"Orb has found his level," Al Stall Jr. said. "Now it is a matter of how high we can go."
Talk of Orb's chances at the Triple Crown — too often un-tethered to the reality that it hasn't been done since 1978 — slowed when he drew the rail in the post-position draw. McGaughey doesn't think it matters, especially with Joel Rosario riding. No rider has been as prolific this year, and his switch from riding in Southern California to being based on the East Coast created an ideal hybrid of two distinct ways of riding at the country's top tracks.
"I don't think it's a problem," Rosario said of the No. 1 post position. "I think he'll be fine. It's a long distance."
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Orb has generally preferred to swing wide, showing enough speed to easily make up for lost ground. With eight horses to his right ridden by riders who know without question there is one horse to beat, those pockets may not be there. Having to adjust his style may prevent Orb from leaving the field the way Funny Cide, Smarty Jones and Big Brown did last decade, but it also should not, in the end, be the final excuse if the Triple Crown dream floats away above the Pimlico stretch.
"From everything I've witnessed so far, something unpredictable is going to have to happen for Orb to get beat," said Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who will ride Oxbow. "But that's why they run the race. That's why it's so tough to do."
Janney and co-owner Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps run one of the few long-standing racing families, relying on homebreds patiently brought along by McGaughey. Their family has ties to horses Hollywood make movies about — Secretariat, Seabiscuit and Ruffian — but they've never won a Preakness, let alone returned to their home base of Belmont with a chance at becoming the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.
"I haven't thought too much about it," Janney said. "In racing, you might as well wait until you know for sure."
Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus contributed to this article.