby victory was a win for the old school, then Oxbow’s Preakness Stakes upset was a win for the old timers.
“The experience thing is huge in these races,” said trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 77, speaking of the Triple Crown series at Pimlico on Friday. “And [the Preakness] may be more of a jockey’s race than the other two.”
Gary Stevens, 50, proved his point. The Hall of Fame jockey, who came out of a seven-year retirement in January, let Oxbow settle in front and lead through an opening quarter of :23.94 and a half in :48.60 (chart).
The race was over. Orb was on the inside, looking uncomfortable and too far off the pace. He finished fourth, nine lengths behind the winner. Itsmyluckyday and Mylute, on the outside, rallied for second and third.
Oxbow’s final time was 1:57.54, the slowest since Carry Back’s in 1961. The time might not be notable, but the win is for another reason — Oxbow gave Lukas his 14th score in a Triple Crown race, the most of any trainer in history.
“I get paid to spoil dreams,” said Lukas.
“I’m disappointed, but I know how the game works,” said Shug McGaughey. (Let’s pause for a moment to mourn Orb’s lost crown along with his trainer.)
5/19/13 Addendum: David Grening has a terrific bit of detail on how Stevens rode in this year’s Preakness: “Stevens said he tried the same move he made all those years ago with Winning Colors, attempting to bust the race open with three furlongs to go.” (Winning Colors going wire to wire in the 1988 Kentucky Derby was pretty great.) Oxbow earned a Beyer speed figure of 106.
Rachel Alexandra in her Stonestreet paddock, May 2012.
I’ll take any excuse for a Rachel Alexandra post, and Melissa Hoppert gives me a good one with a story about visiting the 2009 Preakness Stakes winner, who is recovering well from her near-death post-foaling ordeal earlier this year:
“Running is not the word for it,” Comer said. “She is breezing for the Belmont. When we turn around, she’s back to her old self. She is up in the air, she rears, she runs, she bucks, she plays. She is definitely feeling good.”
Wonderful! Get in the mood for today’s Preakness (post time 6:20 PM ET) with a replay of the 2009 edition. “She’s got her ears up, pricked, ready to go …”
You’re rooting for Orb today, right? “You’ve gotta.”
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.
Chris Rossi looks at the three Preakness Stakes winners in the last 20 years who didn’t start in the Kentucky Derby and finds a few commonalities.
Related: Recent Preakness history: How have Kentucky Derby winners and favorites fared in the second leg of the Triple Crown since 2001?
See also: Paul Moran ponders jockey Eddie Arcaro’s 1986 prediction that there would never again be a Triple Crown winner. Too many foals, said the jockey. (That could be, in which case, the bright side of the decline in the number of North American registered foals from the recent high of 38,261 in 2005 to 28,260 in 2010 and an estimated 24,700 in 2012 is that if we don’t get a Triple Crown winner this year, we might before too long — 2010 was the first year since 1976 that fewer than 30,000 North American foals were registered, and the estimated number for 2012 nearly matches the 24,361 registered in 1970, the year of Secretariat’s birth.)
Not so recent history: “When Mr. Longtail Feasted On Racing.” Arcaro rode two Triple Crown winners, Whirlaway and Citation. The first rivaled Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams for sports fame in 1941, but wasn’t a horse even his connections wanted to call great. “He was not dead game,” said Jimmy Jones, son of trainer Ben Jones. “He had a tendency to give up.” He was fast, though.
This refreshing scenario means that racing, at least in the eyes of the connections of Orb and Departing, is more of a sport, rather than a business, and the objective is to see who has the fastest horse on a given day …
Orb worked four furlongs in :47.18 at Belmont Park this morning. He’ll leave for Pimlico at about 10:00 AM, reports Dave Grening, who also quotes trainer Shug McGaughey calling the Kentucky Derby winner’s breeze “freaky.”