BALTIMORE, 05-10-13---Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Orb galloped 1 ¼ miles under exercise rider Jenn Patterson at Belmont Park Friday morning, looking the picture of a happy, healthy horse ready to take on the challenge of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18.
The Hall of Fame trainer has had trouble taking his eyes off the 3-year-old colt that provided him with his first Kentucky Derby success at Churchill Downs on May 4.
“He’s filled out so much physically. I look at him and I can’t believe what I’m seeing from last November to now,” McGaughey said. “Mentally, everything’s come together. He was a bit difficult at the gate all of his 2-year-old year and that’s all behind him. I couldn’t be more pleased with his development.”
Orb, who closed from 17th to post a dominating 2 ½-length victory in the Derby, has won five races in a row, starting with his maiden victory at Aqueduct last November. In his two most recent starts in the Kentucky Derby and the Florida Derby (G1), in particular, Orb was well in command as he crossed the finish line, leading observers to conclude that in each instance he had reserved some energy for his next race.
“I think it’s because he’s getting it done quicker than we think he is. In the Florida Derby, Johnny (Velazquez) said he got there quicker than he thought he would and he had to throttle him down. I think it was the same in the Kentucky Derby. He got to those horses quicker than he (Joel Rosario) thought he would.”
Orb is regarded as a closer, but his running style doesn’t leave him at the mercy of the early pace.
“He comes from back, but they don’t take him back. It depends on the color of the race. If it’s a fast pace, he’ll be off of it, but if it’s slow, I think he’ll actually be laying up close like he was in the Florida Derby – within four, five, six lengths,” McGaughey said. “And he’s got enough of a punch that you don’t take him out of the game plan when you do lay up close.”
Itsmyluckyday, who finished second to Orb in the Florida Derby before faltering to 15th in the Kentucky Derby, galloped at Monmouth Park Friday morning. Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., who arrived from his South Florida home base to Monmouth Thursday afternoon, supervised the morning exercise.
“He looked as good to me as he did in Kentucky (before the Derby),” Plesa said. “His gallop today was very, very well into the bit. He’s just feeling very good.”
Forecasts for weekend rains in New Jersey caused Plesa to call an audible while mapping out Itsmyluckyday’s work schedule.
“I’m hoping to work him the next couple days. We’re expecting rain up here. I was initially going to work him Sunday, but I’ve moved it up to Saturday,” Plesa said. “We’ll see what it looks like tomorrow. I can work him as late as Monday. If something happens and it’s still raining on Monday, which it could be, I don’t have to work him, but my preference would be to work him.”
Plesa said Itsmyluckyday is tentatively scheduled to ship to Pimlico on Tuesday.
Goldencents also turned in an enthusiastic gallop Friday morning at Pimlico Race Course under his jockey, Kevin Krigger. It was the first piece of serious exercise for the colt since he finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby last Saturday. He returned to the track Thursday and jogged.
Krigger is spending the two weeks between the Derby and the Preakness with trainer Doug O’Neill’s outfit at Pimlico. He is the exercise rider for all 14 of the O’Neill horses stabled at the Baltimore track and has picked up a pair of mounts on the Saturday racing program at Pimlico, but his priority is Goldencents, the Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner.
Goldencents jogged for a half-mile and appeared to be very alert and interested when Krigger asked him to pick up the pace and gallop about six furlongs.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been able to gallop him and I got what I was looking for out of him – a pretty good relaxed gallop,” Krigger said. “He stayed relaxed and that’s basically what I’m focusing on, letting him achieve the workouts that he needs, not be rank doing it and be comfortable and relaxed. I got that out of him this morning.”
Assistant trainer Jack Sisterson liked what he saw from the Into Mischief colt during the 20 minutes he was on the track Friday.
“He’s one horse that gets a lot out of his training,” Sisterson said. “We wanted to see how he would come out of the Kentucky Derby and he’s bounced out of it with high energy. He moved over the track well and Kevin was really happy with him this morning.”
Goldencents trained well at Churchill Downs but turned in a disappointing performance in the Derby, which was run over a sloppy, sealed surface. He was near the pace early, but on the run up the backstretch Krigger realized that Goldencents would not be a contender in the final quarter mile and didn’t ride him hard to the wire.
“It’s not the first race that he’s not run to expectations, but it was the Derby and a race that we all wanted to win,” Krigger said. “At the same time it was a race that we enjoyed participating in. We didn’t get the turnout that we were looking for but he came out of the Derby happy and he came out of the Derby sound and his energy level is up. It’s like he didn’t even run last week. We’re just keeping our focus. I don’t think any of us has lost any confidence. We looked back at the race and if he had gotten beaten in the stretch we would probably feel more disappointed than we do. It’s as simple as he didn’t run his race at all. We’re just drawing a line through that race and staying focused and keeping our confidence. As you can see, he’s doing the same thing. We’re all on the same page.”
Goldencents is scheduled to gallop again on Saturday and Sunday. O’Neill is flying in from California on Sunday to watch the colt breeze on Monday morning.
Krigger said that O’Neill will see a horse that has adapted well to the track.
“He looks great, is traveling great,” Krigger said. “From my first day galloping him, I’m pretty confident that we’re going to be pretty competitive in the Preakness.”
Krigger is looking to become the third African-American rider to win the Preakness and the first since 1898 when Willie Simms won aboard Sly Fox. George “Spider” Anderson captured the 1889 Preakness with Buddhist. Six African-American riders have previously ridden in the Preakness. The last was Wayne Barrett, who finished eighth in 1985 with Sparrowvon.
Illinois Derby (G3) winner Departing galloped “a spirited” 1 ½ miles in the words of trainer Al Stall Jr. on Friday morning at Churchill Downs. Owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Departing is scheduled to work Sunday morning at 8:30, walk Monday and then train the next two mornings before shipping to Pimlico on Wednesday.
GoldMark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm’s Mylute galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Friday morning. A decision on the Preakness status of the fifth-place Kentucky Derby finisher will be made in the morning.
“He trained well this morning and showed good energy. I was satisfied with what I saw and passed that on to the owners,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “After he trains in the morning, I’ll call the owners at 7 and we will make a decision on the race.”
All three of trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ Preakness hopefuls, Oxbow, Will Take Charge and Titletown Five, galloped early Friday morning at Churchill. Lukas plans to van nine horses to Pimlico on Tuesday with a 3 a.m. departure from Churchill Downs.
The Hall of Fame trainer saddled Oxbow and Will Take Charge for sixth- and eighth-place finishes, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby. Lukas was particularly impressed with Will Take Charge’s effort during a troubled journey.
“You look at the aerial view of the race, and Will Take Charge may have been running the best of all,” Lukas said. “He was moving with Orb and then he got checked twice when Verrazano ducked in and out in front of him.”
Normandy Invasion galloped at Belmont Park Friday morning for trainer Chad Brown. The Tapit colt owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, remains a candidate for the Preakness. Brown said on Sunday morning that the fourth-place finisher in the Derby - who led in the stretch - would not run back in two weeks in the Preakness. However, Brown reconsidered that stance on Monday and decided to wait until this weekend before deciding whether Normandy Invasion would be entered in the Preakness.
Govenor Charlie, Vyjack and Street Spice remained Preakness candidates Friday.