05/16/2013 1:36PM

Dave Tuley: Orb's Triple Crown odds trending up


LAS VEGAS – No sooner had Orb crossed the Kentucky Derby finish line two weeks ago than the talk turned to whether he has what it takes to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

I was only 6 when Secretariat captured the nation’s fancy in 1973, so it was Affirmed’s Triple Crown run five years later that gave me my real first exposure to the sport. Of course, with three Triple Crown winners in those six years, no one at that point in time (how’s that for a 1970s/post-Watergate Era reference?) could have predicted we would go on such a long drought.

The Wynn Las Vegas was the first to post odds on the question: “Will Orb win the 2013 Triple Crown?” The “yes” was offered at +240, just short of 5-2 odds, and the “no” was -280 (risk $2.80 for every $1 you want to profit).

If those odds look a little low, you’re right. In the weeks leading up to the Derby, Avello had his generic “Will any horse win the 2013 Triple Crown?” prop at +650 on the “yes.” Obviously, someone has to win the Derby, and with few exceptions the Derby winner continues on the Triple Crown trail, so the odds are usually similar even after the first race. Last year, I’ll Have Another was +700 to win the Triple Crown heading into the Preakness; Animal Kingdom was +600 two years ago; Super Saver was +700 in 2010, all in the neighborhood of the pre-Derby odds in those years.

The odds are impacted by how the Derby winner is viewed beforehand. Mine That Bird, the 50-1 longshot winner of the 2009 Derby, was 15-1 to win the Triple Crown. Most people saw his Derby win as a fluke and had little hope that he had turned into a superhorse overnight. His odds went as high as 20-1 when superfilly Rachel Alexandra was entered in the Preakness and jockey Calvin Borel hopped off the Derby winner.

Orb is the shortest-priced Triple Crown threat since Big Brown in 2008. Avello made Big Brown +170 (with -200 on the “no”) to complete the feat and that wasn’t too prohibitive a price for bettors. They bet it down to a pick-em. Of course, Big Brown won the Preakness but faltered in the Belmont, and the drought continued.

Back to this year, Orb also received support from early bettors at +240 and was bet down to as low as +210. Avello said that’s when the naysayers felt they had value and bet heavily on the “no” at -250 and -260. By Wednesday night, the prop was back up at -270/+230. The “no-vig” would be 250, or 5-2 against; in other words, it would give Orb a 28.6 percent chance that he will complete the Triple Crown and 71.4 percent that he won’t.

Some race books are in a bit of a Catch-22. If Orb wins Saturday and continues to the Belmont, that would lead to a huge betting day in three weeks. If he isn’t still shooting for the Triple Crown, that drops Belmont Day to just another stakes weekend. However, Orb is the biggest liability at those books that offered Triple Crown odds. Orb opened at 15-1 at the Wynn and was bet down to 10-1.

Orb was also the worst-case scenario for Avello’s future book at the Wynn as well as one of the losers for William Hill. He opened at 200-1 at the Wynn, and Avello said he was taking “pretty good-sized bets” on him at 6-1 in April and even at 4-1 leading up to the draw.

But no one is going to cry for the bookmakers, especially when it comes to Triple Crown liability. No bookie has had to pay out on a Triple Crown winner in 35 years (and if Orb wins the Preakness, I’m making it my assignment to find out if anyone offered that prop back in the 1970s).

“We really should have paid out on the Triple Crown a few times in the last decade,” Avello said. “We’ve had some close calls. It’s going to happen, it just takes a special horse, and it helps if the competition isn’t too strong.

“Horse racing is horse racing, so anything can happen,” he said. “But I can only see about three horses with a chance to beat Orb this Saturday: Itsmyluckyday and Goldencents deserve another chance, and maybe Departing. But if he gets past this test, who else is going to challenge him? We might have a very short Belmont field.”

Avello posted Preakness advance odds last week, opening Orb at 7-5 and lowering him to 6-5 and finally to 4-5 before the draw Wednesday.

“There was some money on Orb at 7-5 and 6-5, but most of the movement was due to the defections from the field, especially Vyjack and Normandy Invasion,” Avello said.

We’ll see if any of the remaining horses can spoil Orb’s pursuit of the Triple Crown.

Tuley the Tout’s picks: 1. Goldencents; 2. Orb.; 3, Itsmyluckyday. Longshot: Govenor Charlie.


Tex Renegade More than 1 year ago
Goldencents isn't nearly as fast or as good as people think. He won the SA Derby in a relatively slow adjusted final time. The sheet players don't give him much of a chance and love 'em or hate 'em they generally have a much more pragmatic view of who the real contenders are than all of the bettors who are mesmerized by fast final times and raw speed figures; which are pretty much meaningless. This race shapes as a more or less straightforward affair, as is typical of the Preakness ...Orb is by far the fastest and best horse in the race. For any of the other horses in the race to beat him one of two things is going to have to happen, and quite likely both in the same race. Either Orb doesn't run his race; i.e. he throws in a real stinker; or some plodding clunker staggers around the track causing insurmountable traffic problems, which in turn result in Orb losing through no fault of his own. If the race is run fairly and the best effort of each horse entered is put forth this afternoon, Orb will win handily and it will be on to Belmont Park for a shot at immortality as the first Triple Crown winner in over 30 years. I have been following horse racing since Secretariat won the TC in 1973 and in my opinion Orb is the most serious threat to take down the TC since Spectacular Bid's ill-fated Belmont performance in 1979.
Wesley Wright More than 1 year ago
Orb came from off the pace to win in Kentucky To win from the 1 post he may need to be lucky The Derby winner is still not at his peak But he is on a five-race winning streak The Preakness will show just how much he’s plucky
Kimberly Shugars More than 1 year ago
Yep Sidd, That would be Thunder Gulch. It would be something else to see Orb win the Triple Crown and the Travers and while im wishing throw in the Haskell too I believe he is that kind of horse. Richard, Oxbow ? Titletown Five ? Really ?
Richard Berry More than 1 year ago
I see Goldencents and Itsmyluckyday dead last Heres my order of finish 1-6-3-4-8-7-9-2-5 Turn 6-3-4 around mabey but if you think that anybody going to beat orb you better go back to school . You have not seen Orbs best yet Theres not a 3yr. out there as good as orb. Orb will stand up to any horse there he is going to be as good or next to sectiart. Hear what papas has to say. Its not who is going to win its who is going to come in 2nd 3rd and so on they cant go the distance with Orb
Sidd Finch More than 1 year ago
Oh c'mon people, there is but one horse alive who has mastered the Kentucky Derby AND the Belmont Stakes. (and just one horse in seventy years who numbered the 'Derby, the Belmont', and the Travers as victories)
Richard Berry More than 1 year ago
What are you talking about
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He's talking about Thunder Gulch.