Kentucky Derby winner Orb breezed a half-mile in a seemingly effortless 47.18 seconds Monday morning at Belmont Park.
It was his final serious work for the next leg of racing’s Triple Crown, Saturday’s Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. The series concludes Saturday, June 8, with the 145th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.
With regular exercise rider Jennifer Patterson aboard and accompanied by a stable pony, Orb stepped onto the main track shortly after 6 a.m. The pair walked clockwise to the eighth pole and stood for several minutes before turning and jogging to the middle of the clubhouse turn, where Orb left the pony. Breaking off at the half-mile pole, Orb was caught by The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) clockers going the first quarter in 24.47 and galloping out five furlongs in 59.54.
Afterward, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said the move gave him “cold chills” and said he thought it was even more impressive than Orb’s final work at Churchill Downs.
I thought it was breathtaking,” said McGaughey. “For him to go off nice and relaxed in 24 and change and come home on his own the way he did, and gallop out the way he did, and drop his head and walk home, it sent cold chills up my back.”
McGaughey said he was not concerned about the quick fractions.
“No, not at all, because of the way that he did it,” he said. “If he’d been struggling or she’d been asking, [maybe]. I think it’s a tribute to the way he came out of the Derby, and to come back and be able to have a work like that and do it the way he did it…I couldn’t be more thrilled.
“I’d probably have been a little bit disappointed if he’d gone out there and gone 52, but right now I’m on cloud nine,” he added. “The way he was striding today, the way he held his leads through the lane, I thought was just…I thought it was spectacular.”
Orb, who is owned by Stuart S. Janney, III and the Phipps Stable, was to depart by van for Baltimore at 10 a.m. McGaughey said the colt would walk on Tuesday, return to the track Wednesday and gallop into Saturday’s 1 3/16-mile race.
“I don’t know whether they’ve got a special [training] time like they did at the Derby or not; if they do, he’ll go out at that time,” said McGaughey. “If not we’ll try to to get him out early like we do here, just because I like to leave him out of the stall as long as I can, as you’ve seen, so then we can get him in and get him done up and let him have a little bit of kind of relax time on his own before we feed him. But I’ll just sort of wait and see when we get down there. But he’ll ship today, all things being equal, get there we’ll give him an off day tomorrow, just walk him, and we just kind of gotta hold what we got.”
With fourth-place Derby finisher Normandy Invasion skipping the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, Orb and jockey Joel Rosario could face nine other 3-year-olds in the Preakness.
“I think it’s formidable,” said McGaughey of the prospective field. “I know that Oxbow made a good run in the Derby. I never really kind of sat down and watched it and pinned it down. The other horse [Will Take Charge] got in some trouble. You’ve got to respect Departing coming in there off his race in the Illinois Derby and being relatively fresh. My main concern is just trying to get Orb over there the best way we possibly can, and if he runs his race I think they’ll know he’s in there.”