Ten Questions That Don't Need Answering

You can attempt to actually answer these questions if you wish, but they’re meant to be rhetorical questions merely designed to inspire thought.

1--When was the last time each of the first three finishers of the Preakness went into the race with 10 or more career starts?

You’d probably have to go back a number of years to find the answer. The point of the question is that it’s good to see seasoned horses with a solid foundation competing in and performing well in the classics once again. Nowadays, we’re so used to seeing lightly raced horses with little or no 2-year-old experience and only two or three starts at 3, there is something satisfying about watching battle-tested horses bounce out of the Derby in great shape and run huge in the Preakness.

2—What was more surprising, Palace Malice going to the front in :45 1/5 and 1:09 4/5 in the Derby or Goldencents not going to the front in :48 3/5 and 1:13 1/5 in the Preakness?

Both completely turned the Derby and Preakness upside down. What helped Orb in the Derby hurt him in the Preakness. What hurt Oxbow in the Derby helped him in the Preakness. Making snap decisions and knowing when to take the initiative is essential in these big races, where pre-race strategy often disappears quickly, and that’s when you want a Hall of Fame rider like Gary Stevens. If you present Stevens with a gift, like the one he was given in the Preakness, be prepared for him to say “Thank you,” and then hit you over the head with it.

3—Why make a big deal about the Preakness time of 1:57 2/5 being the slowest since 1961 when the Pimlico Special was run in 1:58 3/5, the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan in 1:52 3/5, and a 1 1/16-mile allowance race won by the stakes-placed Code West in 1:46 3/5?

The track obviously was very slow on Friday and Saturday in distance races (why?), and Oxbow’s final three-sixteenths in :19 2/5 was pretty solid. And runner-up Itsmyluckyday and third-place finisher Mylute came home faster than that, so they were running pretty good at the end. The slow time didn’t prevent Oxbow from earning a 106 Beyer.

4—Could it be that the unsung hero of the Preakness was Cee’s Song, a winner of only one of her 18 career starts who died in her sleep in 2011 at age 25?

All Cee’s Song has accomplished is having produced two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner  and Santa Anita Handicap winner Tiznow; Breeders’ Cup Classic, Santa Anita Handicap, and Hollywood Gold Cup runner-up Budroyale, a $50,000 claim; and the dams of Preakness winner Oxbow and Haskell Invitational winner and Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter. Here is a former $40,000 claimer who earned only $82,000 as a racehorse responsible for four horses who earned a combined $11 million. And Oxbow and Paynter aren’t through yet.

5—This is a four-part question: Should Joel Rosario have eased Orb off the rail and into the 3- or 4-path early on when there was no one even close to him? Once Will Take Charge came up on his outside passing the sixteenth pole, he was all but committed to the inside, which was said by opposing jockeys to be “extremely” deep. Part Two is, even if the track was that much slower on the rail, would it cause an odds-on favorite like Orb, who actually did ease out off the rail, to back out of it so early in the race and so quickly and let longshot Titletown Five, who was inside him, outrun him to the half-mile pole? Part Three: Is it possible that Orb simply isn’t as effective running inside horses? And Part Four: Did Orb work too fast (:47) five days before the race?

Perhaps the correct answer is none of the above. We’ll never know for sure, but it is quite possible that Orb simply had a bad day. If Orb had flattened out in the stretch, then maybe you could blame his defeat on being on the inside. But he was done too early to use that as a definitive reason. Deep rail or not, he’s too good a horse not to last a lot longer than that. If he didn’t like being inside or between horses, then why was he able to find another run late, splitting Departing and Goldencents in the final sixteenth to salvage a fourth-place finish when it looked like he was a cinch to finish sixth? The bottom line is, there is no bottom line. In Rosario’s defense, whether he should have eased out early or not, he, like Stevens, at least took the initiative and put his horse in contention after sensing the slow pace. Why the colt didn’t go on is anyone’s guess. As for his work, I’ve heard opposing views from two trainers. Itsmyluckyday turned in an almost identical work as Orb’s one day earlier and he ran a big race. Both Orb and Itsmyluckyday certainly did it easily enough, so, once again, who knows?

6—Can Palace Malice bounce back in the Belmont off his suicide mission at Churchill Downs?

Let’s throw everyone out of the Derby and pretend it was a match race between Palace Malice and Oxbow, who got a lot of credit, and deservedly so, for being anywhere near that torrid pace and still finishing a respectable sixth.

If it were a match race, Palace Malice’s past performance line would look like this: 1-1 ¾ -- 1-5 ½ -- 1-3 ½ -- 2-½ -- 2-3 – 2-3¾. If you notice, after setting the fastest fractions in Derby history over a sloppy or muddy track, and one of the fastest fractions ever even on a fast track , he wasn’t that far behind Oxbow at the finish and lost very little ground to him from the eighth pole to the wire. The only other time they faced each other, Palace Malice finished ahead of Oxbow, out-battling him in the Risen Star Stakes, despite never having been two turns in his life and coming off only one seven-furlong allowance race in nearly seven months.

Making a major equipment change in the Derby is always a risky move, especially putting blinkers on a horse in a 19-horse cavalry charge -- a horse who has shown sprinter’s speed in his early races. Now the blinkers come off and it is pretty obvious we’ll see a more relaxed horse. Failed experiments are usually short-term, whether you stick with it or not. Remember when Flower Alley ran in the Derby with blinkers on for the first time and got caught too close to an almost identical and senseless pace set by Spanish Chestnut, who should never have even been in the race. Flower Alley continued to wear them and eventually they helped, as evidenced by his Travers victory later in the year. But, like Palace Malice, they did more harm than good in the Derby.

7—Can you remember so many jockey changes on the Derby trail in one year, whether initiated by the trainer or the jockey?

Of the nine Preakness starters, only three were ridden by the same jockey who had been on them all year. And those three jockeys were Kevin Krigger, Brian Hernandez Jr., and Martin Garcia. Not exactly the riders you would expect. In the Derby, only three of the 19 starters were ridden by the same jockey who had been on them all year.

In the Preakness, Orb (Joel Rosario) was ridden by John Velazquez two races back; Oxbow (Gary Stevens) was ridden by Mike Smith three races back; Itsmyluckyday (John Velazquez) was ridden by Elvis Trujillo in his last race; Mylute (Rosie Napravnik) was ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan two races back; Will Take Charge (Mike Smith) was ridden by Jon Court in his last race; and Titletown Five (Julien Leparoux) was ridden by Gary Stevens in his last start. These six horses have been ridden by a total of 15 jockeys this year alone. I won’t even begin to list all the jockey changes of the Derby starters.

8—What do Preakness starters Oxbow, Mylute, Will Take Charge, Govenor Charlie, and Titletown Five have in common?

Here’s a hint, it’s the same thing Derby starters Revolutionary, Palace Malice, and Java’s War have in common.

They are all sired by Breeders’ Cup winners. (Three sired by a BC Classic winner, three sired by a BC Juvenile winner, and two sired by a BC Sprint winner).

9—When was the last time an owner ran three horses in the Belmont Stakes?

Mike Repole actually has four candidates this year in Overanalyze, Unlimited Budget, Midnight Taboo, and Micromanage, all of whom have strong enough pedigrees to get the distance. If he runs three, he will equal the record set by Price McGrath, who finished first, second, and fourth in 1875. The Belmont is No. 1 on Repole’s bucket list, and you can be sure he will give it his best shot.

10—When was the last time a trainer saddled at least 10 horses in the Triple Crown…and none in the Preakness?

You’re not expecting an answer are you?


Leave a Comment:


Good questions, and especially about the surprising pace scenarios in the Derby and Preakness. Almost everybody assumed that the Derby pace would be pedestrian and the Preakness pace quick, but we never really know until the gates open.

Anyway, count me as another who drank the magical Orb juice following the Derby. Given that Shug McGaughey isn't prone to hyperbole, I figured the Preakness was a done deal. As a matter of fact, I told anybody who would listen that Orb was the next Triple Crown winner.

Which leads me to another question: Do we get dumber as we get older?

22 May 2013 7:49 PM
Mister Frisky

The answer to question 4,about Cee's Song.Is it safe to  say she has achieved blue hen status?Thanks Steve.

22 May 2013 8:34 PM
Panty Raid

Hey Steve

    When was the last time NONE of the preakness contenders did NOT have a workout on the pimlico track??????Could you do a story on this and what Pimlico/Stronach needs to do to enhance the second leg of the TC-Most say it is a dump and all agree it needs some major renovations.Which Stronach says is in the works now that they have 112 million to work with for both tracks but I heard Ceasers won a bid to upgrade Rosecroft to a casino......

22 May 2013 8:45 PM

You leave a lot of food for thought with these questions, Steve.  I have decided it was a bad day for Orb but I know he will redeem himself.

22 May 2013 8:50 PM
Ted from LA


Great question. I can't speak for everyone, but I know Dr. Drunkinbum and I have.  D Wayne?

22 May 2013 9:29 PM

Another question springs to mind:

If a horse's connections decline to sacrifice their own chances to set the race up for the closer you bet on, are they cheating?

