Orb engaged Itsmyluckyday in the stretch of Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (G1) and drew clear late to post a 2 ¾-length victory in the colors of Stuart Janney III.
Trained by Shug McGaughey and ridden by John Velazquez, Orb raced in fifth during the early stages of the 1 1/8-mile fixture. He raced into contention four wide around the far turn, drew alongside Itsmyluckyday in the stretch and responded gamely to urging while edging clear in deep stretch. He covered the distance in 1:50.87. Itsmyluckyday finished second and Merit Man held third.
“It’s my dream to go to the Kentucky Derby and we’ve never tried to press to get there,” said McGaughey. “It stands on top of all of them for me and it always has. So, obviously it’s a race I’d like to have the opportunity to win.
“I have never wanted to run the wrong kind of horse because I know what the consequences would be,” he added. “We’re trying to set up to have horses that will run later on and keep going.”
Winning rider John Velazquez may have an important decision to make soon as he is also the regular rider of Verrazano who runs next weekend in the Wood Memorial (G1) for trainer Todd Pletcher. Orb appeared to get a little warm heading to the starting gate prior to the race.
“Once you get him out of the paddock and on the racetrack he’s beautiful,” Velazquez said of Orb, a son of Malibu Moon. “He doesn’t do anything wrong on the track. I like to warm him up with the pony and then jog him by myself and take my feet out of the irons. I think he just feels a little crowded in the paddock and that’s it. Once he’s on the track he’s very good.”