ELMONT, N.Y. – Through all the tumult of the past five weeks, the final leg of the 2013 Triple Crown season has in some sense come full circle to where things stood on the eve of May 4.
Trainer Todd Pletcher again has compiled a five-horse arsenal to face morning-line favorite Orb in a classic test. And the dean of the backstretch, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, is certain he can deliver a Triple Crown clinic at his distinguished age of 77.
The impact players from Kentucky Derby 139 have pretty much all returned for the 145th Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Similar as the surface story lines might be, much has changed in the undercurrent.
Redemption and validation are a couple of the themes woven throughout the 14-horse field for the Belmont, with Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow the respective poster children for each.
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The way Orb manhandled 18 other challengers during his victory in the Kentucky Derby was such that even his Hall of Fame trainer, Shug McGaughey, let his mind ponder how it would feel to be at his Belmont Park base with a Triple Crown on the line this weekend.
The acceleration that launched Orb from 16th to first on Derby Day was absent when he ended up trapped inside during his fourth-place finish behind gate-to-wire winner Oxbow in the Preakness.
For his part, McGaughey has said he is drawing a line through that outing, chalking up the defeat to a tiring inside path and the exceptionally slow pace Oxbow set.
The Belmont, which might be on a wet track, should be a definitive indicator of whether Orb — the 3-1 morning-line favorite — had an off day in the Preakness or is in the midst of regressing off a winter’s worth of leaps forward.
No trainer has won more Triple Crown races than Lukas, with Oxbow accounting for the 14th.
Of the five horses Pletcher saddled in this year’s Kentucky Derby, third-place Revolutionary was the only one to hit the board.
The 9-2 second choice on the Belmont morning line, Revolutionary is among the record quintet of starters Pletcher has, along with Overanalyze and Palace Malice (11th and 12th in the Derby, respectively); multiple graded stakes-winning filly Unlimited Budget and maiden winner Midnight Taboo.
|Belmont Stakes field|
|Entries for 1½-mile race. Post time is 3:36 p.m. PDT, Ch. 5 TV.|
|1||Frac Daddy||Alan Garcia||Ken McPeek||30-1|
|2||Freedom Child||Luis Saez||Tom Albertrani||8-1|
|3||Overanalyze||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||12-1|
|4||Giant Finish||Edgar Prado||Anthony Dutrow||30-1|
|5||Orb||Joel Rosario||Shug McGaughey||3-1|
|6||Incognito||Irad Ortiz Jr.||
|7||Oxbow||Gary Stevens||D. Wayne Lukas||5-1|
|8||Midnight Taboo||Garrett Gomez||Todd Pletcher||30-1|
|9||Revolutionary||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||9-2|
|10||Will Take Charge||Jon Court||D. Wayne Lukas||20-1|
|11||Vyjack||Julien Leparoux||Rudy Rodriguez||20-1|
|12||Palace Malice||Mike Smith||Todd Pletcher||15-1|
|13||Unlimited Budget||Rosie Napravnik||Todd Pletcher||8-1|
|14||Golden Soul||Robby Albarado||Dallas Stewart||10-1|