22 May 2013 9:43 PM

Great questions Steve.  I've been all over question 5 in "Ox Tale."  Yes I think Rosario should have put Orb wide early.  Orb went to the outside in the Florida Derby and the KY Derby, he was pinned or boxed in and out of his running style in the Preakness.  Some are more versatile and can rate or stalk, maybe Orb is not that versatile and they thought he was.  I would not have tried to change or mess with his running style and certainly not in the 2nd leg of the triple crown on a weird and unusually deep track.  Yes Rosario put him in contention but in the wrong place and did not jump at that brief opening he got.  No matter how I toss it the Oxbow Incident for Orb was all about the ride.

The musical jockey thing is ridiculous to me.  How can they really get to know the horses that way?

Goldencents may be like Thirsty, runs better at home and not when travelling out of state.  He is a long way from Kansas (CA), Toto. I give him credit for trying though.

Ok so if Repole is running 3 in the Belmont and I am assuming Todd trains most of them, and Rev and Verrazano and Palace are in it along with the supposed fillies, then how many horses will trainer Todd Pletcher have in the Belmont and who will be on their backs????

22 May 2013 10:01 PM

Steve, you are a walking, talking, living, and breathing Equine Encyclopedia (I think I spell that correctly) of Knowledge.  Let's test that knowledge

Besides the rhetorical answer to Question #1, what is the actual answer to Question #1.

This inquiring mind wants to know and she's too damn lazy to look it up herself.

22 May 2013 11:16 PM

I stick to my hunch that Orb just did not like being inside horses, and the rail was a bad place to be anyway, as confirmed by others who carried their mounts away from that area.  Orb's re-engaging at the finish to get up for 4th I think answers the question pretty well. It was his decision, and had JR gone to the outside (as Orb had done in every previous win), I believe Orb would have lived up to his pre-race works and powered up with a winning effort.  Time will tell, and it will be interesting to see how his record plays out the rest of the year. No matter who is on him in the future -- and I hope it is Joel -- I believe we can rest assured that he will not be placed on the rail inside horses. Zenyatta in all 19 of her wins, raced on the outside, circling horses, with one lone exception:  in her 15th win, the Santa Margarita in March 2010, first race after the 2009 BC Classic, she was inside, and instead of going to the outside, Mike took her down on the rail, where she split horses and went on to win the race by open lengths.  Point being, it would have been prudent to stick to what Orb did best and not try something different with him until he had a lot more races under his belt.  JMHO

23 May 2013 12:13 AM
Little Bill

I've been on P Malice for the Derby at first PDF glance. I thought the blinkers decision was odd because his running style was already suitable. Except for finishing.

The first thing I noticed on race day was those are not the blinks he trained in. That may be common place, I don't know. The training blinks were black. I can't distinguish cup size from the replays. The main difference was color and I know they see yellows an greens. Just wondering.

23 May 2013 12:24 AM

Well on #2, Mr Lucas was right experience was big factor, Krigger got a lesson on how to ride a speed horse from Mr Stevens, if O'Neil comes east again leave Krigger home, derby and Preakness bad rides, The reason Mr Stevens is in hall of fame and Krigger just another jockey

23 May 2013 2:08 AM

After watching horse races around the world, for over fourtty years, since a wee toddler I have found that luck is the big dterminator, more than anything else. You either have it, don't have it, or you make it yourself. Gary Stevens, is a lucky guy.

23 May 2013 3:12 AM

You think Coldfacts is beavering away on all the answers?

23 May 2013 5:17 AM

I have to defend Orb cause too many are being fair weather friends. Did the inside rail hurt him? No question. He obviously does not like the pack. JR should have let them all go by &taken him immediately outside. I firmly believe he would have outrun the lot and won.His finish makes my point.

I recall another horse that liked running outside. To the point where he always started last. This was Secretariat.Ron Turcotte let him run his way ..

Before EVERYONE gets all in a dither, I am not comparing the two, except in this small way.

But I do think Orb could have been a TC winner.

Certainly he 's better than Oxbow. I feel he was the best horse in the race.

I 'm sticking with him till he (or if he) proves me wrong. Losing a race doesn't make him a loser.

23 May 2013 8:52 AM

Why the heck does a racehorse in either of these Triple Crown races deserve a 100+ BRIS?  I am not being a smart aleck, I really want a reason.  We have changed our training to sprint (type) training, sold of our top broodmares 30 yrs ago, and not brought on routers and classic distances.  The rest of the world has by-passed us. Worlds Best do not include us hardly ever, anymore.

23 May 2013 9:29 AM
Stellar Jayne

Steve - Great history and facts, tantalizing questions!  I remember reading that McGaughy's strategy for the Preakness was to run Orb in back of the pack and in the middle.  Why that plan was changed is any one's guess and it is now history.

I was happy Itsmyluckyday came in second, I would have liked to see him win.

The Belmont will be anyone's race.  Best advice - if you are a bettor - follow your intuition.  The experts have been off the mark too many times.

23 May 2013 10:23 AM
Pedigree Ann

Steve - While I agree with you that I would not have run Spanish Chestnut in the Derby had he been mine, he had won sufficient moneys in 3yo graded stakes races to be included.  His win in the San Rafael (G2-8f) and third in the Santa Catalina (G2-8.5f) qualified him.

His speed-and-fade in the Lane's End (G2-9f) could have been blamed on the muddy track, and a similar run in the Blue Grass (G1-9f) could be blamed on a bump at the start. (I wouldn't have done so, but the connections want to believe.)

The owner (Tabor and partner) and trainer must have hoped that his sire, the staying racer Horse Chestnut, would help him overcome the sprinting dam and her family. Nope, mummy's boy.

23 May 2013 10:29 AM
Steve Haskin

some replies from the other blog I wasn't able to get to right away--

JuWong, thanks, but Oxbow could never take me to the poor house. I'm already there :)

Terri V, thanks so much, it was very nice meeting you. I appreciate the kind words.

El Kabong, they did add a lot of sand to the track, and Mr. Lukas was not too happy about it, because he said the track was perfect on Tuesday. But as it turned out, the track was just right for Oxbow :)

23 May 2013 10:32 AM
Pedigree Ann

Saddlemaster -

That is why our classic winners often have what are considered to be less than gilt-edged pedigrees - they have regional or unfamiliar foreign names in them. And also why homebreds, who are not bred for sale, have been prominent of late.

Oxbow, for instance, is out of a full sister to Tiznow, Calbreds both, by a regional sire from a damline with unfashionable sires.  

23 May 2013 10:39 AM


Your right about Big Red, except for the Belmont, he started from the rail and quickly moved up to meet Sham who was on the outside, and the rest is history.


23 May 2013 10:43 AM
Steve Haskin

Pedigree Ann, Coolmore had Spanish Chestnut with Patrick Biancone and Bandini with Pletcher that year. Biancone told me he did not want to run Spanish Chestnut, because he was strictly a miler, but Pletcher had talked Coolmore into running him to kill off Bellamy Road. He not only killed off Bellamy road, he also killed off Bandini, who was injured in the race, and Pletcher's other horse Flower Alley, who had blinkers on. Both got caught up in that torrid pace Spanish Chestnut set, setting it up for late closer Giacomo.

23 May 2013 11:08 AM

So much for Teflon Todd being such a "great trainer" ... Always a good move to pull an equipment change for the Big Race. And your last comment on how his "strategy" blew up in his face. I always remember Quality Road's absolute melt down before the 2009 BC Classic. Don't you think a little more schooling, er..."training" might have helped that situation?

He is so over-rated.

I think the old fox, Lucas just pulled off a great hoax, because all those jocks expected Titletown Five to be a part of the pace...

23 May 2013 11:39 AM

Steve H. not only makes us laugh, he makes us think.  Steve's mind is one of the most interesting parts of reading about horseracing.

23 May 2013 11:42 AM
Rusty Weisner

Fugue for Tinhorns,

My big play Derby day was an Orb/Palace Malice exacta.  Maybe this will work the second time.  I would like to see Palace Malice aiming at and chasing down Oxbow in the Belmont like he did Rydilluc in the Bluegrass.  Is he running?  I will await anyone's notes about his training and, certainly, his equipment.

23 May 2013 11:43 AM
Rusty Weisner

"I think the old fox, Lukas just pulled off a great hoax, because all those jocks expected Titletown Five to be a part of the pace..."

That is a great observation.

23 May 2013 11:45 AM
Rusty Weisner

Steve Haskin,

"Remember when Flower Alley ran in the Derby with blinkers on for the time and got caught too close to an almost identical and senseless pace set by Spanish Chestnut, who should never have even been in the race."

Before betting Palace Malice I was nervously asking around if anyone knew any horses offhand who had run in the Derby with first-time blinkers.  I should have asked you.

23 May 2013 11:50 AM
Love 'em all

Question #6.

Match race - I'd pick Oxbow any day over Palace Malice.  Oxbow comes across as a professional racehorse ... not a circus horse. Just my two cents.

Re:  Risen Star - Palace Malice won by a nose.  Had Oxbow's neck been as along as PM's, he would've been third in that race.  Just sayin' ....


