By Brian Monzo
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Two weeks ago, Orb came from the back of the pack in the mud to catch Normandy Invasion and hold off Revolutionary, Golden Soul and Mylute to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby.
It wasn’t easy for Orb, trained by Shug McGaughey, and it won’t get easier at Pimlico for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the immortal Triple Crown of horse racing.
There’s a smaller field of competitors, with only a total of nine horses, but most are capable of winning the race.
Orb drew the unfortunate rail, taking the first post. But the distance and less crowded track should make it a lot easier for jockey Joel Rosario to manipulate traffic and figure out his initial move.
Let’s break down the field, starting with Orb on the rail:
Orb is a closer. He will be coming off the pace, which may be a quick one (not as quick as the Derby with Palace Malace running a half-mile at 45 seconds). Even with his post position, Orb should be sitting six to seven lengths from the lead around the back stretch. If the pace is slow, I would expect Rosario to move him a little earlier than normal. He is 5 for 8 in his career and 4 for 4 this year. I expect Orb to be headed to the Belmont Stakes looking for the Triple Crown. He is currently at even money, but I think 4/5 will be the price when the race goes off.
MORE: ORB PURSUES PART 2
Goldencents has the second post position and I expect Kevin Krigger to revert him back to his previous role going directly to the lead. His success has come close to or in the lead and I think if he is going to do anything here, he has to get close early. I don’t see him having a hard time doing so, either. Doug O’Neill loves to run them out there, but I think if he goes to the lead, he will be caught by more than one horse.
Titletown Five is another horse that has found most of his success when going to the lead. The third post certainly will make that part of it easy. I like the connections with D. Wayne Lukas and Julien Leparoux on the mount, but when I think Leparoux, I think turf racing and a huge closer. This horse seems outclassed and will off at a big price. May be worth leaving on superfecta tickets, but that’s about it.
Departing has done very little wrong in his five career races. He is 4 for 5 for Albert Stall with Brian Hernandez on the mount. He took the G3 Illinois Derby with ease last month. The question here is can he hang with this class? He should be placed right off the pace and be flying down the stretch. Good horses do good things, and I expect this horse to be close in the end. Include this guy on most if not all exotic tickets.
Mylute gets another chance for Tom Amoss and Rosie Napravnik. He was made the second favorite, behind Orb, on the morning line, and quite frankly that puzzled me. I think he runs well and has some kick, but I don’t see this horse having a winning instinct. He is 0 for 3 this year, and only 2 for 10 in his career. Worth an exotic ticket play, but not a winner.
Oxbow has been the victim of bad trip after bad trip. In the Derby, he got bumped and was the victim of a super-fast pace. Gary Stevens gets the call, this horse finally gets a good post position and I think will be live on the tote boards. He should be close to the lead — and if Stevens can get the trip, it wouldn’t surprise me if Oxbow pulls of the upset. Is it likely? Probably not. But at 10-1, it may be worth playing.
Will Take Charge was my price horse in the Derby, and if not for having to check up for a fading Verrazano, may have found himself in the money at over 30-1. This time, people will be playing him a little more and I wouldn’t be shocked if he goes off at 8-1. Lukas is playing this horse to win, and brought in hall of fame jockey Mike Smith to take the ride. I just see this as a horse that can run when asked, and I think he is a big-time value play on the win as well as someone to keep on all exotic tickets. His one workout between the races was decent and I think he is ready to go.
Govenor Charlie comes from the West with Bob Baffert. The winner of the G3 Sunland Derby is 2 for 3 and ridden by Martin Garcia. The Baffert stable knows how to win, but this horse hasn’t raced against great competition. In a nine-horse field and Beyers numbers of 94 and 95, you certainly cannot completely dismiss him, but I don’t see him taking much of a piece here. He does come from champion sprinter Midnight Lute, but I am staying away.
Itsmyluckyday moves from Elvis Trujillo to John Velazquez and will get plenty of attention during the race. The morning line is 10-1, but I could see him being bet down to 5-1. He worked last weekend at Monmouth Park, and looked good, but I don’t think this horse is great at longer than a mile. He has a good post on the outside, and can dictate where he wants to go — and having Velazquez is big — but I don’t see the win coming. I will certainly leave on a handful of tickets, but not going crazy.
MORE: HOW I’D BET $100
As first glance the weather for race looks good, which makes Preakness day that much better.
I think this race is going to go pretty much as expected. With the speed, Goldencents, perhaps Titletown Five and Oxbow will be on the lead, followed by the rest of the group just off the pace. I could see Orb dropping to last early and based on the pace making his move early or late. I just really think if Orb gets the trip, he will be able to catch leaders and come away with the win.
I like Will Take Charge to sit close and finish behind Orb when it’s over.
I think a lot of people will bet Oxbow, Itsmyluckyday and Mylute. I’m hoping they get a lot of attention and keep Orb over even money and Will Take Charge in double digits.
Departing also will be on most of my tickets, including every trifecta and superfecta.
My tops picks: Orb, Will Take Charge, Departing
Throw away: Goldencents, Govenor Charlie, Titletown Five
Good luck to everyone!
Follow Monzo on Twitter for last-minute thoughts or his plays throughout the day: @BMonzoWFAN.
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