At The Track
---- — There are many reasons why Orb will win tomorrow’s 138th running of the Preakness Stakes; the second jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown.
He possesses the pedigree, stamina and speed, all of these are all excellent reasons why he should win.
But the real reason Orb will be get it done is because he is trained by Shug McGaughey.
While the 62-year-old McGaughey’s Triple Crown experience might not match Todd Pletcher’s or D. Wayne Lukas’, he is a throwback. His masterful touch in developing horses that thrive at two-turn distances can be seen in his lengthy list of champions and stakes winners.
Simply put, he was not voted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2004 for his prowess with sprinters.
It was a reflection of his work with such distinguished runners at a mile or more: the undefeated filly Personal Ensign, Easy Goer, Inside Information, Queena, Heavenly Prize, Lure, Vanlandingham and Seeking the Gold, to name just a few.
Speaking at Pimlico Race Course, McGaughey said, “I always said I wish I won the Derby when I was young so I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. I’m not sure that’s true now. If I had won in ‘89 with Easy Goer, I don’t know if I’d appreciate it as much as I did this past Saturday.”
McGaughey and his horse have attracted much attention this week, for good reason.
Coming off his win at Churchill Downs on May 4, Orb is in position to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
With a victory, McGaughey can add a Preakness win to his suddenly blossoming resume.
The last time he was a participant in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, Easy Goer lost to Sunday Silence by a nose in 1989, one of the best races of the decade.
In Orb’s case, there are other factors in his favor. The Derby is a grueling race. The modern thoroughbred doesn’t often bounce back in two weeks with big efforts. However, Orb’s three-year-old campaign was planned by McGaughey with the Triple Crown as the goal.
This is Orb’s race to lose. Since he is faster than his opponents and will face less traffic and ground loss this time.
Of the other horses lined up against him, Mylute and Itsmyluckyday are the best. There are always a few fresh horses that skip the Derby and point for the Preakness with Governor Charlie and Departing filling that bill. But, I don’t like either horse to upset the favorite here.
I do think Mylute will be in the mix with his fifth-place effort in the Derby. Rosie Napravnik makes her return to Maryland, where she got her start. This colt has an extremely healthy pattern with very good time between races leading up to the Derby. Mylute was a fresh horse in Kentucky, having had five weeks before each of his last two starts. If Rosie can avoid a wide trip, I expect this one to run a big race.
Weather will not be a factor so expect a fast track. This is good news for one of my other main contenders Itsmyluckyday, who battled Orb this winter in Florida.
He ran a stinker in the Louisville slop. Given the unorthodox way he got to the Derby and his non-effort being in the slop, trainer Ed Pleasa’s charge should have plenty left in the tank. He gets a huge upgrade with the switch to jockey John Velazquez.
If he can duplicate his Gulfstream form, he has a real shot to win.
Oxbow is right on the fringe, having finished sixth in the Derby. He experienced a rather uneventful trip in Kentucky and could be fresh enough to contend here. Jockey Gary Stevens retains the mount and Oxbow could upset if Orb and the others don’t fire.
I first met McGaughey back in 1989 as a young turf writer covering Easy Goer’s Triple Crown trail. Since then, he has gone on to a Hall of Fame career. He is a patient and meticulous horseman. He develops horses, not drains them.
Training horses is more art than science and McGaughey is a master.
The master’s touch was on display Monday, when Orb worked a very fast half-mile. All signs point to a fresh Orb running another stellar race with jockey Joel Rosario at the helm.
E-mail Tony Palmisano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PREAKNESS STAKES When: Saturday, 6:20 p.m. For: 3-year-olds TV: NBC Purse: $1 million Distance: 1 3/16 miles Weight: 126 lbs. PP Horse Trainer Jockey Odds 1 Orb McGaughey Rosario Even 2 Goldencents O'Neill Krigger 8-1 3 Titletown Five Lukas Leparoux 30-1 4 Departing Stall Jr. Hernandez Jr. 6-1 5 Mylute Amoss Napravnik 5-1 6 Oxbow Lukas Stevens 15-1 7 Will Take Charge Lukas Smith 12-1 8 Governor Charlie Baffert Garcia 12-1 9 Itsmyluckyday Plesa Velazquez 10-1