23 May 2013 12:10 PM
Pedigree Ann

Steve - was it well known at the time that SC was a rabbit for Bandini (who was also too close to the lead, anyway)? I wanted no part of either - I bet on Alex as the best horse. Right conclusion, wrong race.

Another horse who did NOT belong in that Derby was Going Wild. I remember how in the Wood Memorial, in which he was favored, he stopped at the half-mile pole as though he had been pole-axed. A couple of weeks later he did the same thing at Keeneland in the Lexington. That was a horse with a problem, one that needed time off and a thorough medical exam.

23 May 2013 12:24 PM


Right. And he took the lead

And never looked back!


23 May 2013 12:57 PM

If Joel Rosario deserves due praise for the KD win, then he deserves appropriate criticism for his ride in the Preakness.  The horse should not have been on the rail, because it was a bad place to be that day, but also because the horse himself is not comfortable there.  Rosario may very well have cost Orb the win.  That said, the really great ones seem to find a way to prevail...

23 May 2013 1:20 PM

Mr.  Haskin,

“Can Palace Malice bounce back in the Belmont off his suicide mission at Churchill Downs?"

After Bodemiester completed the Preakness I told a colleague who was a big fan of the colt that he was ‘DONE’. I specified that he would never race again. My colleague said I was crazy.  How could a colt with such little foundation run his heart out in two races covering 19.5F in a span of 14 day and not expected to become damage goods?

I can state without reservation that Palace Malice will not rebound in the Belmont and is unlikely to win another race. It has nothing to do with the suicidal pace he set in the Derby.

His connections  subjected him to a series of races within a span that was guaranteed to destroy even the most willing of thoroughbred.  

Palace malice was required to contest three races covering 28F at 3 different tracks on three different surfaces in a span of 35 days. That equate to 9 1/3F every 11.66 days. These were not races contested by cheap claimers but instead graded staked horses. In the Bluegrass that he contested 14 days after his LA Derby effort, he was tiring rapidly forcing him to change leads in deep stretch. Despite this reality, he was affixed with blinkers and placed in the 10F Kentucky Derby 21 days later. He was very mulish at CD and who could blame him as he must have figured out he was being prepared to use his tired legs yet again.

I was appalled that his owners and trainer made such a decision. It is now a safe bet that the colt is now damage goods. The question should not be whether he can rebound to win the Belmont but rather can he rebound at all?

23 May 2013 1:44 PM

So many interesting questions. So many unanswerable questions will never be answered.

But, here's a question:

Why was the rail so deep and tiring for the Preakness?

answer: It was supposed to be a set-up for Orb to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. This would have been the best result for racing, if Orb had won. Typically Orb would have raced wide, which it turns out(somehow?) was the best place to be in the Preakness. If there had been legitmate pace as one would have expected , what with Goldencents and Titletown Five and even Oxbow, then those would have typically run down inside on what was the worse place to be on Preakness day, and would/should have tired and set-up the race for Orb. I guess nobody told Rosario, who in my opinion strangled any run Orb had, out of him. And he never took the typical outside path for Orb. If the track people are going to play with the surface to affect the outcome then they should let the jockey know too, so he can guide his horse to the best part of the track. Of course if what I'm saying is true, then the whole thing stinks of corruption! The only thing I can say about the Preakness is that it stunk.

23 May 2013 1:54 PM

 Rosario gave as good of ride as possible having drawn the rail.  After watching the head-on of the race from the Pimlico feed, it would have been foolish for Rosario to drop Orb back at the start to last and take him to the outside of horses going into the first turn as some have suggested. The significant loss of ground would have left Orb with zero chance of winning.  Down the backstretch, Rosario never once had a chance to get to the outside because there was always a horse to his outside.  When Orb moved to the leader aproaching the far turn, he had plenty of room to establish a striking position before inexplicably backing out on his own doing.  And even though Orb got up to finish 4th he was just passing exhausted horses in the stretch.  Orb was 9 lengths behind Oxbow at stretch call, and 9 lengths behind at the finish. Rosario gave this horse every chance to win, but it wasn't Orbs day.

 I myself, had picked Orb to win the Preakness and Belmont, but I was wrong. He is a very nice colt, but simply not good enough to join the likes of Affirmed, Assault, Omaha......

23 May 2013 2:10 PM
Steve Haskin

You're very kind, Agnes, thank you.

Pedigree Ann, Biancone took the heat for running Spanish Chestnut, with everyone thinking he just wanted to be part of the show. But he was pretty upset before the Derby that they were running the horse, so no one really knew that he actually was a rabbit for a horse from a different stable.

One thing from that Derby that no one ever knew about was Afleet Alex suffering a lung infection (a "2" on a scale of 1-5). No one ever mentioned it because he had a bad lung infection in the Rebel and ran horribly, and Tim Ritchie was criticized for running him back in the Arkansas Derby, in which he romped. He didnt want to use that excuse again and open up that can of worms. But the truth is, the colt suffered a recurrence in the Derby, although not quite as bad, but it sure meant the difference between winning and losing. Alex was 5 lengths better than those horses, and still only got beat a length. He always bounced back from setbacks and we saw what he did in the Preakness and Belmont. He was truly a remarkable horse.

23 May 2013 2:15 PM
Donut Jimmy


I don't think most of this is all or nothing. (Except for having a 2013 Triple Crown winner. That's the thing about the TC it is ALWAYS all or nothing.)

Orb - I think that the rail was a huge factor in how he ran. He was on the worst part of the track, and he hated being inside other horses. The fact that he did come on again when he got outside, speaks very well of him. I think he is a very good horse, and could even turn out to be a great one. But for now he failed a major test. Great performances are those where you overcome things you don't favor, and he did not.

Rosario - If he had it to do over again, he would undoubtedly do things differently. But he did recognize what was going on with the pace up front. It was no one's fault he drew the rail, and he had no reason to assume his horse wouldn't run inside the others until the horse didn't. While watching I wanted him to come outside, because from thousands of miles away, I thought he hated the rail. Rosario made reasonable decisions, they just did not work out.

The work - Personally, I doubt it was a factor. He did it too easily.

23 May 2013 2:25 PM
Donut Jimmy

Predict suggests that the rail was intentionally made deep to favor Orb.

That does not make a lot of sense to me. They KNEW Orb had drawn the rail. They knew that other riders would try to keep Orb down on that rail. If they made it deep for Orb's sake, they are not very bright.

Besides, the riders generally knew the rail was deep. Was it an accident that Stevens kept Oxbow off the rail when he had clear access to it?

23 May 2013 2:32 PM
Rusty Weisner


Maybe in the Pletcher barn it's opposite world.  The stars treated with kid gloves seem to have a lot of physical troubles; maybe the the afterthought, the one put through the grueling schedule will come out fine.  I hope so, as I liked Palace Malice before and like the prospect of his odds in the Belmont (I can't believe the odds Oxbow got, by the way).  But I'll remember your words and will remember to tell you were right if you're right.

I think you were right about Verrazano.

23 May 2013 2:40 PM
Rusty Weisner


"Of course if what I'm saying is true, then the whole thing stinks of corruption!"

In his book for the novice on the basic principles of handicapping, "Picking Winners", Andrew Beyer has a very funny chapter titled "Larceny".  The idea is that professional handicapper is supposed to factor it in.  Not being a professional handicapper, or even a denizen of the track any more, I come here to keep an ear out for dope like this.  

I'll buy your theory, with one reservation:  why didn't they alter their plan when Orb got the 1 post?

23 May 2013 3:34 PM
Bill Two

Not really surprising that Pletcher didn't run any of his Derby horses back in the Preakness. Look at his winning percentage with horses coming back after 2 weeks rest and you'll understand his reluctance to do it.  We all know, however, how deadly he is with layoff horses.  Expect him to make some noise in the Belmont. { Incidentally, Andy Beyer authored a column on this very subject a week or so ago in the DRF.}

23 May 2013 3:41 PM
Sam Santschi

Rosie named on Code West...odds to drop alot.  Darn.  A true longshot deserves an under the radar Belmont Park jockey like, Maragh.  

23 May 2013 3:45 PM
Soldier Course


Glad we've had a chance to reflect on Afleet Alex in your recent columns. Yes, he was truly remarkable in the 2005 TC season. I saw him in the Derby. He deserves so much credit in continuing on in the Preakness and Belmont, with no TC chance, great sportsmanship. And his Preakness! I call it The Freakness. I can still hear Charlsie Cantey and Tom Hammond talking about the replay when Afleet Alex almost went to his knees. Roundhouse whip, Scrappy T, all that still ringing in my ears.

Orb. Listen to Shug's interview after the Preakness. In his professional yet understated way, I think he let us know what went wrong.

23 May 2013 4:13 PM
Bill Two

Soldier Course, funny thing about that Preakness. At that point, which jockey - Rose or Dominguez - would you think was destined for stardom?  Funny thing about how things turn out....

23 May 2013 4:33 PM
Soldier Course

Orb likely for Belmont. Hope Shug puts JV up, to redeem Orb like he did Union Rags last year.

23 May 2013 4:47 PM

A lightly raced colt will have the best shot at winning what has become a myth(winning the TC)

Just like in Tennis and Golf winning the triple crown is just something to be discussed and written about.With the state of the art in US breeding and drug use it aint going to happen.

