For most sports fans, the Preakness exists for one reason: to serve as a to-do list item for any potential Triple Crown winner. But on Saturday, Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner and potential Triple Crown challenger, couldn't break free. Oxbow won, and there will be no Triple Crown in horse racing in 2013.
Eight times in the last sixteen years, a horse has won the first two races of the Triple Crown, and eight times has fallen short. This year, Orb appeared primed for a near-certain victory, with a powerful Derby finish and steady hand Joel Rosario atop the saddle. Orb started on the rail, a difficult position to begin, and hit the quarter pole in mid-pack. Oxbow led at the first turn by two lengths. Orb broke to the outside in the back stretch, and had difficulty making headway through a thick pack. Oxbow retained the lead through virtually the entire race, and won the race going away in a time of 1:57.54.
Shortly before post time, Orb was at 3/5 odds, meaning a dollar bet would only return 60 cents. Well afterward, Itsmyluckyday came in at 8-1, Goldencents and Governor Carlie at 9-1, and Departing and Mylute at 10-1. Oxbow, ridden by Gary Stevens, was at 15-1 at the start of the race.
Oxbow was the fifth-longest shot to win in Preakness history, and paid $32.80 on a $2 bet. The exacta of Oxbow and second-place finisher Itsmyluckyday paid just over $300, the trifecta including third-place Mylute paid just over $1,000, and the superfecta with fourth-place Orb paid $1,817.80.
And so ends the Preakness Stakes, the odds for a Triple Crown, and, in all honesty, most of the nation's interest in horse racing. It's too bad, really, as horse racing is a truly fine sport to see in person.
If you've never been to a horse race before, you should go. Absolutely. The opportunity to get dressed up in finery and drink yourself into socially-acceptable disorientation* is not to be missed. You don't even need to know that there's a horse race going on to have a good time. All you need is a glass of bourbon and a hat the size of a truck tire.
*-With proper precautions. Don't drink and drive. Yahoo! Sports does not endorse illegal, immoral or stupid activities.
But for the rest of the world, watching at home, a horse race is a momentary diversion, perhaps a cause for a party but more often something we watch on Saturday night before the evening's playoff games begin. Sure, we'll watch the Kentucky Derby, because that's a national institution, and we'll watch the Belmont Stakes if there's a potential Triple Crown winner, because, you know, history. But the Preakness falls into that sporting dead zone also occupied by Pacers-Hawks playoff series, Jacksonville Jaguars home games, and any golf tournament where Tiger Woods is not in the field.
So for most Americans, it'll be 11 months and 29 days until we worry about the Preakness again. (Those actually at the event will be feeling it well into Tuesday.) And now, with no chance at a Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes loses a huge raft of casual viewers as well.
But presumably for Oxbow, Orb, and their owners, trainers and riders, the Triple Crown's third jewel lies ahead. Perhaps immortality is no longer in the equation, but a race is a race. Post time is three weeks from now.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-