NEW YORK Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, is the lukewarm favorite; Oxbow, the Preakness Stakes victor, will try to beat him again; and the filly Unlimited Budget will try to upend them both Saturday in the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes.
Orb was made the 3-1 morning-line favorite and will break from the No. 5 post, Wednesday's draw determined. He hardly scared anyone away, though, as 13 rivals will take him on in the Belmont.
The reason? Orb might have looked like a world-beater on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, but he looked ordinary finishing fourth, nine lengths behind Oxbow, in the Preakness.
"I knew as soon as we lost they'd be coming out of the woodwork," Orb's trainer, Shug McGaughey, said. "There's nothing you can do about it. We hope to turn the tables here and show what a good horse we have."
Belmont oddsmaker Eric Donovan apparently was not overly impressed by Oxbow's gate-to-wire victory in Baltimore. He made the colt the 5-1 third choice and calculated that the Derby's third-place finisher, Revolutionary, at 9-2 odds, would attract more betting attention.
"All I know is that I got a colt with a lot of energy and is better prepared mentally than he was in the Preakness," Oxbow's trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, said. "We're going to be tough."
Revolutionary is one of five horses that trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle for the mile-and-a-half marathon often called the Test of a Champion. His other entries are Overanalyze (12-1), Palace Malice (15-1), Midnight Taboo (30-1) and Unlimited Budget (8-1), who is trying to become the fourth filly to capture the final leg of the Triple Crown.
"We have a strong hand," said Pletcher, who won the Belmont in 2007 with the filly Rags to Riches.
The trainer has been loath to declare Unlimited Budget in Rags to Riches' class, but he does like that she is a big, muscular female who has shown her talent in four victories in her five races. Her regular rider, Javier Castellano, will ride Revolutionary for Pletcher, allowing Unlimited Budget to be reunited with Rosie Napravnik, who won on her in March in the Fair Grounds Oaks in New Orleans.
Napravnik is fifth in the nation in purse earnings this year and became the highest-placing female rider in the history of the Derby (fifth) and the Preakness (third). Napravnik also will be the first woman to ride in all three legs of the Triple Crown in the same year.
"I think Rosie's patience suits our filly and a race like this," Pletcher said.
Among the Triple Crown newcomers, Freedom Child (8-1) is among the most intriguing, especially if rain falls over the weekend and makes the Belmont Park surface sloppy. Four weeks ago, on a wet track, the son of Malibu Moon won the Peter Pan Stakes by 13 lengths.
"It's going to be a case of catch him if you can," said Terry Finley, whose West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate co-owns Freedom Child. "He gets out there and gets in rhythm. It's the only way he knows to run."