05/19/2013 9:22AM

Preakness - The Day After

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What was so surprising about the outcome of Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico was not the fact that it was Oxbow who engineered the 15-1 upset.

Going into the Preakness, there was a wide consensus  that once you got past odds-on favorite Orb, you could have thrown a blanket over the rest of the field, save for Titletown Five, who would have been 80-1 instead of 22-1 if real-world betting in big races wasn’t a thing of the past.

In addition, many pointed out beforehand that by finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby, beaten just under 10 lengths, Oxbow finished better than all the horses who were closest to the hot Derby pace. I try to always be very cognizant of such pace considerations, but I must admit, I thought this angle was a bit overblown. After all, Palace Malice, the horse who literally ran off early and set that sizzling Derby pace, was less than four lengths behind Oxbow at the finish of the Derby.

No, for me the two big surprises in the Preakness were how Oxbow pulled off his upset, and how empty Orb was.

There was a lot of talk before the Preakness about how obvious it was that the pace in the Preakness would be markedly different than it was in the Derby. But I didn’t hear anyone, including yours truly, predict that Oxbow would get completely loose on the lead like he did. It would have been one thing if Oxbow went out Saturday and ran fast early to secure his clear lead, but he didn’t. Oxbow’s Preakness pace was unremarkable – slower than what allowance/optional claimers went in the opener, on a par with what starter handicap horses posted in the second race, and faster only in the middle stages than entry-level allowance horses went in the finale (no comparisons can be drawn with the day’s other dirt route, the Allaire DuPont, because the pace of that race was a crawl).

The reason why Oxbow got so loose is because all of the other Preakness starters with some speed took back. Goldencents broke sharply, but readily conceded the lead to Oxbow in the first run past the stands. You could understand that, because Goldencents was trying to work out the sort of relaxed, outside pace-pressing trip that worked for him in the Santa Anita Derby. Goldencents got that trip. It just didn’t work for him Saturday, and he finished a tired fifth.

But where were Govenor Charlie and Titletown Five early? Govenor Charlie, who was 2 for 2 routing and who showed positional speed in both of those victories, was dragged back out of the gate to race in company with Will Take Charge and Mylute, noted deep closers. This change in tactics for Govenor Charlie didn’t work so well. He finished eighth, beaten 32 lengths.

As for Titletown Five, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said earlier in the week that he would like to see him four to five lengths off the early lead. This created a bit of a rumble, because Titletown Five, who has never won beyond seven furlongs, has sprint speed and looked as though he easily could have been in front early in the Preakness by five if he wanted. The notion that Titletown Five, even with the patient Julien Leparoux as his new rider, could have rated, and then kicked on late with the best Preakness finishers seemed ridiculous.

True to his word, though, Titletown Five was right where Lukas said he would be early. However, with the best of what little chance he had taken away from him, Titletown Five wound ninth and last, beaten over 47 lengths, eased late. But this is not the time to question Lukas’s strategy. After all, he trains Oxbow.

So the bottom line is, Oxbow got what amounted to a six furlong head start Saturday. You have to wonder how that can happen in any race, let alone a Triple Crown event.

On to Orb. I didn’t think his rail draw would have any impact on his Preakness chances because I thought against only eight opponents and with a long run to the first turn, he wouldn’t have any trouble working his way to the outside, which he has shown race after race is where he wants to be. But as it turned out, Orb’s inside draw was a factor. Amazingly, he was never able to get out in the clear, or even that far away from the inside, and that was not a good thing the way Pimlico’s main track was playing.

It was obvious on Friday at Pimlico that the inside on dirt was no place to be, and I believe that carried over into Saturday. I know some people thought that Pimlico’s main track was more even Saturday because we finally saw a couple of front-running winners, but I think the rail was still clearly the worst part of the track. Saturday’s first three dirt races were won by horses who rallied outside. Zee Bros won the Chick Land on the lead, but he was off the rail. Summer Applause won the DuPont after prompting a slow pace, and she was never close to the rail. Sage Valley won the Maryland Sprint racing four to five wide. Notably, runner up Hardened Wildcat was making a strong rally in that race, but he flattened out late as he drifted nearer the inside. And Oxbow was three to four wide throughout.

That Orb couldn’t get outside where he is more comfortable and wind up his run, well, that’s just tough luck. But that he raced predominantly on the worst part of the track is a legitimate excuse. More than anything, though, Orb really just didn’t show up. He’s not “The One,” but he is still a highly capable performer.

Look, better horses than Orb have lost big events at shorter prices. In the end, it is why they actually run these races.

