What to watch for at the Preakness

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In this photo taken on Saturday, May 4, jockey Joel Rosario, third from left, celebrates as Orb crosses the finish line to win the 139th Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

 
by Richard Rosenblatt
BALTIMORE (AP) — 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:

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— 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 2½ 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.

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Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/rosenblattap
   

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