Orb will win Saturday's Kentucky Derby. We may even finally see a Triple Crown winner.
Twelve horses could capture the roses if everything went their way, about twice as many as most years. It's not a legendary class, just one that's not decimated by injuries before reaching Churchill Downs.
Mostly, it's another slow group, which has been the pattern for the past decade. There are no Secretariats or Seattle Slews among them, even if Orb manages to sweep the Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. But there are a lot of good runners.
Orb gets the nod over 30-to-1 long shot Lines of Battle with Goldencents, Louisville coach Rick Pitino's horse, third. And for those looking to make a mountain of money, there's even a legitimate 50-to-1 dark horse in Frac Daddy.
The Derby tends to favor horses that rally from the middle of the pack over the final quarter-mile, not frontrunners that typically tire in the stretch. That's the biggest reason for taking Orb over Verrazano, an undefeated Wood Memorial winner that was life-and-death to survive over a shorter 11Ú8 miles. The extra eighth-mile will see Verrazano passed by at least three runners. That said, if he runs well, Verrazano might be a serious contender in the 13Ú16-mile Preakness at Pimlico on May 18.
Orb fits the late-running profile perfectly. He has won four straight after a ragged 0-3 start, with his Florida Derby victory showing why he's worth betting on in Kentucky even as the probable 3-to-1 favorite.
Orb has led entering the stretch only once in his last four wins and passed two rivals late to run away with the Florida Derby. That's the type of stamina and stretch-running that wins at Churchill.
Lines of Battle is a very intriguing colt that won twice in Ireland and recently took the UAE Derby in Dubai. That Lines of Battle was seventh in the Breeders' Cup Turf as his lone U.S. start means nothing. The colt obviously didn't like the grass.
If Orb has legendary connections in trainer Shug McGaughey and owner Stuart Janney III, so does Lines of Battle in Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien. The stable isn't traveling to try mint juleps. Foreign horses don't often fair well in the Derby, but Lines of Battle will win a major U.S. stakes at some point.
Pitino has been golden lately with a national title and Hall of Fame selection, but he's a five-percent owner and can't give Goldencents a pep talk. After winning the Santa Anita Derby, the speedster has one chance -- steal it from the start. He may even lead for a moment entering the stretch but will stagger home third just ahead of Verrazano.
Long-shot players should love Frac Daddy, who only needs to avoid his typical poor start to score late. Passing 15 rivals in the final half-mile is hard, but $2 to win $100 is enticing, given his talent.