The turnaround of all this human greed will take a generation to reverse and I dont think it will happen.

On a side note I read Oxbow got a 106 Beyer and yet his time for the race I read somewhere was the slowest since the 60s.

23 May 2013 5:25 PM

Wow, Steve I thought I knew everything there was to know about Afleet Alex, but I did not know he had a recurring lung infection in the Derby!  I knew about the one he had in the Rebel.  Wow, I could stand at Gainesway and give a guided tour about Alex myself but this I did not know.  That makes him all the more closer to having been a Triple Crown winner.  Lung infection and all he still got up for 3rd a length away from Giacomo in the Derby.  He is my favorite thoroughbred of all time bar none.  There was something so special about him.  Like you said when you drove down to Del. you expected to "see a halo around the colt's head."  Thank you Steve for telling us this about Alex's Derby.  And Tim Ritchie seemed to have to take a lot of undue criticism the whole way, about running him back in the Arkansas Derby, in which Alex romped, and also about the twice a day training regimen.  Turns out Tim Ritchie knew quite well what he was doing and what he had in Alex.  Isn't it a shame that Tim has not been on the tc trail that much since.  I would like to see him get another great horse.  Alex is an amazing animal, quite amazing and I am hoping he passes this great athleticism along to an offspring soon.  Makes you wonder if Alex would have won that Derby had it not been for the lung infection.  The first time I saw him in the flesh was in the Belmont of 2005.  I swear he did not turn a hair or flinch a muscle in the post parade, walked straight, focused straight ahead.  Pinpoint and Reverberate and others were fidgeting and restless coming out.  And speaking of that Belmont Jeremy timed Alex's ride to the second perfectly, and if I am not mistaken cut him across the field right away, I think Rosario should watch those tapes.  We don't know what post Orb would be in but the timing at Big Sandy, Orb's home court, is key.

23 May 2013 7:13 PM


Bite your tongue. Secretariat never did and never would spit the bit if he wasn't in his favorite position.

But this can be greenness. I think if I had a two-in-training now who made me see roses I'd start him in the fall and put him through his conditions on a circuit with few superstars and a deep track. He'd have a chance to get used to the various shapes his race might take and absorb the vital importance of the finish line.

The point system makes this possible now. You don't have to hunt 2-year-old graded earnings. If it saves some promising youngsters and nothing more it will have been worth doing.

23 May 2013 8:36 PM
Karen in Texas

Rusty Weisner,

Were you asking if Palace Malice is running in the Belmont? Yes, he is supposed to run--Mike Smith to ride again, but no blinkers.


23 May 2013 10:55 PM

@predict- the deep, tiring inside lane at Pimlico has been around for awhile, it's nothing new but they usually have the track very fast for the Big Day. No one wants their big race run slow and over those two days, it was painful to watch the races run in quicksand. The outside was better but it was still silly slow. Most likely it was out of their control. There also can be a pronounced inside bias on the turf course especially for horses running near the lead. Its a symptom of a track that is poor quality and/or poorly maintained.

23 May 2013 11:13 PM

WOW Steve regarding Spanish Chestnut and the whole situation.

I am not a Pletcher fan and now I have even less respect for him.

More so shame on the owners of Spanish Chestnut.

Afleet Alex was my pick in the Derby that year that was the first I heard regarding his lung infection. What a shame.

Steve as always you rock..

24 May 2013 6:10 AM

I think there will be THREE different winners of the TC races this year proving that this is ANOTHER unspectacular season for a dominant 3 yo in May and June of his 3yo campaign.

I hope 14 run and both Orb and Oxbow are in the field.

24 May 2013 6:26 AM
Pedigree Ann

These lung infections can be insidious and can only show symptoms after the lungs have been stressed, like running in a race.

Another instance - this winter, my daughter adopted a new cat to replace her late, lamented Siamese. Cat checked out fine with the vet at the rescue group and our own vet. But she had some gingivitis so we opted to get her teeth cleaned, which required putting her under anesthesia. Then it all went ka-blooey.

She stopped eating, lost 2.5 lbs (from an 8lb start), getting weaker all the time. X-rays showed a serious, long-standing lung infection. Now she had acted like a normal cat before the teeth-cleaning, so we would have had no reason to think something like this was going on.

Thankfully, we got the right treatment for her and the cat is doing well now. As is my daughter, who was facing losing two beloved cats within a couple of months of one another. Bullet dodged there.

24 May 2013 10:53 AM
Steve Haskin

Johnny, I'm just saying what Biancone told me before the Derby.

24 May 2013 12:02 PM

Steve you have never given anyone on this board a reason not to trust your words.

However it went down Spanish Chestnut is the one who paid the price.

Either way what a shame.

As always thank for the great work.

24 May 2013 1:04 PM

Another excellent article, Steve.  I'm having a hard time understanding all the mudslinging people are doing at Joel Rosario right now.  He went overnight from being hailed as the "Best Jockey in America" to "Bum" on the basis of ONE race.  Orb went from "Unbeatable Superhorse" in the minds of some, especially East Coast fans, to "Average in a Mediocre Crop of Horses".  Both descriptions are incredibly harsh and, in my opinion, unwarranted, short-sighted and flat out wrong.  My take on the Orb's loss in the Preakness is it was just not Orb's day.  It happens to most horses at some point in their careers.  Even Secretariat, Seabiscuit, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Sunday Silence and Spectacular Bid all had a bad day in their careers.  Race fans often act and speak as if they believe horses are nothing more than robots.  Horses are not robots - they are flesh and blood.  And, as such, are going to have days when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  They are asked to "go" and they can't "go", even though they want to.  It happens.  No one or nothing in particular is to blame for it in Orb's case. Maybe Orb didn't like the track that day, didn't like racing in a group of horses, didn't have much gas left in his tank.  Who knows?  Orb's bad day just happened to have occurred during a Triple Crown race, that's all.  It doesn't make him a bad horse or even an "average" horse.  It doesn't make Joel Rosario a "bum" either.  It's time to forgive and forget people, and extend the olive branch to both of them.  If you're really a true Orb fan, you will always support him and love him, no matter the result in any race.  If you are really a Joel Rosario fan, you will continue to be his fan and you will not dump hot coals on his head simply because he couldn't deliver a winner in one race for you.  I'm always surprised by fair-weather fans and how quickly they turn on someone and how easily they can persuade others to follow their disloyalty.  I think both Orb and Joel Rosario deserve better than the disrespect they have been shown post-Preakness Stakes.

24 May 2013 1:23 PM

How about that Gary Stevens?  And the all-heart Oxbow?  And D. Wayne Lukas?  I just LOVED the results of the 2013 Preakness Stakes!  Wow!!  Fabulous win by them.  The "Gary Stevens Factor" is a very real thing for me. I am a HUGE, long-time fan of Gary Stevens.  Gary is responsible for a lot of huge wins for me in my life, and was the catalyst in many exotics wins for me for many years, starting with Thunder Gulch's win (coupled with Tejano Run in the Exacta) in the 1995 Kentucky Derby.  Gary has always been my "go-to" jockey, and he has come through for me more times than I can count.  I believe in loyalty.  Gary Stevens earned my loyalty 18 years ago.  I was just a kid when I won with Gary on Thunder Gulch, but that loyalty thing was a trait in me even then.  I've supported Gary all throughout his comeback this year.  I've been supporting Oxbow all year long, too.  Oxbow has heart and he has tenacity - which, as you all know, are traits I absolutely adore in a horse.  Oxbow tries his hardest for you, he never gives up!  Oxbow has had the most atrocious luck this year, yet he continues to give you his all every single race.  Oxbow was definitely due for some good racing luck to happen to him and it finally DID!  Yay!  I kept loyal to Oxbow every race he was in, knowing his tough work ethic would shine through some day soon and he would finally win a big one!  There are few people happier than I am to see this little scrapper win the Preakness Stakes!  The stars finally aligned for Oxbow the day Gary Stevens was made his pilot.  Gary Stevens being placed as his jockey always spelled Oxbow's lucky charm to me because Gary Stevens & D. Wayne Lukas have always been a powerhouse combination together.  I expected them to win the 2013 Kentucky Derby together, they won the 2013 Preakness together instead.  No matter all the complaining, squealing and disrespect from some racing fans after the Preakness, Oxbow's name is now forever in the record books for future generations to see and admire.  Good for Oxbow!  Good for Gary Stevens!  Good for D. Wayne Lukas!  Good for Calumet Farm!  For me, this bow to racing history has been wonderful to watch.  

