BALTIMORE — The Preakness draw was over, and trainer Shug McGaughey listed a variety of reasons why he was OK with having Kentucky Derby winner Orb starting Saturday’s race from the rail.
Then someone asked him, “If you had your choice, where would you want to be?”
Without hesitation, McGaughey responded, “The outside.”
Despite getting the inside post in Wednesday’s draw, Orb was made an even-money favorite to win the Preakness and keep alive his bid to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
“I saw it bounced around in the papers that we would be 4-5,” McGaughey said. “I am a little surprised that with him being even money, with the next shot was 5-1. That’s a pretty good spread. We’ll see what the public does. Like I always say, I wish every horse I run would be the favorite.”
The brown colt is looking for his sixth straight victory as part of the smallest Preakness field since 2007. Govenor Charlie, trained by Bob Baffert, added his name to the list Wednesday for the 13/16th-mile race.
Starting from the inside won’t help, but McGaughey reasoned it’s a lot better than getting the No. 1 post at Churchill Downs for the Derby.
“It’s not nearly the problem it would be in the Derby,” he said. “The Derby is kind of catty-cornered. You got to shove your way out of there or you get shut off down in there. It’s pretty straightforward here. There are only nine horses. There’s not going to be that kind of jockeying into the first turn. We’ll just hold our position and see how the race plays out.”
Still, the last horse to win the Preakness from the inside post was Tabasco Cat in 1994. That was the lone winner from the rail in the last 52 runnings of the race. Starting from the rail is a disadvantage because, if a horse does not get out in front from that spot, it can easily get pushed to the back of the field by the other competitors.
“He’ll get a clean break and he’ll be able to sit where he wants to sit,” McGaughey said. “If he’s good enough he’ll be able to make that run, and hopefully he gets there.”
Mylute, the second favorite at 5-1, hopes to take advantage of working out the No. 5 post.
“The draw was great. We’re in the middle and we’ve got Orb and Departing inside of us, which is great because we can watch and see what happens,” said Todd Quast, general manager of GoldMark Farm, co-owner of Mylute. “Our horse ran the same race Orb did in the Derby but was three to fourth lengths behind him. So this time, maybe if we can stay a little closer to him at the beginning, we can maybe turn the tables on him. No disrespect to him, he’s a fantastic horse, but I think our horse is pretty good too.”
Not to mention, Orb is on the rail.
“We need to make up three or four lengths, and that may be one of the factors that helps us,” Quast said.
Orb won the Derby by 2½ lengths, so he remains the horse to beat — even from the rail.
“I don’t know that the rail’s all that bad,” said Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has three horses in the race — Oxbow, Will Take Charge and Titletown Five. “Orb is still the one to beat.”
The field, from the rail, with odds in parenthesis: Orb, Goldencents (8-1), Titletown Five (30-1), Departing (6-1), Mylute (5-1), Oxbow (15-1), Will Take Charge (12-1), Govenor Charlie (12-1) and Itsmyluckyday (10-1).
Lukas was delighted with the post positions drawn by his three entrants.
“I love mine. I thought it was real good,” he said. “Oxbow for a change got inside a little bit. He’ll be forwardly placed. We shouldn’t have any trouble. I’m going to have to come up with a different excuse when we get beat.”