What to watch for at the Preakness

All eyes will be on Kentucky Derby winner Orb in the Preakness

Stakes on Saturday. The 3-year-old colt will take on eight

challengers in the second leg of the Triple Crown. If he wins, Orb

will attempt to become the first Triple Crown champion since

Affirmed in 1978 at the Belmont Stakes on June 8. In the Preakness,

Orb will be facing five horses he defeated in the Derby and three

who did not run in the race.

Here’s a guide to watching the race:

– INSIDE START. Orb will start from the inside, No. 1 gate. If

this was the Kentucky Derby that could be a major problem because

there would be more of a chance of getting squeezed back in the

pack. The Derby field was 19; the Preakness is nine, with a longer

run to the first turn than at Churchill Downs. However, since 1961

only one horse – Tabasco Cat in 1994 – has won from the No. 1

post.

– FIRST TURN. By the first turn, we’ll know whether Orb, under

jockey Joel Rosario, has established clear-running position. The

question is how far back he’ll settle. In the Derby, with its much

larger field, Orb dropped 18 lengths off the pace. Look for him to

be much closer as Govenor Charlie, Goldencents, Itsmyluckyday and

Titletown Five vie for the early lead.

– BACKSTRETCH: Around the turn and into the backstretch, Orb

should find a comfortable groove as the field sorts into clusters:

speed horses, midpack runners and closers. If the early pace is

fast, Orb could be farther back; if it’s slow, he could be in the

middle.

– FINAL TURN: Heading into the final turn is when Orb should be

making his move. In the Derby, Rosario waited patiently to make the

call and when he did, Orb went from 16th to the lead in the final

half-mile and won by 2 1/2 lengths.

– HEADED FOR HOME: The stretch run is anyone’s guess, but if all

goes according to form, Orb should be in the mix to win no matter

what the pace. Among proven closers in the field are Mylute,

Departing and Will Take Charge. If the sloppy track was the reason

both Goldencents and Itsmyluckday ran so poorly, then either or

both could rebound with a big race and prove hard to catch in the

lane.

Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at:

http://www.twitter.com/rosenblattap

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