05/07/2013 4:03PM

Preakness Stakes: Orb, Departing have tangled stories

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Departing, seen winning last month's Grade 3 Illinois Derby, is a dangerous newcomer to the Preakness picture.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It is perhaps the most compelling storyline of the 138th Preakness Stakes, this inextricable entanglement of Orb, Departing, and their respective connections.

The horses spent their early days together in the same paddock at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., and after going their separate ways for a time, they will reunite May 18 for a date with racing destiny in the Preakness at Pimlico in Baltimore.

Orb, a rousing 2 1/2-length winner of the Kentucky Derby last Saturday at Churchill Downs for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, looms a solid favorite in the Preakness in his pursuit of the Triple Crown. Orb’s owners and breeders are Ogden Mills Phipps and his cousin Stuart Janney III, whose lifelong ties to the Baltimore community will be widely noted in the coming days.

Departing, bred and owned by Claiborne and Adele Dilschneider, looks like the most dangerous newcomer to the 2013 Triple Crown series as a 3 1/4-length winner of the Illinois Derby in his last start. Departing, a gelded son of War Front, is trained by Al Stall Jr.

The racing tapestry of these two 3-year-olds is fused by the business relationship of more than a half-century between the extended Phipps family and the Hancocks of Claiborne. The Phippses board their blue-blooded mares at Claiborne, and their top stallions have gone to stud at Claiborne, returning to their birthplace. Because of their history together, Claiborne seems a likely home for Orb when he goes to stud.

[2013 PREAKNESS STAKES: Latest news, video, and more]

One of the most famous tales in American racing involves A.B. “Bull” Hancock flipping the coin that gave Ogden Phipps a horse he wanted – while Penny Chenery had to settle for Secretariat.

A more recent saga intertwining both camps had a happy culmination with the naming of Lure, a Claiborne homebred, to the Racing Hall of Fame. Lure was trained by McGaughey at a time when he had the occasional horse for Claiborne, before he went private with the Phippses. Orb even has the one-syllable name for which Claiborne horses are known.

Stall, a major racing aficionado aside from his outstanding work as a trainer, is among those enjoying all the overlaps and coincidences. His lone prior starter in the Preakness was Terrain, seventh in 2009 for Dilschneider.

“It’s amazing stuff when you think about it,” Stall said early this week at Churchill. “We’ll be going up there trying to knock Orb and the Phippses out of the Triple Crown. I have no clue if we can do it, but we’re happy with the way our horse is doing.”

Short odds for Orb

Various wagering outlets are offering odds in the 3-1 range on a sweep of the Triple Crown by Orb, including the popular gambling site sportsbook.com, which is posting that exact price. A bet against a Triple Crown sweep is set at 1-5.

Meanwhile, Frank Carulli, the longtime Pimlico oddsmaker, said Tuesday he intends to list Orb “at less than 2-1” for the Preakness, “but obviously I’ll have to take a long look at everything else in against him.”

This is the last Preakness for Carulli, who is retiring later this year to move to Nevada.

◗ The traditional travel date for horses being flown from Churchill to Baltimore – the Wednesday morning before the Preakness – is in effect again this year, according to Buddy Fife, the booking agent for the equine air-charter service Tex Sutton.
“It’s just a matter of whether we’ll need to make one or two trips,” Fife said. “I’ll know something more here in a few days.”

◗ Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride Itsmyluckyday in the Preakness, according to trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. Itsmyluckyday was ridden by Elvis Trujillo when 15th in the Derby. Velazquez rode Verrazano to a 14th-place finish in the Derby.

◗ Govenor Charlie, who was withdrawn from Derby consideration by trainer Bob Baffert just two days before the entry deadline, breezed six furlongs Tuesday at Churchill in 1:11.40.

◗ Larry Collmus, who called the Derby on NBC for the third straight year, had this to say on Twitter after the race: “That was the hardest race I’ve ever had to call. With the muddy silks, when I gave Orb the big call I was about 80 percent sure it was him.”

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch

Probable starters for the 2013 Preakness Stakes

Horse Trainer Jockey Last race/finish
Departing Al Stall Jr. Brian Hernandez Jr. Illinois Derby, 1st
Goldencents Doug O'Neill Kevin Krigger Kentucky Derby, 17th
Govenor Charlie Bob Baffert Martin Garcia Sunland Derby, 1st
Itsmyluckyday Eddie Plesa Jr. John Velazquez Kentucky Derby, 15th
Mylute Tom Amoss Rosie Napravnik Kentucky Derby, 5th
Normandy Invasion Chad Brown Javier Castellano Kentucky Derby, 4th
Orb Shug McGaughey Joel Rosario Kentucky Derby, 1st
Oxbow D. Wayne Lukas Gary Stevens Kentucky Derby, 6th
Street Spice Greg Geier Jeffrey Sanchez Illinois Derby, 5th
Titletown Five D. Wayne Lukas TBA Derby Trial, 4th
Vyjack Rudy Rodriguez Garrett Gomez Kentucky Derby, 18th
Will Take Charge D. Wayne Lukas Jon Court Kentucky Derby, 8th