I'm totally proud of Lucky (i.e. Itsmyluckyday) and Mylute, too!  I stayed loyal to the horses I had played in the Kentucky Derby (which were Orb, Oxbow, Lucky, Revolutionary, Goldencents, Mylute and Palace Malice) and played those that were running in the Preakness (Oxbow, Lucky, Mylute, Orb and Goldencents) right back again, singled and in exotics (I did not have Orb as a single, though.  I rarely play chalks and 3/5 was just way too short of an odd for my taste).  Lucky ran his heart out in the Preakness (he was fabulous), and Mylute was motoring like a freight train in the back stretch (coming from 9th to 3rd in a thrilling power move), stoutly closing into a pace that proved to be way too much for everyone else in the race to handle besides Itsmyluckyday.  Mylute rocked in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, as did Rosie Napravnik.  Rosie's star is on a steep ascendant.  It's going to be fun watching her win Classic races very soon. It was a beautiful sight seeing Oxbow, Lucky and Mylute flying past everyone in the field to nab a surprising, fun Preakness Stakes.  Congratulations to all of their connections, and congratulations especially to Oxbow, Lucky and Mylute.  All three are horses who are lunch pail horses, horses who have heart, horses that are perplexingly & continually underrated by the racing public & press, and all three who had a fabulous day that they all deserved Preakness Stakes day!  I'm so proud of Oxbow, Itsmyluckyday & Mylute.  Great job, guys!

24 May 2013 2:42 PM

Thank you, Steve, for bringing up Cee's Song in your column today.  As you know, I am just fascinated by the history of horse racing.  It's never-ending and multi-faceted.  There is always so much to learn.  I find it thrilling.  The success of Cee's Song and her progeny makes the heart soar.  Here is a horse whom many fans, journalists and breeders wouldn't give a second thought to, let alone mention, but she passes on her hidden greatness on to her progeny - fabulously brave, tenacious and talented G1 & G2 champions.  That's so IMPRESSIVE, not to mention inspirational.  Her story is a knockout.  She proves you don't have to be a racing "great" yourself to be the best or to pass on greatness to future generations of you offspring.  I love stories of unheralded, everyday horses that feature boldly into the annals of racing history.  Cee's Song's story reminds me, in a small way, of Mizzen Mast having sired two Breeders' Cup champions in the same year (2012).  What are the chances of that?  Infinitesimal.  This sport and the breed that powers it never ceases to amaze me!  Horses are a very special breed.

Speaking of karma, passing on greatness & racing luck, which your article also reminded me of, Steve:  Flower Alley has seen redemption for his misfortune in the 2005 Kentucky Derby.  Flower Alley passed on all of his fabulous talent (and awesomely handsome good looks, to boot) to his son, I'll Have Another, who won the 2012 Kentucky Derby & 2012 Preakness Stakes.  IHA totally vindicated Flower Alley, winning a race Flower Alley himself so valiantly tried to win.  I wonder if the same will hold true for Palace Malice in the future?  The atrocious blinkers experiment in the 2013 Kentucky Derby that poor baby had to endure ruined Palace Malice's chance at establishing Kentucky Derby glory, just as the same kind of blinkers experiment ruined Flower Alley's attempt at Kentucky Derby glory.  Interestingly, Flower Alley & Palace Malice shared the same trainer, Todd Pletcher.  Just an observation.  Same trainer, same experiment, same result!  Fascinating!

Will, by some karmic twist of fate, a son, daughter or progeny of Palace Malice win the Kentucky Derby and gain redemption for Palace Malice the way I'll Have Another did for Flower Alley?  Hmmm.....  Only time will tell.  Wouldn't it be interesting if it did happen?  I wouldn't be surprised if it did, the stories are so parallel.  The history of this sport never fails to impress.

Everyone have a Happy Memorial Day weekend!

24 May 2013 3:35 PM
Soldier Course

I had never heard about Afleet Alex having a lung infection for the Derby. If he'd been 100%, he'd have won it. TC #12. Another remarkable thing about him: he finished all three races and won the Belmont. When was the last time that happened?

Orb. So the post positions for the Preakness were drawn three days before the race. The trainer and jockey knew they were stuck with the #1 hole, historically problematic. Can you imagine that they didn't discuss strategy during that time? Can you imagine Shug telling JR to ride Orb the way he did? Can you imagine that they didn't know that  the "what ifs" would become "what is" by late Saturday afternoon? And become "what is" they did. Talk about your zero chance of winning.

24 May 2013 4:01 PM
Plod Boy Phil

I urge anyone who did not see the opener at Pimlico on Saturday to watch the ride Rosario gave the winner. The horse, #1 Aussi Austin, was an off the pace sort going two turns on the dirt - it was the perfect opportunity for a Preakness practice run. Everything worked out perfectly for both horse and rider, as he saved ground, swung out and drew off. Assuming Shug watched the race at some point during the course of the day, he had to be happy with what he saw.

With no significant change of weather one might reasonable expect to justify a supposedly deepening rail, the connections had no justification to warrant sending Orb to get forwardly placed while moving wide,  or to grab and take far back in an attempt to circle.

Then again, I could be wrong.

24 May 2013 5:56 PM

JoyJackson21 - LOVE your posts!  Especially the one about the criticism of Orb and Joel and the "fair weather fans"!  I AGREE!!!

24 May 2013 7:20 PM

Soldier Course,

Exactly!  You have days to figure out an "exit strategy" out of the dreaded #1 hole.  You are on the Derby winner, who perhaps is a one-dimensional late closer who likes to comes from the outside, at least evidenced in most of his races, he's won 4 or 5 races I forget how many straight at that point, and you decide to stay close to the rail, like you said almost pulling a Calvin?  Perhaps Rosario gambled with Orb's versatility a little and thought Orb was omnipotent and could know how to win from anywhere but the gamble did not pay off.  When I found out Orb was in the #1 post I was going to post forget the tc he is cooked but hesitated in doing so because I too believed so strongly in Orb.  If there were a few seconds to get Orb over right after exiting the gate, wouldn't that have worked considering there were seconds of difference between Palice Malice's Derby fractions and Oxbow's Preakness fractions say by the halfway mark?  Those seconds with the slower pace could have been used differently in getting out of the rail area.  I like and respect Rosario, I am just critiquing this particular ride.  In answer to your question on Ox Tale about Zen and Orb, perhaps Zenyatta was more of a versatile multi-dimensional late closer whereby Orb is a one-dimensional late closer who prefers the outside?  


I don't know who is calling those names to Orb and Rosario but I for one love both and have been critiquing a ride and have been respectful to both.  I love Orb, he is as talented now as before he entered this Preakness, it takes nothing away from him.  As far as him having a bad day, perhaps, but the historical 1 Post contributed to it.  He is a late closer who closes from the outside and was kept near the rail area in territory unfamiliar to him.  Steve said even Rosie got out of there. Saying that a crop may be "mediocre" is not a bad thing to say, it is a comparison to crops of other years, these would look mediocre if you are comparing them to 2007's crop.  I have heard an industry insider say they could be mediocre.  You are taking it as a derogatory remark instead of a measurement of talent.  What East Coast fans are you referring to?

Did you ever think that when a horse can't go, it isn't because he cannot, it is because they are a herd animal and pack animal and when one of them takes the lead some may lack the courage to go up and challenge him?  It takes a certain amount of training and courage to get them to look the leader in the eye and go up to challenge.  I found the exact opposite on here Joy than you did, I find most folks are very supporting and respectful of Orb and Rosario and are mostly all in agreement that the rail and inside was his undoing.  Rosario should take a little professional criticism for this.

24 May 2013 7:22 PM

I'm surprised Fran hasn't weighed in with her thoughts on Afleet Alex.  I know she is a huge fan.

In my opinion, Alex is the best horse to have not won the Triple Crown. As Steve said, a truly remarkable horse.

24 May 2013 9:35 PM
cuba"s classic chef de race

Orb has a visual pattern of one fast time finish fallow by a suspect time in next race like the 9 fur.GP race in 1;51 then the FY in 1;42,1/5 then the FD in 1;50,4/5 and the big effort in the derby from post 15 in 2;02,4/5 faster then Super Saver and Smarty Jones etc while drifting out noticeable,in my opinion it was not the rail but the monster effort on a bad track then coming back in two weeks if Palace Malice is done losing ground then orb is very close to emulate big Brown and War Emblem after Running 47!! furlongs all ready this year, Palace Malice looks fresher then orb,the Belmont is going to be fan to watch.  

24 May 2013 10:05 PM

Should Joel Rosario have eased Orb off the rail and into the 3- or 4-path early on when there was no one even close to him?

yes--there was a reason why jen patterson was so upset with the draw and why shug told johnnie v to take orb wide the first time JV ever road him, when he drew the one hole in the FOY--a race orb was only entered into because shug couldn't find a N2L. shug gave that instruction even a race he didn't even expect orb to to be a factor in...

Part Two is, even if the track was that much slower on the rail, would it cause an odds-on favorite like Orb, who actually did ease out off the rail, to back out of it so early in the race and so quickly and let longshot Titletown Five, who was inside him, outrun him to the half-mile pole?

if you watch the simulcast replay, not the NBC replay, orb took back when he all but ran into oxbow's rear-end, about a second before titletownfive closed off the rail.  (NBC aired the race on a 30 second delay and clearly edited the video half way between the mile pole and the 3/4 pole--watch the two replays side-by-side, it's very obvious that the NBC version is missing part of the race along the backstretch/far turn--i think this is why some people have a very different view of what happened. some only saw the NBC feed, others of us saw the simulcast feed first).

anyway, at that point rosario quite clearly lifts from his crouch, and orb backs up quickly, which would normally be interpreted as a jockey taking back, not a horse backing up--and given what happened in the stretch, it is the only interpretation that makes sense.

