Can Orb do it?Catching my breath following a whirlwind 78 hours in Louisville and already looking forward both to the Preakness Stakes in less than two weeks and Kentucky Derby 140 in less than a year.
One of the things I got right in my pre-race analysis was that Orb would be the most exciting "Triple Crown" prospect to emerge from the Derby with a win. That seems to be the case, as I can't imagine this kind of Triple Crown chatter had Itsmyluckyday or Giant Finish gotten the job done.
So can Orb do it? Certainly he can, and I would say at this point it's reasonable to expect it. Even a conservative 3-to-2 to win the Preakness and Belmont would make him 21-to-4 to win both (and thus the Triple Crown), but he's more likely even money in Baltimore and 3-to-5 in the Belmont for odds of 13-to-3 to sweep.
Talking about him winning a Triple Crown makes sense right now considering he has a 15%-20% to do so, but what's surprised me is the gusto of such talk with a common refrain being, "Best chance in a long time to actually do it."
Certainly Orb has a better chance than Mine That Bird or Giacomo, but I'm not sure his chance is as good as Smarty Jones or Big Brown.
In Orb's favor is his running style. He closed in the Derby behind fast fractions, but I don't think he needs to be that far back, which is good news for the type of trip that typically wins the Preakness and Belmont (Orb won't win the Preakness if he gets the same trip Animal Kingdom or Mine that Bird got).
The other factor, of course, is competition. A horse capable of running a 109 Brisnet Speed Rating (as Orb did in the Kentucky Derby) is certainly better than one whose ceiling is 100, but in terms of continuing to win that 109 is harder to sustain against 105+ types than if the 100 horses if facing 90 types.
Orb to me has the constitution and connections to handle the three races in five weeks, but his competition this year is a better group than Big Brown contended with in 2008. Smarty Jones and Street Sense, meanwhile were extraordinary talents with the unfortunate happenstance to have been born the same year as horses like Birdstone and Curlin, respectively.
The sheet below lists the previous 17 Kentucky Derby winners sorted by those I thought had the best chance of winning the Triple Crown following the roses; Smarty Jones tops the list as most likely with Giacomo at the bottom as least likely. It was a tough call putting Smarty Jones on top because the chasm between talent and competition was much bigger for Big Brown, but I do think Smarty Jones was the superior racehorse, and the excitement generated by his run bringing a record crowd to Belmont Park.