Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert says that a victory by Kentucky Derby winner Orb in the May 18 Preakness Stakes and having a shot at the elusive Triple Crown would be a major boost to horse racing.
"Everybody tunes in to the second race because they want to see Orb," said Baffert, who is tied with fellow Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas for second among all-time Preakness victories with five. "Orb winning the second leg would be such a boost to horse racing."
Baffert, who will send out 12-1 morning-line shot Govenor Charlie in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness May 18, has been represented by three colts that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but failed to complete the Triple sweep in the Belmont Stakes.
The trainer with the distinctive head of white hair said that based on his experience the Preakness is the easiest of the three races to win.
"This is always the easiest," Baffert said the morning of May 17, one day after his arrival from California. "They [Derby winners] are in a zone. You really can't mess them up in two weeks. You win the Derby and your horse is peaking so you don't have to do too much. Just keep him healthy, eating, and alive.
"Then when you go for the third [Belmont Stakes], it's three weeks and that mile and half thing starts getting in your head. Then after the Preakness you also start seeing the effects [of the Derby and Preakness]. That's why I have so much respect for those 11 horses [that have won the Triple Crown]."
Although he is taking a shot at Orb with Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, Baffert said he is a fan of the Derby winner who races for breeders Stuart S. Janney III and Phipps Stable.
"Anytime a horse wins five in a row, that's a pretty good horse," the trainer said of Orb, whose win streak began with a maiden win last November. "He [Orb] has a long beautiful stride. He's a light horse so he [the jockey] can put him anywhere he wants. He has got tremendous acceleration. If it would have been a dry track [at Churchill Downs] he probably would have won by more [in the Derby].
"I think he's a really good horse."
Of his horse, a son of Midnight Lute who will be making fourth career start in the Preakness, Baffert said his charge will be competitive in Saturday's race.
"He's a fighter," Baffert said. "He will hook up … and he has a lot of grit. He is bred to be a really good horse. He's probably the best bred horse in the race. He's a little heavier horse but he has speed."