Oxbow ruins Orb’s shot at Triple Crown
Right from the start, a horse trained by one not so over-the-hill Hall of Famer and ridden by another took control of the Preakness. The result: a huge upset and the end of any hopes for a Triple Crown attempt at the Belmont Stakes.
Thanks to Oxbow’s wire-to-wire win Saturday over Kentucky Derby winner Orb, trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockey Gary Stevens have themselves another classic to add to their stellar resumes.
“I get paid to spoil dreams,” the 77-year-old Lukas said after his record 14th win in a Triple Crown race. “Unfortunately we go over here and you can’t mail ‘em in. It’s a different surface and a different time. You gotta line ‘em up and win ‘em.”
Stevens ended his retirement in January, and won his third Preakness to go along with three victories in the Derby and three in the Belmont.
“At 50 years old, after seven years retirement, it doesn’t get any better than this,” Stevens said. “This is super, super sweet and it happened for the right guy. All the stars were aligned. It’s even more special winning it for Wayne Lukas and his team.”
Lukas put Stevens on his first Triple Crown race winner — when the rider guided the filly Winning Colors to victory in the 1988 Derby. Stevens last won a Triple Crown race in 2001, taking the Belmont aboard Point Given.
“He supported me,” Stevens said. “A lot of people were trying to get me off. He was the first guy to call me up and said ‘I’m going to have a colt for you. His name is Oxbow.’ ”
Orb was unable to find his rhythm after starting from the No. 1 post, and never challenged in finishing fourth.
“After we passed the half mile, he had a hard time keeping up and I kind of worried a little bit,” Orb’s jockey Joel Rosario said. “He just kind of steadied after that. He usually takes you there. He always runs hard, but today he never took off.”
Orb’s loss extends the Triple Crown drought to 35 years since Affirmed became the 11th horse to sweep the races in 1978. There had been great anticipation the sport would get another Triple try just a year after I’ll Have Another won the first two races but was scratched the day before the Belmont with a tendon injury.
Lukas won his sixth Preakness to move one behind Robert Wyndham Walden for most wins in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The victory was a long time coming for the dean of trainers. The last Triple Crown race he won was the 2000 Belmont with Commendable. Oxbow, sent off at odds of 15-1, took charge from the start out of the No. 6 post and beat Itsmyluckyday by 1 3/4 lengths. Mylute, with Rosie Napravnik bidding to become the first female to win the Preakness, was third, followed by Orb, Goldencents, Departing, Will Take Charge, Govenor Charlie and Titletown Five.
Orb’s trainer, Shug McGaughey, so confident in the two weeks leading up to the race, was gracious despite his disappointment.
“It was a great opportunity,” the Hall of Famer said. “We were 3-5 and we finished fourth. We’ll pack it up and go home. Hats off to Wayne.”
Orb came into the Preakness with a five-race winning streak and many expected him to win easily. But it wasn’t to be on an overcast windy day at Pimlico Race Course, where 117,203 fans turned out.