Part Three: Is it possible that Orb simply isn’t as effective running inside horses?

all horse shave running styles and preferences. orb  has never liked running inside of other horses. given his come from behind style, going wide is always going to be safer than trying to weave through horses. orb's need to go wide, is not different than oxbows' need for a clear, uncontested lead (his only wins have come from clear, uncontested leads)--except that when things don't go orb's way, he still finishes at least 4th, whereas when they don't go oxbow's way, oxbow finishes 10th.

And Part Four: Did Orb work too fast (:47) five days before the race?

no, if he was tired or empty, he wouldn't have had anything left int he stretch and he wouldn't already be galloping and getting ready to work again so soon after the preakness. the track was slow and tiring on preakness day, and everyone from andy beyer to jerry brown concede that it seemed to get slower and more tiring all day long, and the deadest part of that dead track was the rail. once orb got into the stretch and was swung wide, he finished as well as could be hoped given the way the track was playing, and the ground he had lost on the far turn.

it wasn't his 47 second pre-preakness work; it was a bush-league quality track on the biggest day pimlico has all year. they should be ashamed. on big days like that, it should not be too much to ask for a fair track.

to whoever said that afleet alex was the best horse to not win the triple crown...really? not spectacular bid? i would even go so far to say the best horse to never win the triple crown was actually a horse who didn't run in it--dr. fager, who to me is the greatest and fastest dirt horse that ever lived, who would have run secretariat into the ground, not to mention have taken a pound of flesh from his neck if he dared to try to pass him...

to whoever compared oxbow to his older brother game on dude. GOD doesn't like to be held back (which probably why he blossomed under a female jockey), and sulk if he's not on the lead, but he loves a contested lead. he's a scrapper, who loves to stare other horses in the eye and put them away. oxbow...doesn't. he has only won, and really only ever finished well, when alone on the lead.

24 May 2013 11:51 PM

ps: after re-watching the race more than a dozen times, i actually think being inside was not as big a problem for orb as the the depth of the track on the inside. he was coping with it pretty well given that he hates being inside of other horses.

his race reminds me a lot of z's last race. she looked so uncomfortable and out of it all the way until they got to the stretch, and while she may never have liked the surface, she dealt with pretty well, all in all.

25 May 2013 12:01 AM
JoAnn Whiteley

And one question that does need answering! What were the two white objects that looked like paper towels that came from Joel Rosario and onto the track at the quarter pole and in the stretch? How unsafe is that ?!!! ... and why haven't I seen anything about it?

25 May 2013 8:00 AM

If Orb was so much better than the other 3yos he would have at least lost the race in a close finish to Oxbow.

2013 is another year where there will be three different winners of the TC races.

There is no reason to convince yourself or others that there is a logical reason for why Orb lost the Preakness and or Oxbow lost the KDerby.

 In 2012 there was Ill Have Another and Bodemeister.Union Rags won the Belmont in a weaker field,and of-course his followers can argue that he lost the 1st two legs because of .............

The competition today in ALL sports does not drop off significantly from the best to the worst in ANY professional arena.

You cant play drunk like Babe Ruth was rumored to do and still hit home runs.

25 May 2013 8:48 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

One thing I feel certain of is that Rosario's ride did not cost Orb the win. I don't think Orb had it that day. I personally wouldn't have worked him prior to the Preakness but I don't know if it really took anymore out of him, and that will always be an unknown factor. I just think the campaign and the tough Derby win were a bit much for Orb to recover from that quickly. The rail was a detriment but I don't think he would have won from an outside post either although it is possible and it would have increased his chances of winning. On a less tiring track I think Itsmyluckyday is the winner but hats off to Oxbow who has tremendous stamina and durability.

25 May 2013 9:43 AM
Plod Boy Phil

My final post regarding the Derby and Preakness-

In the Derby, Orb was the benefactor of the most Closer favoring Flow in at least the last 23 years.  

In the Preakness, Orb found himself off the pace of we categorize as the most Speed favoring Flow in at least the last 23 Preakness'.

The inherent danger of backing any horse in a subsequent start following a win under perfect Flow for any style is the fact that such ideal scenarios rarely repeat themselves, regardless of what the past performances may indicate.  It is the randomness of individual events that makes the notion that one can predict the future nothing more than fool's play.

While there was a general observation that Oxbow had run better than his Derby finish indicated,  there was little or no acknowledgement that Orb's Derby was deserving of a downgrade (as were the other deep closers from the Derby). That has been my point all along.  

Best of racing luck to all.

25 May 2013 11:44 AM

From a Derby high to a Preakness WTF?

I'm thrilled for Oxbow ...and Steve who always knew he had a big race in him.

But I think my boy, Orb, just had a bad day.  Rosario moved him out away from the rail, but Orb didn't fire.  That was Joel's explanation post race.  Shug, being very classy, made no excuses.

A race horse is simply not a machine.  A horse is intelligent, thoughful, tempermental, and moody.  Sometimes their Monday falls on a Saturday in a major stakes race.  Did anyone not expect Point Given to win his Derby in a year when he was clearly the best?

To Oxbow: Great run, jockey, and luck.  We always knew you had it in you.  Congratulations!

To Orb...Still luv ya, baby!  Still Anxious to see more.

As to another year without a Triple Crown?  &#^%!$@%#&*$#...Now I'm going back to bed and keep trying not to cry as I wait for next year.

But I ain't giving up this year yet as my Exacta for the Belmont remains Orb and Revolutionary.

25 May 2013 12:10 PM
Jean in Chicago

@JoAnn Whiteley--read Steve's previous post ('ox tale')--long discussion and explanation of the 'white flying things'.

25 May 2013 12:41 PM

Weather the track was LESS tiring or MORE tiring how does that equate to a Beyer speed figure of 106.In a betting strategy based on track records how is less or more tiring incorporated into the adjustments to the raw figure,and BTW does anyone know the RAW BEYER speed figure published for the 2013 Preakness?

25 May 2013 12:49 PM
Old Timer

All good questions. As others have noted, maybe Orb just did not like the fact of being boxed in or the rail or maybe he was just tired... he had won 5 in a row!

I wonder what his odds will be in the Belmont. We'll find out in two weeks.

Lastly ... 106 Beyer Preakness just shows that A. Beyer is in a fantasy land. IMHO. Of course Oxbow would finish well... he walked the first 3/4 of the race!

25 May 2013 1:07 PM
Curlin 1:53.46

Just to be clear, with this comment, I'm not hating on Orb. If he was supposed to be what everyone was making him out to be, before the Preakness, then he should have been able to overcome his supposed dislike for being on the inside. Hindsight is 20/20. Well of course the reason he lost was because he was on the inside. It's not like he didn't have ample chance to get to the outside. Bottom line is he just wasn't good enough that day. No need to justify why he didn't win.

25 May 2013 2:15 PM

you know, instead of seeing orb's preakness as regressing, it's quite possible that the only thing that allowed him to finish as well as he did that day from that position on that track, was his superiority.

had he been just an average horse, or not as good as thought, or just fool's gold, he should have, after "backing up" to 8th, have finished dozens of lengths behind with will take charge, and not with more left in the tank than departing--who was fresher and had spent most of the race on the least tiring part of the track.

tconsider that the preakness wiped mylute out--he reportedly was "gasping" as he crossed the finish line and is not going to the belmont because he is too tired and not eating well. and that golden soul, who skipped the preakness, jut missed his first planned work out after the derby, because he still hasn't recovered from it yet.

but orb is eating fine, has already begun galloping, and is on course for his pre-belmont work. that doesn't suggest an ordinary horse, one that is no better than his crop-mates, who was just too tired to win the preakness.

i don't comprehend at all those saying orb had the opportunity to go wide but that HE choose not to--last time i checked, it is the jockey who steers the horse, chooses the path, and decides when and what holes to dart through. that's kind of like saying its the boats fault for not steering away from the shoals...

steve, on a completely different note--do you think you might sometime write a little homage to mine that bird--the much-maligned "fluke," who just happens to have had the best triple crown results of any horse in the last 5 years? there are horses we love because of their talent, and then there are horses we just love--and mine that bird is one of those. he deserves some recognition for what in hindsight is proving to have been an extraordinary performance...

25 May 2013 3:59 PM

papillon; There have been plenty of great horses that missed 1 or more classic races.  It's impossible to make a case for any of them as the best horse not to win the TC when they didn't compete.  In regards to those that did compete in all 3 but failed in 1, one can certainly make a case for Spectacular Bid being the best.  However, Bid lost his Belmont by a significantly greater margin than Alex lost his Derby.  I'm aware his trainer gave him an excuse, which may have been valid, but to me he looked like a horse that didn't quite want the distance.  No question, he was a great horse and went on to do more than Alex just be virtue of competing as a 4 yr old, whereas Alex was retired at 3 due to injury.  A strong case can be made for Smarty Jones as well; bad ride in the Belmont and a few jockeys willing to ruin their colt's chances just to beat him.  I'm sure there are other deserving colts I haven't mentioned, but I'll stand by Afleet Alex.

