05/16/2013 10:55AM

Andrew Beyer: Hard to imagine Derby form won't travel to Baltimore


After Orb scored his decisive victory in the Kentucky Derby and was hailed as a bright new star of racing, many handicappers had a reason for skepticism. They had seen this scenario before.

The Kentucky Derby often unfolds in a way that gives an advantage to horses rallying from far behind. The winner comes to Pimlico amidst acclaim, but the Preakness isn't run like the Derby and it doesn't favor his style. Another Triple Crown bid is foiled, and skeptical bettors are rewarded.

[PREAKNESS STAKES: Live updates and live video from Pimlico]

The 138th Preakness, however, does not appear to offer a profitable opportunity to wager against the Derby winner. The second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers at Churchill Downs will not be at Pimlico because they are awaiting the Belmont Stakes or other objectives. Only eight colts will challenge Orb, and it is difficult to make a solid case for any of them.

The Derby was profoundly affected by a single longshot, Palace Malice, who rocketed to the lead and set an extraordinarily fast pace over a sloppy track. The rivals who had chased him through a half-mile in 45.33 seconds all tired badly, allowing stretch-runners to dominate the race. Orb, Golden Soul, Revolutionary, and Mylute were all 18 lengths or more behind the leader after a half-mile; they rallied to finish 1-2-3-5. The race was reminiscent of Derbies won by Giacomo (2005), Monarchos (2001), and Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), who all rallied from far behind after the leaders ran a sub-46-second opening half-mile. These Derby winners all lost the Preakness.

In view of the way the Derby was run, Normandy Invasion would have rated an excellent chance to beat Orb in Baltimore. He made a premature move to the lead entering the stretch before tiring to finish fourth, and surely would have improved with a better trip at Pimlico. But trainer Chad Brown decided against bringing his colt to the Preakness.

In his absence, there are two entrants who may have been compromised in the Derby and have previously shown the talent to win a race of this importance.

Goldencents and Itsmyluckyday brought excellent credentials to Churchill Downs. Goldencents was doomed by the Beyer Kiss of Death, and he, like Itsmyluckyday, had other obstacles to overcome. Both were chasing Palace Malice in the early stages of the race. They may have disliked the sloppy track - their trainers certainly think so. When Eddie Plesa Jr. was asked if the mud accounted for Itsmyluckyday's 15th-place finish, he said, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out." Goldencents's trainer, Doug O'Neill, said the track was beyond muddy: "It was like peanut butter out there."

All handicappers recognize that some horses dislike mud and that bad efforts on off tracks can often be disregarded. Yet it is not common for high-class horses to run as horribly as Goldencents and Itsmyluckyday because they don't like a racing surface. Ten times since 1945 the Derby has been run on a track labeled sloppy, muddy, or slow, and the form of the Derby held up remarkably well in the Preakness. Horses who were badly trounced never made a sudden turnaround to win on a fast track at Pimlico.

Itsmyluckyday and Goldencents barely put up a fight in the Derby. Itsmyluckyday lost by 22 lengths and Goldencents by nearly 50 after his jockey pulled him up in the stretch. Although I still believe that Goldencents's best form is as good as Orb, it is hard to excuse performances so dismal.

One colt who did run creditably in defeat at Churchill was Oxbow. He chased the hot pace and briefly put his nose in front on the final turn before finishing sixth - a decent effort under the circumstances. If Oxbow had good prior form, he might be an interesting wager Saturday. But the main accomplishment of the Wayne Lukas-trained colt is a victory in a Grade 3 stakes; he has never indicated that he's good enough to win at this level.

It also is hard to make a case that Mylute could turn the tables on Orb, or that new challengers Departing or Govenor Charlie could improve enough after winning lesser stakes races. I cannot bet any of these horses against Orb, and I would never take a short price on the favorite. But as a fan I do have one rooting interest.

If neither Goldencents nor Itsmyluckyday recaptures his best form, Orb can win the Preakness by default. I don't want to see him deliver a run-of-the-mill performance and generate the "superhorse" talk that invariably starts when a horse has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown.

If Orb is going to win, I would like to see him deliver a truly great effort. He could do so. His Derby victory, though it was accomplished under favorable circumstances, was certainly no fluke. And he may continue to improve. His trainer, Shug McGaughey, takes his time developing horses. In 1989, his great colt Easy Goer improved sharply from the Derby to the Preakness (which he lost by a nose) and then improved even more to win the Belmont Stakes by eight lengths. If Orb is on a similar trajectory, the sport may have plenty of excitement in the coming weeks.

