The Preakness Stakes will be decided long before the finish line, even if it's not a runaway ending.
Govenor Charlie and Goldencents figure to lead early in Saturday's second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course. They want to steal the Preakness, like so many predecessors.
But it won't be enough to deny Derby winner Orb, who will burn out Govenor Charlie and Goldencents halfway down the stretch to win comfortably by two lengths.
Unlike the Kentucky Derby, which favors mid-pack runners, and the Belmont Stakes, which lets winners come from the clouds, the Preakness is about tactical speed. The 13Ú16-mile race often goes to stalkers who cruise by with one-eighth mile remaining.
The race sets up perfectly for Orb's style. He won't be 16th early, as he was at the Derby, given it's a nine-horse field that can't shuttle him back. Drawing the No. 1 post is a mild concern, but Orb should be third most of the early running. When Govenor Charlie and Goldencents gas out in the stretch, Orb puts them away.
There's just too much early speed to run this race differently. Trainer Bob Baffert is notorious for trying to steal races, and Govenor Charlie is becoming a serious frontrunner after two straight wins. But he's still inexperienced and will knock himself out for third.
Goldencents was also a speedball when winning four of six races before losing the Derby by 49? lengths. Blame it on sloppy track conditions. I'm not a fan of small colts in big races, so Goldencents goes from second to fourth in the final one-eighth mile.
The one to watch is Mylute, whose running style varies. With former Maryland jockey Rosie Napravnik aboard, Mylute screamed to an easy victory in their first trip together before later finishing fifth in the Derby. It was that late run that says watch Mylute in the Preakness. He was flying late at Churchill Downs.
Orb is probably 6-to-5 at most, given a small field with few options. The crowd's going to crush him at the betting windows, so work on the triple. The only caveat is Orb's No. 1 post has produced one winner since 1961. Otherwise, Orb would be 4-to-5.
Orb will probably hang three lengths back for the first half of the race, move within two entering the final turn and sweep around Govenor Charlie and Goldencents with one-eighth mile left. However, Mylute will be right behind Orb with Napravnik desperately trying to win before a crowd that remembers her well as a Pimlico regular.
Orb will be tested, but he'll fire a top-10 Preakness time over the track if it's fast. If rain's a factor, Orb has already proven himself as a mudder.
The triple is Orb-Mylute-Govenor Charlie, with a $2 long shot flyer on Will Take Charge.