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May 18, 2013

No Triple Crown: Oxbow upsets Orb at Preakness

BALTIMORE — Oxbow put D. Wayne Lukas in the record books again with an upset of Orb in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, giving the Hall of Fame trainer his 14th win in a Triple Crown race.

Kentucky Derby winner Orb was unable to find his rhythm after breaking from the rail and never challenged in finishing fourth. The loss ended any chance of a Triple try at the Belmont Stakes in three weeks, extending the drought to 36 years since Affirmed in 1978 became the 11th horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

“I get paid to spoil dreams,” the 77-year-old Lukas said. “Unfortunately, we go over here and you can’t mail ’em in. It’s a different surface and a different time. You gotta line ’em up and win ’em.”

Lukas won his sixth Preakness to move one behind Robert Wyndham Walden for most wins in the second leg of the Triple Crown.

The victory was a long time coming for the dean of trainers. The last time he won a Triple Crown race was the 2000 Belmont with Commendable. And before that he was a regular in the winner’s circle after classic races. At one point, he ran off six in a row — from the 1994 Preakness through the 1996 Derby.

He also took a run at the Triple Crown in 1999 with Charismatic. The unsung 3-year-old won the Derby and Preakness, then broke his leg in the stretch of the Belmont but still finished third.

Oxbow, with 50-year-old jockey Gary Stevens aboard, was sent off at 15-1 odds and led from the start. Sixth in the Derby, Oxbow held on to beat Itsmyluckyday by 1 3/4 lengths. Mylute, with Rosie Napravnik bidding to become the first female to win the Preakness, was third, followed by Orb, Goldencents, Departing, Will Take Charge, Govenor Charlie and Titletown Five.

Orb’s trainer Shug McGaughey, so confident in the two weeks leading up to the race, was disappointed.

“It was a great opportunity,” the Hall of Famer said. “We were 3-5, and we finished fourth. We’ll pack it up and go home. Hats off to Wayne.”

He also recalled a brief conversation with Lukas a few days before the race.

“Just two days ago, he said to me ‘We got another one on the agenda,’” McGaughey said. “And darn if two days later he didn’t get it ... When Wayne wasn’t going good, he was still the first guy out on his pony. The guy’s a credit to racing. He’s always upbeat and optimistic.”

Orb came into the Preakness with a five-race winning streak, and many expected him to win easily to set up a 13th Triple Crown attempt since Affirmed. But it wasn’t to be on an overcast windy day at Pimlico Race Course, where 117,203 fans turned out.

Oxbow went right to the lead ahead of Goldencents and opened some daylight into the first turn. He held on throughout, with Orb running along the rail through most of the backstretch. But just as Orb and jockey Joel Rosario moved into striking position on the outside with five furlongs left, they dropped back. Rosario brought him back to the rail, but Oxbow was well on his way to victory.

Oxbow covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:57.54 and paid $32.80, $12 and $8.80. Itsmyluckyday, 15th in the Derby, returned $7.80 and $5 and Mylute paid $5.20 to show.

Lukas had three of the nine horses in the Preakness, and it was his best Derby finisher who was able to come through. Stevens, who came out of retirement this year, won the Preakness for the third time.

“It’s so special,” the jockey said. “Wayne, he supported me. Put me on my first Triple Crown winner. A lot of people were trying to get me off. He was the first guy to call me up and said ‘I’m going to have a colt for you. His name is Oxbow.’”

Lukas was tied with “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons for most Triple Crown wins before Saturday.

“I shared that record with a very special name,” Lukas said. “If I never broke it, I was proud of that. But I’m also proud to have it.”

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