In a time when horses are babied, racing once a month, D. Wayne Lukas does it his way.
The legendary trainer won his sixth Preakness with Oxbow, a horse that has raced four times in the last nine weeks.
Still, it was not the most impressive Preakness in recent memory. In fact, the final time of 1:57 2/5 was the slowest running since 1961, when Carry Back defeated Globemaster by three-quarters of a length.
The majority of Preakness winners in the 1950s and early 1960s raced the 1 3/16-mile event in 1:57 and change. However, since Secretariat broke the stakes record (1:53) in 1973, there have been only seven winners slower than last year's clocking of 1:55 4/5, and none of them wound up in the 1:57 range.
It just goes to show what I have been writing about this entire spring: this 3-year-old crop is one of the worst in decades.
To that end, Kentucky Derby winner Orb ran a dismal fourth, beaten nine lengths. The lone possible excuse was the fact he was stuck on the rail for much of the race and the inside was not the place to be for most of the afternoon. However, Oxbow, ridden by Gary Stevens, raced in pretty much the same path (on the lead) and had no problem staying in front.
Orb just didn't have it this day, and it was very apparent as the field moved around the far turn. For all that was written about Orb's explosive move on the final turn in the Kentucky Derby (when he gobbled up horses one-by-one), the same can be said for how ineffective he was at the same spot of the race in the Preakness.
Orb dropped back from third place and two lengths off the lead after five furlongs to seventh place and eight lengths back of Oxbow approaching the top of the stretch. He actually lost more ground in the final three-sixteenths, finishing nine lengths behind the winner.
Outside of chasing Goldencents for the first 100 yards, Oxbow raced on the lead the entire way and held off Itsmyluckyday by 1 3/4 lengths for his first victory since Jan. 19. He paid $32.80 for the win and the $2 exacta came back $301.40.
This year's Preakness was somewhat reminiscent of the 2011 rendition, when Shackleford, coming off an off-the-board finish in the Derby, won the second leg of the Triple Crown at 12-1 odds. Not many folks thought the son of Forestry could get the job done when he failed at Churchill through soft fractions, but he proved them wrong.
On Saturday, Oxbow shook free of the field early through easy fractions, and the rest was history. The lone horse to close from off the pace was Mylute, who finished third rounding out a $2,061.60 trifecta.
Not much can be said for the fifth through ninth-place finishers. Goldencents (fifth) once again did not want to go to the front and faded through the stretch. Departing (sixth) also tired badly through the stretch. Will Take Charge (seventh) showed none of the form he possessed in the Kentucky Derby. Govenor Charlie (eighth) probably should not have been sent to Baltimore to begin with and Titletown Five (ninth) ran a dismal last, beaten almost 50 lengths.
QUICK PEEK AT THE BELMONT
The Belmont Stakes should be a wide-open affair with Orb, Oxbow, Revolutionary, Golden Soul, Code West and maybe Dreaming of Julia and Mylute among the possible entrants. One thing is for sure, pace will dictate the winner as it has in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
However, it is way too early to tell who will have the advantage.
In the meantime, it is interesting to note that the last time the Derby and Preakness were won by a horse beginning with the letter "O" was all the way back in 1935. That year, Omaha became the third Triple Crown winner.
This year, Belmont Park will not be the site for the 12th Triple Crown champion. Instead, an important number to key on is 2:32. That was the time it took Thunder Gulch to complete the 1 1/2 miles in 1995. It is the slowest Belmont Stakes since 1970.
Ironically, the connections for Thunder Gulch were Lukas and Stevens, the same trainer and jockey that won with Oxbow.