Orb has already etched his name in history with a win at the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Riding toward the back of the pack for most of the event, he and Joel Rosario climbed the ladder and ended up winning the race by a full two-and-a-half lengths.
The 2013 Preakness Stakes now awaits, and Orb will be the favorite again. With a chance to win the Triple Crown still in tact and the eyes of the United States upon him, Pimlico Race Course will be the perfect chance for Orb to cement his legendary status.
It will also be a chance for him to prove he's worthy of all the high praise (on the track and off) that he's received throughout this process.
While the Kentucky Derby is the initial proving ground for the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes carry much heavier burdens for the winner of the first race. Casual fans will tell you that the Derby is the American classic, but real horse racing fans will note that the Preakness is literally the make-or-break race toward being a horse that never leaves our memory.
Peter Grier is among those who subscribe to that theory of thinking, and he notes in a piece from 2011 that the Preakness is both challenging and rewarding for Derby-winning horses because of the amount riding on the race and because it is also a proving ground for those who feel disrespected by observers who might call a Derby win "luck".
So far, Orb isn't in that group of "luck" horses.
For starters, Orb has one of the best pedigrees of any horse in this race.
With noted names like A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew and 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat in his corner, Orb has gotten press as one of the best horses (genetically, anyway) of any horse in the Derby or the Preakness Stakes.
He didn't get off to the greatest start during the race for the Kentucky Derby, waiting a full four races before finally breaking through in a maiden race by getting a win. Since then, Orb has not lost and was riding a winning streak even before he came into the Kentucky Derby.
During Derby practice, Orb stood out as one of the best horses in attendance.
Trainers, observers and reporters raved about his practice laps at Churchill Downs, and Jay Privman of DRF.com was one of many in attendance who noted that comparisons to past winners were not unheard of when talking about this Shug McGaughey horse:
Jay Privman @DRFPrivman
Orb half in 47.89 on @DRFWelsch watch, left workmate, powerhouse gallop out. Reminiscent of Barbaro, Street Sense before Derby. #KyDerby2013-4-29 12:45:58
As bets began to come in, Orb continued to hold a slight lead over Revolutionary to be the favorite at post time, and after all bets were announced Orb was indeed the track favorite for the 139th Run for the Roses.
The rest is history.
Now, he's again turning heads at Pimlico Race Course in preparation for the 2013 Preakness Stakes. Melissa Hoppert of the New York Times is among those who have observed Orb, talked to his handlers and made predictions about the upcoming weekend in Baltimore, and the general consensus is the same when Orb's name comes up—he's the horse to beat.
David Grening of DRF.com is another who spoke to McGaughey, who called Orb's Monday workout on the track "breathtaking," "spectacular" and "chills"—among other things—when describing a horse looking to make history for just the 12th time ever.
But, again, the Preakness will be a test of the best. It will provide Orb with his toughest test so far during his racing career, in large part because of Orb's post position, the size of the field and the length of the track (1 3/16 miles).
Orb drew the innermost post position (No. 1) at the draw on Wednesday.
If these two tweets were the only source of information we had about the Preakness being the ultimate Derby vindication ground, they would likely be enough to make the case for this piece. First, Grening had this stat:
David Grening @DRFGrening
Tabasco Cat (1994) only Preakness winner from the rail since 1961. #orb2013-5-15 22:12:08
Privman added this one:
Jay Privman @DRFPrivman
This is 4th time since 2000 that Preakness field numbers 9 or fewer. In prior 3, Derby winner lost. Thx @DRFMcGee #preakness #weirdtrivia2013-5-15 22:31:30
Orb must find a way to overcome the fact that post No. 1 has statistically been the worst place to be of the first eight posts since 1908. In that span, only nine winners have come from the inside, and as Grening notes, only two have come in an over 50-year span since 1961.
Additionally, the smaller field will not afford Orb the chance to hang back and make a late push. He must find a happy middle ground between pushing all-out and saving enough to sprint down the backstretch. The weather won't afford Orb the kind of advantage it did on May 4, either, as the forecast at Pimlico is expected to even out closer to a nice day (via Weather.com).
When you add it all up, Orb is in for a tough task on Saturday afternoon.
He's the favorite for a reason, though, and being an even-money horse in the early stages should tell you that many are throwing history, pressure and any other factor out the window when placing a bet for this horse to win the race.
It's not always that simple, though, and Rosario will have his hands cut out for him to help Orb accomplish the ultimate goal of keeping his Triple Crown hopes alive.
When it comes down to it, Orb will have to prove to us yet again that he's the best horse in a nine-horse field. The Preakness has crushed dreams like his before, and Pimlico will take no sorrow in swallowing up another Crown hopeful in the 138th running.
If Orb is the marquee horse we think he is, though, he'll emerge as the marquee horse we think he is, and take home his second-straight big-time race victory.
After that, the Belmont Stakes would await.
*For complete look at the 2013 Preakness field, post positions and current odds, click here.
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