There is no reason to sugar coat things, the Triple Crown on the line this Saturday is what we all wanted to see. Heading into the Preakness many thought the race was over before it ever began. Then a funny thing happened…Oxbow made the easy lead, and Orb was laboring halfway up the back side. The race reminded us that anything can happen in our sport, and the phrase “that’s horse racing” was in full use once again. So, sure there will be no Triple Crown this Saturday, but perhaps we are getting the next best thing. Oxbow and Orb are back for one last shot at each other, pitting Hall of Fame trainers and world-class jockey’s against each other one final time as the 2013 Triple Crown campaign comes to a close. Will we get the showdown we all are hoping for, or will one of the other thirteen entries jump in and steal the show?
Orb was basically on cruise control before hitting the wall in the Preakness. He was undefeated on the year, and really had never been challenged in any of his races. A quick look at the Trakus stats showed that he actually traveled further than any horse in each of his wins, proving even further how dominant the horse was becoming. His Kentucky Derby win was a “much the best” type effort, which got the racing world excited about the possibility of a Triple Crown. It’s hard to know exactly what happened in the Preakness, but the horse just simply did not fire. He’s come out of the race in fine shape, and based on his workouts he looks ready to go.
Orb’s chances rest solely on how the horse bounces back from that poor performance last time out. We’ve all seen what he can do if he runs his best race, and if he can produce that kind of effort the others could be running for second. The distance of the Belmont shouldn’t be too much of a problem, and you have to like that he’ll be coming out of his own stall this time as Belmont is his home track. One other very important factor to take into account: The forecast is calling for heavy rain on Belmont day. We all remember how much he liked the slop at Churchill!
Oxbow came into the Preakness without a victory since mid-January, but those who paid attention to his races knew he hadn’t had the best of luck with trips or post position draws. That bad luck went away all at once in the Preakness, as he drew perfectly and got a dream trip. “We got a Hall of Fame ride” was the quote from Lukas, which he certainly did, but he also got some help from other horses who failed to fire which left Oxbow alone on the lead. While Lukas and Stevens have gotten a lot of attention for this victory, lets now forget about the actual HORSE! Oxbow is nothing short of amazing. He’s ran TEN races in an eight month period, at seven different tracks, in six different states! The horse is a complete throw back and is tough as nails.
His chances of winning this race will be determined by the pace. Oxbow is a horse that needs to be close to the lead so his chances will sometimes be hurt by that, the Kentucky Derby being a prime example. When talking about his biggest hurdles in this race, it all starts with that aspect. Will the pace be fast in the Belmont? Always an extremely hard thing to predict. This year looks as though we have three to four horses that could want the lead, so the concern is there. As far as the distance is concerned Oxbow is bred to run long so it shouldn’t be a major problem.
While most of the attention will be on Oxbow and Orb in the pre race festivities, there are several other horses that are ready to take them down. Todd Pletcher will lead the charge with FIVE entries, including Kentucky Derby third place finisher Revolutionary. He’ll also start Palace Malice who has blown away clockers with his recent workouts at Belmont leading up to this race. Overanalyze, Midnight Tabo, and the filly Unlimited Budget will be the other three Pletcher entries. All three of those horses are owned by New York based Mike Repole who would love to have a Belmont winner. Lets also not forget Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul, who will be shipping in for trainer Dallas Stewart. Was the Derby a fluke, or is this horse peaking at the right time?
You can analyze the Belmont a thousand times and still not be sure of yourself. The mile and one half distance is the ultimate “X” factor, and the rainy forecast will just add to the confusion. Who wins or loses is always important, but just having the Derby and Preakness winner meeting again is enough build up for people to take an interest. Oxbow or Orb winning would be the icing on the cake, but as long as we have a great race with a stand out performance the Belmont will be a success. Here’s hoping the race lives up to the hype we’re giving it. We have the storyline, now can the horses deliver?