Orb: Kentucky Derby winner faces eight rivals in Preakness StakesPICTURE: EquiSport Photos/Jessie Holmes
Orb set for step two from gate one in Preakness
Preview: USA, Saturday 11.20pm BST
Pimlico (Baltimore): Preakness Stakes (Grade 1) 3yo, 1m1½f, dirt
KENTUCKY DERBY victor Orb (Shug McGaughey/Joel Rosario) bids to become only the second horse in 52 years to win the Preakness Stakes breaking from the rail against eight rivals on Saturday at Pimlico in the the middle leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.
The most recent Preakness winner to emerge from post one was Tabasco Cat in 1994. "It doesn't bother me," said Shug McGaughey.
"He'll have him in the right spot. The one is different here than it is at Churchill. The race starts at the three-sixteenths pole here and it's a straight shot. I think he'll get a good spot in the race with the speed outside of him. I think Joel will get him where he wants him to be and we'll take it from there."
Unless there is a 'golden rail' - a faster strip on the inner - the one hole is seldom a positive factor in American dirt racing as horses must exit the boxes quickly or risk getting cut off.
However, Orb is more of a closing type, having come from much closer to last than first before scoring a fortnight ago - and McGaughey is playing down any real worries for the son of Malibu Moon, unbeaten in four starts as a three-year-old for his owners Stuart Janney and the Phipps Stable, who represent US racing aristocracy.
"He won the Fountain of Youth from that post," said the hugely respected 62-year-old trainer. "His first race was from post one, and he finished third in a very good race.
"Obviously if I was going to pick the post, I wouldn't have picked post one but with only nine horses in there and with a rider like Joel, he's going to figure out what to do.
"I'm looking forward to Saturday afternoon. We've got an even-money shot in the Preakness. What more could I ask for?
"I think if he goes over and runs his race, I'm quietly confident that he'll be tough to beat. It's just like I was at the Derby. I was quietly confident all week that he was going to run his race and if that was good enough, it would be good enough. I feel the same this time."
Although a handful of Orb's Kentucky rivals figure among his opponents in the $1 million event, the best any of them managed came from fifth-placed Mylute, which probably explains why Orb is no better than an 11-10 favourite with British bookmakers to continue on the path to becoming America's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed back in 1978.
Connections of Orb's rivals will have noted that earlier this week he produced a brilliant half-mile workout akin to the one he posted the week before his convincing two-and-a-half-length victory at Churchill Downs, where pace horses were severely disadvantaged by a fast and furious (and brainless) early gallop.
Taking another shot at Orb are Mylute (fifth), Oxbow (sixth), Will Take Charge (eighth), Itsmyluckyday (15th) and Goldencents (17th).
As many as 20 horses since 1973 have won the Preakness after suffering defeat in the Kentucky Derby, where Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents (Doug O'Neill/Kevin Krigger) was among those severely compromised by the pace set-up.
Drawn two on Saturday, Goldencents looks sure to be forwardly placed in a race that is actually a half-furlong shorter than Churchill Downs, another positive for a horse with potential stamina limitations. Then again, at least half the field are speed types, so another tear-up could be in the offing, which would seemingly make Orb's job more straightforward.
"Orb obviously looks like the horse to beat," said O'Neill, bidding for back-to-back victories after I'll Have Another in 2012.
"He's not like a one-race hit. All year long he's been super impressive. Hall of Fame trainer, future Hall of Fame jockey, and he's looked great here at Pimlico. But we've seen Goldencents do some brilliant things in the afternoon. If he does, I think he can beat him.
Wayne Lukas: runs threePICTURE: Getty Images
"People think of this track as being more of a speed-favouring track than Churchill," added O'Neill. "As long as the horse is doing well and gets a hold of the track, I think he's got a big chance to knock Orb off."
Legendary trainer D Wayne Lukas, a five-time Preakness winner, saddles three horses, with Oxbow (Gary Stevens) and Will Take Charge (Mike Smith) joined by outsider Titletown Five (Julien Leparoux). Oxbow did best of those who chased the hot pace last time, while Will Take Charge met trouble in running.
Louisiana Derby runner-up Mylute (Tom Amoss/Rosie Napravnik) closed well enough at Churchill Downs without ever threatening to take a hand while Eddie Plesa, trainer of Itsmyluckyday (John Velazquez) considers Kentucky a 'throw-out race' because his horse didn't like the track. He may have a point: Itsmyluckyday was under three lengths behind Orb when second in the Florida Derby on his previous outing.
The three new shooters are headed by front-running Sunland Derby victor Govenor Charlie (Bob Baffert/Martin Garcia), who missed the Derby with a foot issue, and Illinois Derby winner Departing (Al Stall/Brian Hernandez), behind Mylute in Louisiana.
"Eight jocks will be looking toward that inside post, that's just how it is," said Departing's trainer Al Stall, speaking to the Blood-Horse. "Shug has that target on his back - he wanted it, he's got it!"