25 May 2013 5:09 PM
Fran Loszynski

No offense to Rosaio but because of the pp1  Calvin  Borel should have rode Orb and stayed on the rail through the whole race everyone was waiting for him down the middle and spooked him. But Gary and Oxbow would have won anyway.  Oxbow had wings and Gary just let him run his race.

25 May 2013 5:16 PM
Fran Loszynski

I'd like to thank all the security guards at the Belmont ahead of time. Thank you for protecting these beautiful charges. It is a large track and the task may be tiring but we fans love our racehorses and after the Belmont their magnificance will be well worth your protection.

25 May 2013 5:57 PM

The Beyer Corp.issued a 105 to Goldie(Goldencents)now they have gone and issued their stamp of approval on Oxbow(106),lets see if it is a good stamp this time.

BTW Orbs stamp didnt turn out so well.I wonder if any betting syndicates are receiving consultation from the Beyer Corp.

25 May 2013 6:23 PM
Soldier Course


No criticism implied by this question because I respect all of Afleet Alex's connections, but I have to ask. How was he allowed to run in the Kentucky Derby if he had a lung infection?

25 May 2013 7:46 PM
Steve Haskin

Soldier Course, horses come out of races with a lung infection from the stress of a race, they dont go into the race with a lung infection, at least not that a trainer is aware of. Its when they bleed or cough coming out of the race that it is discovered.

26 May 2013 12:54 AM

Orb won his last five races preceding the Preakness by a combined 8 3/4L. This equates to an average of 1 3/4L per race. Was he been doing just enough to win or was he the only classic closer in his races? Most of the horses he has defeated surrender leads in either upper or deep stretch.  

Golden Soul and Mylute appear to be the only horses that have closed any ground on Orb during his win streak.

Despite Orb’s five race winning streak, his average winning margin did not suggest he was unbeatable.

Orb likes a lot of pace upfront and that was non-existent in the Preakness. Based on his running style, it was always likely that without this set up, his defeat would likely come at hooves of an opponent that was neither one pace nor backing up in deep stretch.  

26 May 2013 7:42 AM

Winning a Triple Crown in Horseracing in the US will definitely be put in the records that wont be matched bin.

I know a lot of you old timers on here poo poo this notion,but I firmly believe this, and I am no spring chicken.

Of course I also think that a full slate of racing as a 2yo weakends a US colts chances of winning the Kentucky Derby or completing the Triple Crown as a 3yo.Look at the top three finishers this year Orb and Revolutinary only raced in Maiden races as 2yos and Golden Soul, I think had raced 4 times total. I will go out on a limb and state that colts bred for a distance should only race once or twice as 2yos or only train as a 2yo if they are hoping to sweep the Triple Crown as opposed to precosious speed types which are the majority of colts that are bred commercially in the US.The problem with this theory right off the bat is that the owners in the game nowadays are not in this for sport but for the money,and buying well bred distance colts cost A LOT more money than they did even in the 70s or 80s.So it is natural for these business people to want a return on their investment in the 1st year of racing age 2yo.

What they are mostly hoping to do is get into the breeding part of the business because relative to investment I believe for well heeled owners this is a relatively high margin business in comparison to only owning racehorses.

26 May 2013 12:09 PM

Steve~  I love this article as it makes us think about the, "What-Ifs".

You are such an eloquent writer and your work always captivates the reader. You are my mentor!

I recently wrote an article on my blog, (Skim The Rail) on my thoughts on the Preakness Stakes.

Regarding your specific thought in  #5 --Should Joel Rosario have eased Orb off the rail and into the 3- or 4-path early on when there was no one even close to him? I believe Joel Rosorio should have taken that opportunity to go wide with Orb as the horse has done in all of his races.  He does not seem to be the type of horse that runs on the inside as he has proven in all of his races. I would love for you and your readers to check out my article titled , "Orb's Kryptonite" I am an aspiring Blogger and an avid horse racing fan. I love Blood Horse Magazine, I am a loyal follower of your work, and any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

I strive to be a great Writer like you someday!

Thank you so much for your insight!



26 May 2013 1:11 PM

To Racingfan:

Thank you very much.  I've read a lot of blogs (racing blogs and sports blogs) after the Derby, before the Preakness, and after the Preakness - and the posts on the blogs swung wildly from Orb is a "Superhorse" & "Unbeatable" after-Derby & pre-Preakness, to Orb is "just an average horse in a mediocre crop of horses" (and that's saying the NICE things they were saying about Orb post-Preakness).  The things being said about Joel Rosario post-Preakness were far worse and the mudslinging at him was stinging, ugly & very personal in nature.  I've never seen people flip-flop so fast against a horse & jockey the way they did against Orb & Joel Rosario.  It was so fast, it almost gave me whiplash. - LOL.  Mere MINUTES after the Preakness the vitriol against them started online.  I'm happy to see you are not one of the people doing so out there!

Thank you for your words regarding the other two posts, as well, Racingfan.  Let's both check down the road in, say, 7-10 years from now to see if Palace Malice gets his redemption in a future Kentucky Derby the same way Flower Alley received HIS redemption from I'll Have Another in last year's Kentucky Derby!

To Alex'sBigFan:

I read a lot of blogs - racing and sports blogs included.  BloodHorse.com is a superior sports blog.  The kind of insaneness that is allowed on other blogs out there does not happen here, and for that I am deeply grateful!  The posters on this blog are an intelligent group of individuals and give their opinions rationally.  The Bloodhorse.com posters have been fair in their assessments, for the most part, of the Preakness.  There has been ZERO vitriol on this site.  No nastiness at all.  

However, that is far from true on most other sports blogs.  As I said to Racingfan above, right after the Kentucky Derby Orb was anointed (fairly or not) "Superhorse That Cannot Be Beat."  "The Next Triple Crown Winner".  Fans and the media were just about unanimously handing Orb the Triple Crown before the Preakness had even been run.  Joel Rosario had been anointed "Best Jockey in America" by the press, and fans followed suit in calling him that.  That went on for two weeks until the start of the Preakness.  WOW, did it ever change AFTER the Preakness!  Alarmingly so.  I have been reading these sports blogs for years now, and I've become very familiar with and know most of these people by their monikers and what they write about in their posts.  They post regularly and often, and are NEVER afraid to offer their opinions.  Most of the East Coast fans on these blogs openly identify themselves as East Coasters, or by showing a coastal bias by frequently snarking at people they assume are West Coasters, or not being able to even mention any West Coast-based horse without throwing in a nasty insult against the horse and anyone who might support that horse.  Believe me, as an ardent supporter of I'll Have Another last year - who was a West Coast horse - I know of which I speak.  The nastiness by opposing fans never stopped, in fact, it still continues to a certain extent.  

I've observed these same people this year in their fairly new & vocal support of Orb, then their rapid defection of Orb & Joel Rosario after the Preakness.  And with their rapid defection also came the hateful name-calling, the vitriol & the almost out-of-control hysteria against Orb and his jockey.  It was galling to read, let alone listen to.  If this reaction was happening on just one blog I could say it's just those fans on that blog, but Alex, it's happening on the majority of the sports blogs.  To name the fan monikers, including the East Coast fan monikers, would be too long to list here, believe me.  The list is pretty massive.  I am appalled by the lack of loyalty to a wonderful horse who deserves better fans than the fair-weather fans he has picked up along the way this year.  The same goes for Joel Rosario - he deserves better than he has received post-Preakness.  I'm not saying not to critique, especially if it is helpful critiquing that some life lessons could be taken from.  I'm saying stop the vitriol and name-calling.  Neither Orb nor Joel Rosario deserve that just because ONE RACE went awry for whatever reason and they didn't win it.  Orb has a long future before him.  If a fan truly loves him, they will support & love Orb no matter what the results of his races are.  That's my point in my post.

As for that professional journalist who said this is a "mediocre" crop of horses, I saw the same comment and thought it was hogwash.  It's much too soon to be labeling this group of horses as "mediocre".  The same journalist was hurling that "mediocre" label at the 2011 crop of colts, and many fans unfortunately followed suit in repeating that slur ad-nauseum in endless posts on other sports blogs.  Two years later, though, the 2011 crop of colts he labeled as "mediocre" have started proving themselves to be a pretty accomplished group of horses.  The unfair "mediocre" crop label was slapped on them way too soon, and now they are proving all of their critics wrong!  All they needed was a little time to prove themselves!  Just because someone is a journalist does not mean what they say or opine is credible in any sense of the imagination.  Some journalists will do or say anything just to advance their careers.  Ethical behavior is not a prerequisite for the job, you know.  Many do or say whatever they can (ethical, substantiated or not) just to increase sales/revenue & increase their name recognition and fame within their industry.  It's our job as the sports public to not let them get away with falsely labeling/evaluating talent in a derogatory way - whether they be human athletes or equine athletes - for the sake of a snappy headline that will garner the journalist what he or she hopes will lead to a larger following.  It's far too early to be placing such a label on the 2013 crop of colts and fillies.  Most of them are very lightly raced and haven't had a chance to prove to us what they can truly do on the race track.  It's going to take a little time for this group to distinguish itself, just like it took the 2011 group of horses almost 2 years to finally distinguish themselves.  Let's not be in such a rush to write off these horses.  They are trying hard to prove themselves to us.  Let's give them some time to do it!