Earl Rhodes More than 1 year ago
Gary Stevens just out rode and outsmarted everyone , wisdom and one for us old G's
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
Be sure to watch the full race replay and not just the NBC version, which was clearly edited and doesn't include the all-important move by JR on the back stretch. It might make a difference in how you view the ride on Orb.
Philthyesthoodlum_22 More than 1 year ago
Strangely run race with a track so slow that Oxbow of all horses could win. Now Shug has to win the Belmont to prove legitimacy for Orb. I suspect a 25k claimer will win it.
Gary Smith More than 1 year ago
in race 8, the Allaire Dupont ,Rosario was on Brushed By A Star a horse that should have been the speed of the race , he placed her behind the entire field on the rail and gave her absolutely no chance.Then his ride on Orb was mind boggling.The biggest mystery in horse racing scince Big Brown s Belmont! Usually a good rider, he sure had an off day !
Tom Maloney More than 1 year ago
I do respect MW as a handicapper, but I really wonder about making sweeping judgments about how the track is playing. These judgments are based on extremely small sample sizes. The book "Fooled by Randomness" would be a great addition to any horse player's library.
jttf More than 1 year ago
not one word on the effect of lasix in a 2 week period. lawyer ron handled the effects of lasix very well. some horses handle it better than others. the 2nd,3rd and 4th place derby horses did not even show up. no kentucky oaks horses showed up for the black eyed susan. the horses of the 1970s and 1980s had no problem running back in 2 weeks. so why all of the no shows ? trainers are starting to notice the dehydration problems lasix is creating. how well do you run when you are cramping ?
Richard Berry More than 1 year ago
Orb still the best 3yr old out there oxbow did not beat orb or out run him orb beat himself a bad day track or rail had nothing to do with it. Hope they run him in the Belmont I think he will do will. Orb is not a great horse like I thought but still a good one the best 3yr. old today.Throughbred breeeders need to simply start breeding sound raceing horses instead of breeding to winners. Look at moons fees sence the derby crazy, that realy hirts the breed.Breeding horses starts with the mare and predgree not the stallion.
Peyton Lasiter More than 1 year ago
The sole reason Orb won the Derby was due to the pace. At the 1/16 pole in the Derby, Oxbow was still about even with him. Not sure why he won the Fla Derby, but do know why the ky derby. The derby fractions were blistering, which is ironic since most thought the new points system would eliminate such a thing. The Preakness was about 15 lengths slower at the 3/4. The only way Orb will win the Belmont is if fractions are again blistering. My Lute however was able to close on the slow Preakness fractions and the fast derby fractions. Simple. Pace makes the race. Randy Moss was on to something a couple of years ago with his pace analysis. He just took it too far and made it complicated. Three possibilities, Fast, moderate and slow. For each possibility pick the horse that is able to win based on past performances. Bet accordingly.
Earl Rhodes More than 1 year ago
not sure why he won Fla Derby, he was clearly the best horse, he didn't look right to me while loading in the gate, kidney sweat, warm , sweat on his neck , check the fractions he chased in Fountain of Youth , and look at fla Derby fraction, not making excuses , inside just wasn't place to be, could it be the horse needed more time between races ?
David More than 1 year ago
The beat goes on. Deep closing Derby winners get beaten in the Preakness
Earl Rhodes More than 1 year ago
you must of just , started reading the racing form, horse can be placed just about anywhere except on the lead, just had off day besides bad post
Mike More than 1 year ago
Horseshyte--Orb had a bad day because of an uneducated jockey making an uneducated mistake, keeping a horse who runs best off the rail down in on the rail, THE deepest part of the track that day. Rosario may be good, but he blew this one !!
Eric Rickard More than 1 year ago
The Preakness was a disappointment. Oxbow did what he was suppose to do under the race scenario. Orb was a total disappointment; inside bias or not. His fast work was done well within himself. He either did not like the track or simply had a bad day. This proves him to be a good horse not a great one. Great horses overcome these factors. The only redemption, goes to ItsMyLuckyday; he proved that the Derby was the fluke race for him. I expect ORB to race well the rest of the year in Shug's normal venues. He will than be retired and forgotten. I miss the days of horses running into their 5th year and able to develop. It will take an awesome and lucky horse to overcome the fragile breeding of our horses to win a triple crown.
JeanK More than 1 year ago
I disagree with you about Orb's workout . Within himself or not, 47.1 is way too fast and still requires energy and effort. Too much after the tremendous effort he put through in Derby. The horse is sound an there must be an explanation to why he ran so poorly. Other than the workout, Rosario could have taken him out by the first turn when everyone was crawling he opted to keep him by the rail, all previous races the horse was outside and running wide. He is a very good horse that might still achieve greatness. I predict that he will run as a 4 year old, because he will be a better horse next year.