For Kentucky Derby winner Orb, things are looking better than three weeks ago at the Preakness where it seemed like everything was a bust, including the post position draw.
Orb drew the first post in the days leading up to the Preakness, never the ideal starting point for any race, especially one at the distances run in the Triple Crown. While the inside position would seem to be beneficial by shortening the race by staying along the pole, it also poses the legitimate risk of getting bottled up and unable to make a final push. That’s exactly what happened to Orb when he finished fourth at Pimlico and what the horse is looking to avoid this Saturday afternoon at Belmont. Orb is slotted fifth and in much better position to run in Belmont's field of 14.
“I just didn’t want to get down on the inside where maybe we might get stuck around the first turn, like we sort of did in the Preakness. I said middle, and that’s pretty much the middle,” Orb’s trainer Shug McGaughey said after learning of post on Wednesday.
“I think, on paper, there is going to be a bit of a pace, so he’ll be able to kind of drop out of it and dictate what he wants to do. If there isn’t, and they’re going in :49 and some change, then he can be laying up there. I just hope he has some place to go when the time comes.”
This race is shaping up well for Orb, who calls Belmont Park his home. His pace and stamina are ideally suited for this race, as is his familiarity with the wide track he will run this Saturday. The 1 1/2-mile race favors a horse who likes to make a late push and Orb’s post position plus his running style is ideally matched to capture the longest race in the Triple Crown jewel.
Orb’s training ahead of the Preakness was held at Belmont and his morning workouts have been very strong, as reflected in him being the morning line favorite at 3-to-1. Preakness winner Oxbow starts from the seventh spot and owns 5-1 odds.
“Any time you have a come-from-behind horse, you’d like to see a solid pace, but it’s really going to be up to the rider,” McGaughey said. “In a 1 1/2-mile race at Belmont, [jockey Joel Rosario] is really going to have to read the race, and I think that’s what separates the top riders from some of those that aren’t. If you turn down the backside at Belmont, it’s not like turning down the backside at Churchill Downs. You’ve got a long way to go, and big open space down through there, and you better be patient. If you’re not, it’s going to get to you.”
Rosario mounted Orb at Churchill Downs for the jockey's first Triple Crown win.