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Oxbow, Orb likely to meet again in Belmont Stakes
BALTIMORE -- Another year, another Triple Crown hopeful unable to come through.
After Oxbow upset Kentucky Derby winner Orb in Saturday's Preakness to extend racing's Triple Crown drought to 36 years, the next best alternative for the Belmont Stakes is a rematch.
And, it appears one is in the making. Both trainers are giving every indication their classic-winning colts will run in the Belmont on June 8.
"You know me," Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said after Oxbow's 1 ¾-length victory over Itsmyluckyday, with 3-5 favorite Orb finishing fourth. "I like to rack them up in the big events. So, I'll probably go."
Trainer Shug McGaughey says he'd like to run Orb in the Belmont as long as the colt is doing well.
"It looks to me like he came out of the race fine. I want to see him bounce back, see his soundness, his energy level," the Hall of Fame trainer said Sunday morning.
A year ago, there was great anticipation of a Triple try after I'll Have Another won the Derby and Preakness, but the colt was scratched the day before the Belmont because of a tendon injury.
The most recent of 20 rematches between classic winners in the Belmont was two years ago, with Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness winner Shackleford hooking up — but 24-1 long shot Ruler On Ice pulled the upset.
Hours after Oxbow's win at 15-1 odds gave Lukas his record 14th Triple Crown race win — and sixth Preakness — the trainer and his colt where on the road back to Churchill Downs. Orb and McGaughey were on their way back home to Belmont Park.
If both show up for the 1 1-2-mile Belmont, a formidable lineup of challengers could be waiting. Todd Pletcher has five possible starters: Derby runners Revolutionary (third), Overanalyze (11th) and Palace Malice (12th), as well as a pair of fillies in Dreaming of Julia and Unlimited Budget.
Others likely to run include Derby runner-up Golden Soul, Mylute (fifth in the Derby, third in the Preakness), Freedom Child, Power Broker and Code West.
McGaughey was disappointed he couldn't follow up his first Derby win with his first Preakness win, but said, "Winning the Derby was my lifetime dream and we won it. I would have loved to have won yesterday and taken it to the next level."
Lukas, meanwhile, won his first Triple Crown race since 2000, when Commendable won the Belmont. Since that win, Lukas was 0-31 in 22 Triple Crown races before Saturday.
"I still enjoy doing this so much," he said. "I don't wake up every day anymore trying to prove I can train a racehorse. When you're younger, you keep trying to prove yourself. I'm very comfortable with where I'm at."
Oxbow, ridden by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, took the lead just after the start and led every step of the way. The winning time of 1:57.54 was the slowest since 1961, when Carry Back won in 1:57.60.
No matter, it gave Stevens his third Preakness win to go along with the three Derbys and three Belmonts he's won. Not bad for a guy coming back after a seven-year retirement.
"I can't say that we thought we were going to win," the 50-year Hall of Fame rider said, "but we knew we had a chance to win."
The win was a big one for Calumet Farm, too, the iconic stable being revitalized by new owner Brad Kelley. The stable that produced Triple Crown champions Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948 won its first classic since Forward Pass took the Preakness in the 1968.
''They're all special because they were with a different client," Lukas said when asked to compare his Preakness wins. "The key is to get one every once in a while for the new guy. We've got a new guy in Brad Kelley at Calumet. And to know he was watching at home and put Calumet, who we all know that name, back on the front pages of the racing publications is very special."
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