Joel Rosario rides Orb during the 139th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Louisville. AP
By Chris Chase
Prediction, neigh, declaration: Kentucky Derby winner Orb will become the first horse in 35 years to win the Triple Crown.
This fearless call has nothing to do with gait, stamina, closing speeds, pace, track conditions, race length or any of the dozen other actual horse racing factors used by handicappers. It all comes down to one simple fact: Orb has a name that sounds like a Triple Crown winner.
All 11 winners of horse racing's elusive goal share the same trait: Their names are powerful. The first winner was Sir Barton in 1919. He was followed by Gallant Fox in 1930. Royalty and gallantry set the tone. How would a horse named after a Sunday newspaper insert (Super Saver, 2010 Derby winner) ever expect to join that list?
Consider the following names:
Last five Triple Crown winners
Seattle Slew (1977)
Evocative, right? (Come to think of it, "Evocative" would be a great name for a horse.) Now look at another list.
Horses in past decade to win Derby and Preakness Stakes
I'll Have Another (2012)
Big Brown (2008)
Smarty Jones (2004)
Funny Cide (2003)
Those sound like failed NBC sitcom pilots, not history-making racehorses. There was literally no way Funny Cide or Smarty Jones was going to win the Triple Crown. It'd be like someone named Connor or Brad becoming pope.
Orb has that certain je ne sais quoi. He will win the Preakness and clinch the Triple Crown next month at Belmont. And we all should have seen it coming. Names equal power in thoroughbred racing. What, you were expecting Charming Kitten to win at Churchill Downs?