Monday, May 13, 2013

As Preakness Looms, Orb Surrounded by Cosmic Energy

I hesitate to say anything for fear of jinxing it (because I really would like to see horse racing have another Triple Crown winner), but there's a kind of cosmic energy surrounding Kentucky Derby winner Orb.

Of course, there are many questions to be answered when Orb runs in the Preakness on Saturday. Did he win the Derby because of the mud or in spite of it? It's supposed to be sunny and warm in Baltimore this weekend. How will that affect the race?

Typically, the Preakness field is about 14 or 15 horses, but Chris Korman of the Baltimore Sun reports that the field could be smaller — perhaps much smaller — than usual this year.

If the field is smaller, I suppose that increases the likelihood that the Derby winner also will win the Preakness — which would put him one win away from the Triple Crown, something that no horse has achieved in 35 years.

A few of the horses that have not yet been certified for the Preakness didn't run in the Derby. I don't know if they have ever run against Orb before. That could be a wild card.

This year is special. It is the 40th anniversary of Secretariat's Triple Crown, and I think, if you conducted a survey, Secretariat would be rated the #1 thoroughbred of all time.

And it would be appropriate — for a couple of reasons — if Orb wins the Triple Crown this year.

You see, Orb is the very first Kentucky Derby winner for the family of the legendary horse breeder Ogden Phipps.

Phipps could have had Secretariat. He won a coin flip (dramatized in the movie "Secretariat") that entitled him to his choice of the colts being carried by mares that had mated with Bold Ruler, a horse he inherited from his mother — and he chose the one that was not Secretariat, largely because Secretariat's mother was older than the other mare.

Now, four decades after Secretariat took the racing world by storm, a horse owned by the Phipps family has an opportunity to win the Triple Crown. If Orb can win the Preakness and the Belmont, he can remove the stigma of that coin toss.

"Dinny" Phipps, Ogden Phipps' son, says the experience has been "absolutely wonderful," which is, I suppose, what anyone would say under such circumstances.

Phipps made a remark in his conversation with the Associated Press that sounds like it could have been made by the horse breeder whose daughter wound up with Secretariat — "we love our fillies ... [w]e believe the broodmare is the most important quality of the race horse."

Perhaps that sense of respect is part of the legacy of losing Secretariat all those years ago. And perhaps Dinny Phipps wants to settle the score.

For now, though, it seems he is happy to say that he is "very, very lucky."

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