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Preakness 2013 Contenders: Preakness Week Begins

Orb rolls towards the Preakness as the favorite in the second leg of the Triple Crown, but Illinois Derby winner Departing looks to keep the Triple Crown drought alive.

Matthew Stockman

Orb co-owner Ogden Mills Phillips, via America's Best Racing

Preakness week is upon us with the second leg of the Triple Crown set to run at 6:18 pm Eastern on Saturday, May 18th at Pimlico. And whether you'll be on your couch watching on your TV, attempting to survive the Pimlico infield, or enjoying the race from some other location, this year's Preakness is shaping up to be a compelling event.

The video production crew at America's Best Racing are once again providing an excellent look behind the scenes at the people, horses and preparation for Saturday's race. In addition to the video from Departing's final work (see the FanShot on the front page), they sat down to talk with Ogden Mills Phipps, co-owner of Orb (see video on the right), as well as a conversation with Walker Hancock from Claiborne Farm on Departing and the connection between the Illinois Derby and Kentucky Derby winners.

Like most Derby winners, Orb will dominate the conversation over the next five days as to whether he can finally "be the one" to break the Triple Crown streak. And while over three decades of history suggests Orb's quest will ultimately fall short, there's also the belief of many that one day we're bound to have a horse join the likes of Affirmed in the line of Triple Crown winners.

Orb is one of those horses that immediately following the Derby looks like a colt that could have a legit shot, should things continue to go his way. He's won on fast tracks and on slop; he's can come from well off the pace or sit a little closer if the factions are slow, he's trained by a man with the experience and talent to prepare a big horse for a big race (if they are ready), and he's actually bred to run the Classic distance. (I won't write that Orb is bred to run a mile and a half because that's not a distance anyone really breeds for in the U.S. today; but in comparison to his rivals, I would think Orb would have a good chance to run well at 12 furlongs.)

Oh, and Orb gets Joel Rosario in the irons, and he's just printing money right now.

So a combination of factors make Orb an attractive prospect to go where no horse has gone since 1978, yet the odds are still stacked against him. One of the biggest challengers to Orb in the Preakness will come in the form of the Illinois Derby winner, Departing.

Walker Hancock of Claiborne Farm, via America's Best Racing

Departing, a three-year-old gelding trained by Al Stall, Jr., is bred and owned by none other than Claiborne Farm (see the video interview on right with Walker Hancock), setting up a possible Preakness challenge between two giants of American horse racing: Claiborne and Janney/Phipps.

Some Triple Crown years are filled with many unknowns within the human connections: journeyman jockeys, and relatively obscure trainers and owners. But not 2013. The big names lined up read like a who's who of American racing: McGaughey, Claiborne, Rosario, Janney/Phipps; heck, the female line of Orb traces back to the dam of Ruffian. And while at the end of the day it's the horses on the track will decide the fate of the 2013 Triple Crown season and not the ghosts of days gone by, the stories surrounding this year's Triple Crown provide a compelling back drop.