Horse Racing - Oxbow wins Preakness Stakes, Orb fourth

Oxbow, a 15-1 longshot ridden masterfully by 50-year-old Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, cruised to an easy, wire-to-wire victory in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, denying a Triple Crown bid for Kentucky Derby champion Orb.

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Jockey Gary Stevens aboard Oxbow celebrates winning the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course

The D. Wayne Lukas-trained bay bolted to the lead under cloudy skies and chilly temperatures at Pimlico Race Course and never tired, finishing 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Itsmyluckyday.

Rosie Napravnik guided Mylute to a third-place finish, while Kentucky Derby champion Orb finished fourth, tiring in the stretch and never getting into contention under Joel Rosario.

Oxbow finished sixth in the Derby two weeks ago on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs. On Saturday, Stevens steered clear of traffic in the opening furlong and never looked back.

"He didn't get a lot of respect even after his great performance in the Derby," said Stevens, who came out of retirement last year following a seven-year hiatus.

"We came back and breezed him on Monday and what you see now is exactly how he acted in his workout.

"When I hit the half-mile pole, I said, 'Are you kidding me? Is this happening?' The race was over at that point. I just walked the dog to the half-mile pole."

Orb, the 3-5 favorite who was riding a five-race winning streak, broke from the inside post in the nine-horse affair and immediately fell back to sixth. Rosario was in striking position in the stretch despite sitting in sixth but his colt never fired.

"I'm disappointed," said Orb's trainer, Shug McGaughey. "It was a great opportunity. We were 3-5 and finished fourth. This was quite a run for a couple of weeks.

"We'll pack it up and go back home (to New York) and see what kind of horse we've got down the road and figure it out from there."

The victory was Lukas's record 14th in Triple Crown races, including his sixth trip to the Preakness winner's circle.

"I got a Hall of Fame ride," Lukas said of Stevens' effort. "We can plan this thing, we can talk about it, we can talk about strategy. But once that gate is open, they have to make decisions.

"Gary made some great ones. I told him, 'If you get on the lead, get into that cruising speed and just let it happen.'"

Oxbow's triumph was the first wire-to-wire victory in the Preakness since Aloma's Ruler in 1982. The winning time for the $1 million mile-and-three-16th race was a relatively slow 1:57:54.

Stevens said he thought he would see some company in the stretch.

"I fully expected that Orb possibly departing and Will Take Charge would be making a run," he said after his third Preakness triumph and his ninth victory in the Triple Crown series.

"But I came into the stretch so loaded. I couldn't believe that no one challenged me going into the far turn, but when no one did, I said, 'I think everybody's in trouble right now.'"

Orb's fourth-place finish ensures that a Triple Crown champion will have to wait at least another year. The last horse to win the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes was Affirmed in 1978.

"When I got to the half-mile pole, he had a hard time keeping up," Rosario said of Orb. "I used my stick to try to get him going. He usually takes you there. He always runs hard.

"But today he never took off. He just steadied. Today was not his day."

The Belmont Stakes will be on June 8 at Belmont Park in New York.

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