Orb is home, comfortable and the pressure is off.
The Kentucky Derby winner, whose quest for a Triple Crown ceased with a fourth place finish in the Preakness Stakes, is preparing to return in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.
Three weeks can feel like an equine eternity. Prior to that second jewel at Pimlico, Orb glowed as the shining hope for the hero-seeking sport. Racing fans, starved for a Triple Crown winner since 1978, levied a hefty weight on the withers of the enigmatic bay colt. Riding a five-race win streak and buoyed by the embracement of his affable connections, Orb fit the bill so perfectly that all wanted to believe. Many did believe.
It took less than two minutes for Oxbow to stroll from gate to finish line in the Preakness. The excruciating path a toiling Orb carved from his inside post seemed to last a lifetime. For those willing him home, there wasn’t even a chance to cheer.
Orb was back to a quiet Belmont barn by noon the next day. Was it the track? Did he not like the rail position? Questions were posed that can never be answered.
Trainer Shug McGaughey mulled the idea of resting his colt until the summer season at Saratoga. Orb emerged from the Preakness in such good order and has trained so well that the Belmont Stakes seemed the right spot to attempt a rebound.
This time, Orb’s not running for history. He’s not competing to be among the glorious ghosts of the past whose names are often evoked in the frenzy of early June. No Triple Crown? No matter. Orb is out to prove he’s not yet reached his plateau.
Orb, on his home track, in front of his staunchest fans, is running a mile and a half for his own redemption.
Photo: J.J. Hysell