Saturday's Preakness Stakes should be a terrific race. Derby winner Orb will be a significant favorite to win the second leg of the Triple Crown and head to New York with a chance to be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. (Yes, I have been cutting and pasting that sentence for far too long).
It's also the final day of live quarter horse racing at Sam Houston Race Park. Selections for the card appear at the bottom of this story.
Orb certainly has the running style, talent and breeding to accomplish it. He's also got a terrific old school trainer who should know how to prepare the horse for the rigors of the next two races.
Orb has won five races in a row and is unbeaten at a mile or longer. He has gotten better with more distance. He has a grind-it-out style that should be perfect.
Still, he has yet to run a truly brilliant race -- his Derby was just a 104 on the Beyer scale -- which makes him vulnerable. He could very easily improve dramatically on Saturday, which will make him an easy winner. But if he doesn't improve, a couple horses could develop enough to beat him. Goldencents has run a better Beyer (105 in the Santa Anita Derby) but that was under much more favorable circumstances It'smyluckyday ran a 104 in Florida but again, it was under perfect circumstances. Neither figures to repeat that.
Two new shooters -- Departing and Govenor Charlie -- have yet to run fast enough, but both are talented enough and should have their best races ahead of them.
So here's how the race should shake out:
Goldencents, Titletown Five and Govenor Charlie should be in the front group. It'smyluckyday and Oxbow should be in the second group, with Orb not far behind that. He was much closer to the pace in prior efforts than in the Derby, and figures to be here. Departing should be in that group as well, in addition to to Will Take Charge, whose best efforts have come when just off the leaders. Mylute will likely trail early.
If Goldencents or Govenor Charlie can shake free early and set easy fractions, either could be dangerous. But that seems unlikely. Oxbow, who made a nice middle move in the Derby, likely gets first run.
If Orb runs like he did in Florida, he makes his move on the turn, gets in contention at the top of the stretch, then slowly grinds away from the field. Departing likely chases him, with one of the early factors -- Oxbow, Goldencents or Govenor Charlie hanging around.
We'll root for Orb to win, but plan to profit if he doesn't. A simple trifecta play with Orb and Departing on top, Goldencents, Govenor Charlie, Oxbow and Mylute in second and Will Take Charge on the bottom. The ticket will look like this: 1-4 with 1-2-4-5-8 with 1-2-4-5-6-7-8. It's $40. If Orb wins, you probably don't make anything. But if he doesn't run, and Departing wins, you will be looking at a nice score.
SAM HOUSTON PICKS FOR SATURDAY:
DASHS COURAGE never got a chance to run in last; deserves another look
Look for big improvement for SPIT CURL SPECIAL in start No. 2
CARTEL PIE looks well spotted to break through here
CC JO JOs LEAVING plunges in class and fits well here
RUNAWAY BROOKE had trouble in last; price play
SILVEN was close against better in last and could surprise here
HEZA MIGHTY ELLIOT can win with a repeat of last
Fastest qualifier THE KAT IN THE HAT draws a better post here than in the trials
TEJAS ENERGY B has been dominant this meet
YENOH I CAN GO lost all chance at the start last time out