As for your last question, I watched the Preakness many times after the race and I think a combination of things happened in Orb's case in his not winning the race, not just one particularly reason, including Orb's shyness & dislike of running between a wall of horses surrounding him.  I've seen most of Orb's previous races, and Orb has never before displayed that he is in the least bit shy about challenging a horse on the lead, so I don't think the herd mentality argument works in his case.  Orb's been pretty bold in the past about challenging a lead horse for the lead and closing past those horses.  Preakness Day was just not Orb's day.

To Slew:

Nice post.  I agree with you!

To Jo Ann Whiteley:

As to the white objects on the track during the Preakness - the first object looked like a Frisbee, the second might have been a plastic grocery bag.  One person suggested the second object might have been jockey goggles, which is a plausible answer as well.

To Curlin:

I agree with your post, too.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

26 May 2013 6:57 PM
Fran Loszynski

Dear Soldier Course Steve is right about Alex I am sure.  I can't answer for Tim Ritchey because I m only a fan of Alex but if Tim had noticed even a hair on his mane out of place he would have scratched him. When he took Alex to Gainesway to retire he said it was like taking his son off to college. Try to deny Alex a peppermint with Tim around!

26 May 2013 10:10 PM
Pedigree Ann

Soldier Course,

Didn't you read my post about my daughter's cat? TWO vets had checked her out and she acted like a perfectly healthy cat. It was the stress of her tooth cleaning under anesthesia that uncovered the underlying condition.

27 May 2013 12:01 PM
Soldier Course

Interesting article about Sir Prize Birthday in Esther Marr's latest column. He resides at Wallkill Correctional Facility in NY as part of the TRF program, and he celebrated his 33rd birthday over the weekend. Raced over 200 times during his career. Tim Ritchey was his trainer at one point, when he was an older horse.

27 May 2013 4:00 PM

Papillon, thanks for bringing out the fact that the NBC replay was edited and was not as complete a replay of the race as the full track feed.  That clearly does make a difference in analyzing the race. I guess the only way Orb will be redeemed is to win the next couple of races -- from the outside!!!  History is full of champion horses that had quirks but were still considered great nonetheless.  I'm sure Steve can recall many more, but one of my favorite horses of all time, Round Table, hated off tracks. He still received many awards for his feats on the track and his career included many records that fell in his wake, in spite of this "defect" in his character!  

28 May 2013 9:43 AM
The Deacon

Robinm:  I normally don't want to chime in on these blogs when someone believes something to be true but your remark that Afleet Alex is in the same class as Spectacular Bid is just ridiculous. The Bid is one of the top 5 horses of all time. He still holds the world record for 10 furlongs, 1:57 4/5. Go back and take a gander at The Bid's racing resume, pretty astounding.

I loved Afleet Alex, his Preakness win was amazing. But to say he was the best horse not to win the Triple Crown is mind boggling.

In fact, I would say Point Given, Sunday Silence (Breeders Cup Classic winner as well) and Majestic Prince were better then Afleet Alex. You could also make a case for Smarty Jones and Big Brown.

Are you also saying that Afleet Alex was better then the great Northern Dancer who the Derby and Preakness but lost the Belmont Stakes. The Dancer is arguably the greatest sire is racing history.

I respect the fact that Afleet Alex was dear to you but you are just not correct......

30 May 2013 3:01 AM

Deacon; I didn't go back as far as the great Native Dancer when considering horses deserving of winning the triple crown.  I didn't have the opportunity to see him compete, but, being a racing fan, I'm well aware of his accomplishments.

I did say that those that are fans of "the Bid" can make an excellent case for him being the best not to win the TC.  And I also stated a case can be made for Smarty Jones as well.  Point Given failed miserably in the Derby and Sunday Silence was soundly beaten by a better horse in the Belmont, so personally, I don't include them in the mix for this discussion. I'm also not taking into consideration what these horses did outside of the TC series, nor am I considering truly great horse that did not compete in the series.  In writing this, I realize I should have worded my comments differently and strongly stressed "in my opinion".  Sorry if I ruffled any feathers.

30 May 2013 5:33 PM


Thank you so much for your response.  I don't have time to read the other horse blogs much so I was not aware of the Rosario/Orb bashing going on.  I'm glad to hear our BH group is an elite group of bloggers, nice to hear.  it's a great place to just hang and talk horses that is for sure and BH is great for giving it to us.  Well let's see if Orb can redeem himself in the Belmont.  Still not happy with Rosario's ride in the Preakness, but agree with you that it was a combination of being pinned in, the deep track, and not being outside.  I still think Rosario should have gambled the other way and taken Orb outside immediately out of the gate.  No one knows if that would have worked either but given his running style I would have resorted to that option, instead of trying to "pull a Calvin" and I LOVE that expression by Soldier Course!!!!!  Enjoy the Bemont Joy, hopefully I will be there attending.

30 May 2013 8:01 PM

Someone please explain to me why Todd Pletcher was not sure if Unlimited Budget could get the 1 1/2 mile in the Belmont, pointing out that the bottom of her pedigree was a question mark regarding stamina.

I have no idea who gave him this false information, because in looking at the tail female line of her pedigree, it is replete with stamina.  Mahmoud won the Epsom Derby, a 1 1/2 mile race and Princequillo was one of the greatest long distance runners of all time.

In the early 20th century four foundation broodmares left their stamp upon the breed, and Unlimited Budget has two of them in her female line, Mumtaz Mahal and Plucky Liege.

Distance will not be a problem for this filly in the Belmont.

30 May 2013 10:16 PM
The Deacon

robinm:  My comment was about Northern Dancer not Native Dancer, but I wasn't upset. I just felt you were incorrect.

When the discussion comes up about the greatest horse whoever looked through a bridle Spectaculer Bid's named is always mentioned.

Point Given had much trouble in the Derby but won the Belmont by open lengths. I feel he was better as was Sunday Silence then Afleet Alex. Easy Goer was an awesome horse, the Belmont Stakes proved that. I feel when comparing great horses one must be careful to consider all the facts. I appreciate your love for Afleet Alex, I to adored him but I always try to remain objective. I have been watching horse races since 1955, yes I date myself and I would only 8 or 9 horses took my breath away and the Bid was one of them. There has been great races and awesome performances but to measure true greatness one has to look at the horses body of work.

Example, Secretariat, Spectacular Bid, Dr. Fager, Ruffian, Damascus, Kelso, Man O War, Citation, Swaps, Seattle Slew, Affirmed just to name a few.

Again, your passion for the horse is nice to see..........

31 May 2013 3:42 AM

The Deacon & robinm,

The sad thing is we don't even know how great Afleet Alex could have become.  He retired at age 3, shortly after getting injured in training after the Belmont in 2005. How about if we classify him as the best of the modern generation set?  He can lead that group with his name right after the all time greats.  Alex is my favorite thoroughbred of all time and I am trying to be objective too.  I know his Preakness acrobatics put him in a category of one of the most amazing animals, according to a Sports Illustrated list.  Had Scrappy T run in a straight path we may be having a different discussion now, as they think Alex's injury and fracture stemmed from that incident and exacerbated afterwards.  Alex was robbed of a Haskell, or Travers, or JCGC, or BCC, etc.  He was 3 Yr. Old Champion in 2005, that he did win.  But for now, I got an email 2 days ago from the woman who is designing my Belmont hat.  She went on a tour of Gainesway Farm this week and saw my Alex, Fran's Alex, Robin's Alex, little Alex's Alex, Tim Ritchey's Alex, grazing peacefully outside!  All seems well in his world and I am thankful for that.

31 May 2013 7:52 PM
The Deacon

Alex'sBigFan: Hence your pen name.

I will stand by my blogs. One brilliant race doesn't make a horse one of the greatest of all time. Lots of good horses retire after age 3 and sometimes retiring after the Derby trail.

If winning the Triple Crown were easy, we'd have a winner most every year.

Y0u can have the last word if you like but I am done with this discussion. Trues horsemen, and I have spoken to many know the great ones. I will you this, Afleet Alex did have that one great performance, and because of it he will always be remembered.  

02 Jun 2013 6:33 PM

The Deacon,

What makes him great is not one race, Afleet Alex won the Hopeful Stakes and Sanford at age 2, then the Mountain Valley, Arkansas Derby, Preakness, and Belmont at age 3.  That's what makes him great, his consistent wins, not just the Preakness acrobatics.  Afleet Alex had many great performances, not just one!  He won the Belmont by 7 lengths.  Maybe not a Bid or a Dr. Fager or Secretariat or Slew but he's close.

03 Jun 2013 6:59 PM
The Deacon

Alex'sBigFan:  We can agree to disagree,in my humble opinion I do not think he was a great horse only a good one.

I still commend your love for him, that is what makes horse racing and drives the fans to the track.

One thing I have learned in life is never try to reason with someone who has their mind made up.

I can give 100 examples of what a great horse is and because you have incredible passion for this horse as does robinm, I do not think you would listen to my logic.

It is okay, again I admire your passion.

Good luck Saturday at the Belmont Stakes.

For what it's worth, I like Orb and Revolutionary........ :)

04 Jun 2013 3:30 AM

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