If you hadn’t notice already, Horse Racing sometimes is full of disappointments. In fact, when trainer Nick Zito years ago said “with great expectations, come great disappointments”…..He could not have been any more right. When Orb, the almost 3/5 odds on favorite to win the Preakness, struggled past the wire fourth in last Saturday’s 2013 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racetrack, those were the exact words that I mumbled several seconds after he crossed the finish line.
Yes, Orb disappointed me….and from the looks of those miniscule odds he went off at? It looks like there were a lot of people disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not an “Orb bashing” session……quite the contrary actually.
There seems to be a lot of unanswered questions about how or why Orb was beaten. I’m writing this to tell you that, even with the Preakness defeat, I still believe Orb is the pro-tem three year old male division leader…..now, if Oxbow wins the Belmont Stakes, we have something to talk about, but until that happens, I’m going to excuse Orb for Saturday and look forward.
But before I do that, I needed to know why or how he was beaten. I came up with about 6 or 7 reasons but narrowed it down to five.
So here they are….the top five reasons Orb was beaten in the 2013 Preakness:
#5- The :47.1 Workout – I have to tell you, I’m not completely convinced this had a ton to do with his defeat, but I do wonder…..did he leave his race at Belmont Park on the Saturday between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness when he blitzed a :47.1 half mile and galloped out five furlongs in :59.2??
Perhaps winning the Derby over a sloppy track, while having to come from 17th place early and while having to go six wide at the top of the lane was a little more taxing on him that we (or I) originally thought? Then a supersonic workout just a week later and then run him back in a race just a week after that?
In no way, shape or form am I questioning trainer Shug McGaughey’s plans. I’ve been watching Shug for 25-30 years now and there are few better trainers (if any) in this game. I just have a little voice in the back of my head (one of many actually) that wonders if that work didn’t take a little starch out of him.
#4- The Pace– the pace, like the surface of the track, was “snail” slow. Oxbow was left alone out there to gallop along on an uncontested early lead. Giving Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stephens a horse with an easy lead is like giving cheese to a mouse.
As a horse that possesses a dynamite late run, Orb, by nature, needs a fast pace. He didn’t get it…in fact; he really didn’t come close to getting it. I knew the race was over at the half mile pole (:48.3) and it was a foregone conclusion at the six furlong marker (1:13.1)
Which leads me to #3.
#3) His Early Positioning- Once again, being a stone cold closer and because of the very slow pace in front of him, Orb was forced to lay closer to the early pace than normal. On top of that, he was in and among horses and he was definitely in close quarters there for a while. This is not what he is accustomed to.
McGaughey was right when after the race he said that Orb “was not comfortable with his early positioning”.
Albeit that’s true, what choice to jockey Joel Rosario have? If he takes him back further, (into more of his comfort level say like seventh or eighth position and some 10 lengths off the lead) he would have stood absolutely no chance of having to make up that kind of ground…again…especially with that slow of a pace in front of him.
#2) The Surface– I’m sorry, but this colt didn’t handle the slow Pimlico surface at all really. I mean, I’ve watched the race some 8 or 10 times now and it’s clear (to me at least) Orb struggled with the surface right from the get go.
If you watch that Belmont workout video (I did a piece on it) and compare it to a rerun of the Preakness?….. It’s like your watching two completely different horses.
He struggled mightily at Pimlico, but looked like he was on ice skates at Belmont…he just glided over that track.
I don’t hear very many people talking about it, but this horse didn’t like that surface at all….period …end of sentience.
#1) He Just Didn’t Have “It”– much like myself, I firmly believe that, on top off all the other things I just mentioned, he just didn’t have “it” last Saturday. Orb had one bad day out of about his last 165 or so (For me it’s completely the other way around).
Once again, he just didn’t show that explosiveness that he normally does at any point in the race. When Rosario said Orb was “having a hard time keeping up with the others at the half mile pole”?…well, that just clinched it for me.
You know what I mean by “it” right? …you know, if you’ve ever played any type of athletics and, just like life itself, you have good days and bad. …I believe Orb just had a “bad” day.
That, readers, along with a surface he didn’t like, clearly, to me, are the reasons (not excuses) for the loss.
Now, let’s move onto the Belmont Stakes, which is run over his home base and favorite track, and see how he does…..should they decide to run him in that race of course.
Thanks for reading….
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