BALTIMORE -- The Kentucky Derby is a crazy spectacle at "The World's Most Legendary Racetrack," as Churchill Downs bills itself.
The sequel is at funky old Pimlico, the plain and simple "Home of the Preakness."
The Preakness' greatest charm is that as long as the Derby winner shows up, immortality is possible. No horse has swept the Triple Crown series since Affirmed in 1978, but Orb could have a pretty good chance.
The long-striding son of Malibu Moon developed slowly as a 2-year-old, needing four races to break his maiden. Trainer Shug McGaughey had no visions of glory, then Orb began to come around in a hurry.
"Last year, nobody knew who Orb was. On the first of January, we didn't think we'd be here," McGaughey said. "After he won (an allowance race) at Gulfstream, I didn't know exactly where we were. Then he won the Fountain of Youth, and it all changed. From the Fountain of Youth to when he won the Florida Derby, I'd never been around a horse who changed as much as he did."
Orb continued thriving in the five weeks between the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, which he dominated by 2½ lengths. He'll be odds-on to provide a rerun Saturday in the 13/16-mile Preakness, which would set up the 13th Triple Crown bid in the past 34 years. Something always went wrong, often bizarrely, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The tension before the 11/4-mile Derby can be unbearable. For the Preakness, the heat is on only the Derby winner, and Orb appears ready for another knockout performance.
It's only the third Preakness for McGaughey. He hasn't been back since 1989, when he suffered one of the worst defeats of all time in the ultimate stretch duel: Sunday Silence by a nose over Easy Goer.
"Of all the races Easy Goer lost, the Preakness is the one I think about the most," McGaughey said.
In Louisville, the vibe was that the Derby finally would have Shug's name on it. In Crabtown, the expectation is that the racing gods will pay him back for his Easy Goer anguish.
"It's just like I was at the Derby," McGaughey said. "I was quietly confident all week that Orb was going to run his race. .... I feel the same this time. Everything right now is a go."
Saddled by Bob Baffert and ridden by Joel Rosario, Fiftyshadesofhay ($6.60) used a late surge to overtake Marathon Lady and win by a neck. The winning time over 11/8 miles was 1:52.73.
Fiftyshadesofhay won the San Ysabel at Santa Anita in January before finishing second and third in two races.
Rafael Bejarano was the regular rider, but Baffert switched to Rosario for this race.
"Rosario sort of did his own thing today, but it was the right thing," Baffert said.
"It was kind of the perfect trip, but she was kind of slowing a little bit from the dirt in her face," Rosario said.
The Associated Press and wire services contributed to this report.