Right from the start, a horse trained by one not so over-the-hill Hall of Famer and ridden by another took control of the Preakness. The result: a huge upset and the end of any hopes for a Triple Crown attempt at the Belmont Stakes.
Thanks to Oxbow's wire-to-wire win Saturday over Kentucky Derby winner Orb, trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockey Gary Stevens have themselves another classic to add to their stellar resumes.
"I get paid to spoil dreams," the 77-year-old Lukas said after his record 14th win in a Triple Crown race. "Unfortunately we go over here and you can't mail `em in. It's a different surface and a different time. You gotta line `em up and win `em."
Stevens ended his retirement in January, and won his third Preakness to go along with three victories in the Derby and three in the Belmont.
Orb's loss extends the Triple Crown drought to 36 years since Affirmed became the 11th horse to sweep the races in 1978. There had been great anticipation the sport would get another Triple try just a year after I'll Have Another won the first two races but was scratched the day before the Belmont with a tendon injury.
Lukas won his sixth Preakness to move one behind Robert Wyndham Walden for most wins in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The victory was a long time coming for the dean of trainers. The last Triple Crown race he won was the 2000 Belmont with Commendable. Before that, he was a regular in the winner's circle after classic races. At one point, he ran off six in a row - from the 1994 Preakness through the 1996 Derby. He also was the first to send out five horses in one Derby, and won it with Grindstone in 1996.
The first trainer to gear his operation toward Triple Crown races, Lukas took a run at the coveted prize in 1999 with Charismatic. The unsung 3-year-old won the Derby and Preakness, but broke his leg in the stretch of the Belmont while finishing third.
Oxbow, sent off at odds of 15-1, took charge from the start out of the No. 6 post and beat Itsmyluckyday by 1 3/4 lengths. Mylute, with Rosie Napravnik bidding to become the first female to win the Preakness, was third, followed by Orb, Goldencents, Departing, Will Take Charge, Govenor Charlie and Titletown Five.
Oxbow went to the lead ahead of Goldencents and opened some daylight into the first turn. Orb, who broke slowly as expected, wound up in a cluster of horses around the turn and into the backstretch. While Oxbow was cruising along in front, Rosario tried to find room outside but found his path blocked. Orb dropped back to the inside, and perhaps frustrated without any space to run free like he did in the Derby, fell back to seventh and was never a threat in the stretch.
"The pace was slower than I anticipated," McGaughey said. "I thought maybe they would speed it up a little bit but they didn't. I thought we would close into it but it just wasn't his day. He was just never real comfortable once he got down in there."
Oxbow covered the 1 3-16 miles in a slow 1:57.54 and paid $32.80, $12 and $8.80. Itsmyluckyday, 15th in the Derby, returned $7.80 and $5 and Mylute paid $5.20 to show.
Lukas had three of the nine horses in the Preakness, and it was his best Derby finisher who was able to come through. Just like that, he broke the tie with "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons for most Triple Crown wins.
"I shared that record with a very special name," Lukas said. "If I never broke it, I was proud of that. But I'm also proud to have it."