© 2013 The Washington Post

Jewel Green More than 1 year ago
Oxbow deserved to win. He ran credible at Derby and peaked today. Orb was no factor he just didn't fire looked like a tired horse to me. But I certainly didn't expect that effort. You never know in this game
Jewel Green More than 1 year ago
Beyer is just a racing fan like the rest of us. He's right on some things and humbled by the results of horse racing. Shug said it best "highs but more lows"
A More than 1 year ago
well, c'mon all you beyer-toadies. Tell us how great andy is, as you go to the cash advance machine and hope you card goes through. Andy is a jinx in the big races, but his minions will never learn.
Albert More than 1 year ago
Wrong again Andy....or is it wrong as usual?
John Stier More than 1 year ago
lukas looks lucky always on this day. Oxbow the winner today orb 2nd departing 3rd
jjklavins More than 1 year ago
Good call on the winner, John! Yes, Lukas and Stevens have a bit of history in the Preakness, and Calumet is alive and kicking too - $557.40 DD (Dixie/Preakness)
Rob Smoke More than 1 year ago
Chasing lightning...getting eased...it's not that bad a race. Don't go to the funeral just because you missed the wedding. Goldencents is a cinch to run his best race today... may or may not win, but at least there are odds. Should be one of the top five rules of handicapping...don't bet underlays in the Triple Crown.
michael stapler More than 1 year ago
You people don't honestly think the track will play fast today, do you. It will be a little deep so horses can close. The pace of this race sets up PERFECTLY for the 1-5-6-7 and Departing, who I wouldn't wager a dime on. Of those four horses, Orb and Oxbow look the best to take advantage of the frontrunners when they collapse from going 1:11 and change.
Richard Tihamam More than 1 year ago
With all due respect, this is Horse Racing, each horse are different one to another, there's no 'exact' comparison but great memories they left behind for us to enjoy.
anonymous More than 1 year ago
These writers should not be sounding so sure of themselves re. Orb, they will adversely influence your betting thoughts. In the KD, Orb was close to some others in ML and live odds, but deserved a greater spread, so thinking was wrongly diverted to the field. For the Preakness, the field is less good and only Orb is likely to win, according to writers. Nonsense, on any day one horse can beat another if they're equally fast. It has nothing to do with their previous race. And this is especially because it was a horrible muddy track which always distorts the outcome, how else could Super99 have won the SW Derby except for wet track. Also, all races have been slow except Govenor Charlie. These writers will always play up somebody for the sake of a story, but they won't refund your bet. And, their favorite line is "we'll see". Andy at Belmont and Mike Beer say that all the time. Don't let these people distort your thinking.
Merrill More than 1 year ago
Orb has been quite impressive over his past 5 starts and the consistent improvement is actually mind blowing. I know all to well about what can happen over the past 40 years. Her is my take. I was a supporter of Charlie going into the Derby. Problems kept him out! Baffert KNOWS something about this horse and is eager to take this shot. I will back him in The Preakness. I believe that this horse can get any distance, from up close or mid pack. Orb is the guy to beat, no doubt, and I as well as everyone else would love to see a Triple Crown Winner. I think Govenor Charlie is some kind of freak....more so with the screwed up morning pattern. My heart will be with Orb, but my wager will be with Charlie. This is what this gambling game is all about.
Johnny Volume More than 1 year ago
Interesting analysis Merrill, for wagering purposes, Charlie on top would be profitable, but for the sports sake, Orb, appears the best of the 3 yr. old crop to date.
Scott More than 1 year ago
You should get a good price on Charlie, but history says that it all you'll get. Only 3 horses have won the Preakness since the year 2000 without running in the Kentucky Derby: Red Bullet (2000), Bernardini (2006) and Rachelalexandra (2009). Only Red Bullet stands out of the 3, because Bernardini's win comes under the cloud of the Barbaro tragedy and RA's win comes after she crushed the Kentucky Oaks field by 20+ lengths and many people think she should have been in the Derby Field. Could Bernardini have defeated a healthy Barbaro? He was really good and it's entirely possible he would have still won, but we'll never know. Could RA have handled 10F's on a sloppy track and held off Mine That Bird's late charge? Part of me thinks yes, because the pace was moderate and the talent crop that year was not great. Add to that while MTB's win was visually impressive, the final time was over 2 seconds slower than what Orb ran this year. Still, it's one of those we'll never know circumstances. The point is that only Red Bullet stands as a clear "new shooter" to win since 2000. That's a pretty good sample set and if you take the time to research further back, you'll see that it stands up over time too. So, if you're looking for a price to beat Orb, then you really should consider the following horses: 2 - Goldencents: Orb crushed this guy, but maybe if he gets loose on the lead, he could last the distance. Still, I don't see it happening. There are too many horses that will look to press or try to set the pace including: Charlie, Itsmyluckyday, Oxbo and Titletown Five. 5 - Mylute: The pace should be live, but I don't think this guy wants the distance and his finish in the Derby was more a statement of the pace setters melting down than he can run all day. Still, the pace should be live in the Preakness today, so maybe Mylute can be a player in the Exotics. No better than 3rd in my opinion. 6 - Oxbow: He actually was impressive in the Derby in my opinion. Between having to break from Post 1 and his preferred running style he was a complete toss for me in the Derby and yet he still hung on for 6th. A major detractor is that he's never shown that he can get it done against the top competition. Still if you're looking to take a flyer on a horse that should have juicy odds, maybe $5.00 wouldn't be a stretch on him to win. I might include him in the 2nd tier of my trifecta and definitely feel he's live for the 3rd spot. 7 - Will Take Charge - The only horse to have a legitimate excuse in the Derby! The only one! He was running stride for stride with Orb when he was forced to check hard by a stopping Verrazano. I don't think he was going to win, but I do think that he would have probably held 2nd or 3rd without the check. He's come back with a nice workout since the Derby, so it's all systems go. If you think Orb is vunerable, then this is the guy you should put your money on! I will cover him in an Exacta Box with Orb and a low priced Trifecta Wheel with Orb and him occupying the top two spots. 9 - Itsmyluckyday: I don't think he really wants the distance even at 1 3/16 miles, but I do think that he will sit far enough off the early pace in the Preakness to possibly give his fans a brief thrill turning for home before Orb and Will Take Charge catch him in the stretch. Cover him as an Exotic possibility, third tier of a trifecta and you should be safe.