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The Preakness Draw

Post position doesn't matter -- that was the consensus for the 138th Preakness -- at least until Orb drew post position one, and everyone decided that that was terrible. What luck! A one in nine shot at the only result that would cause any drama, and now we have it, a horse race narrative in advance of the horse race, a perfect story of suspense and suspended celebration.

Drama is the one thing this Preakness, to this point, was lacking: Orb has been declared the even-money favorite -- likely to rise to the stages of negative investment by the time the field goes off -- and the media has in large part already moved on to wide-eyed dreaming about the possibilities of a Triple Crown. Two weeks ago, the Derby field generally regarded as undistinguished, the idea of a Triple Crown was light-years from anybody's mind. But Orb won going away, and his trainer represents the best racing has to offer, and thus we have allowed ourselves to hope. 

So, what of the post positions, and the thoughts of the connections going into the race?

"It's not what we wanted, but it's not going to win or break us," Jennifer Patterson, Orb's exercise rider, told me regarding his draw. "There's only eight other horses in the race. It's not the end of the world. We're going to be fine with it." 

Patterson actually thought that drawing the speed horses 2 and 3 might help.

"If there's speed on the outside of us, they will go, and he can do his thing and kind of stay back. And then obviously we can get around the outside like he wants to do."

At the Goldencents camp, which was roused into a manufactured applause by trainer Doug O'Neill two beats too late, jockey Kevin Krigger thought for a while before answering my question about whether his horse was underrated at 8-1 odds. 

"I don't even know what to say about the odds, to be honest, you know, but we know what we got and we're coming into this to try to get his best effort out of him. Unfortunately we didn't get his best effort in the Derby." 

Goldencents finished the Derby a disappointing 17th after wasting his energy tracking the early speed two horses to his right. He's in an identical situation here, with Titletown Five, the sprinter, going off one gate to his outside.

"We're ready to win," Krigger said. "We are."

As for Chip McGaughey, the bright-eyed son of Orb's legendary trainer, the excitement of the week was unabated.

"He's using words that normally he doesn't ever use when referring to his horses," he said of his father.

"Dad's always been a trainer and it's great to see him on this stage."

Finally, I spoke with D. Wayne Lukas, the elder statesman of the room at 77.

"I think we're better than most people think," he said. 

And I walked a bit in the jazz and the women and the cards with the names of the horses and I stepped out onto the dirt. 

Jamie Berk

This is part of a series, Dispatches from the Triple Crown. Read the initial feature, "Whispers in the Shade of Roses," hereFor additional columns and vignettes, click here

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