Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s Orb got well acquainted with his new surroundings at Pimlico Race Course Wednesday morning.
The Kentucky Derby (G1) winner, who arrived from Belmont Park on Monday and walked the shedrow of the Preakness Stakes Barn Tuesday, made his first appearance on the racetrack at approximately 6 a.m.
The Shug McGaughey-trained 3-year-old colt prepared for a start in the 138th Preakness Stakes (G1) by jogging once around the racetrack under exercise rider Jenn Patterson while accompanied by a pony.
“Everything was really good. He turned and jogged the wrong way. He was moving really well and full of energy. He appears to be settled in back here and I’m pleased with what I see,” McGaughey told Maryland Jockey Club Publicity while his Derby winner grazed in the grassy area near the Preakness Stakes Barn.
The son of Malibu Moon followed up his early-morning activity with a visit to Pimlico’s indoor paddock, where McGaughey plans to saddle him instead of the customary Preakness saddling area on the turf course. Orb walked around the saddling area under the cover of the grandstand and stood quietly in a stall while being attended to by Patterson, whose work with the likely Preakness favorite has received high praise from McGaughey.
“Without her, we wouldn’t be here. It’s not only her riding ability, it’s her horsemanship and dedication to the whole thing,” said McGaughey, who detailed the many miles logged and hours worked by Patterson while working with Orb in Florida and Kentucky. “Nobody will know how much I appreciate her and what I think of her and her abilities. The rapport we have between each other… I think it’s a pretty remarkable relationship.”
Orb, who came to Pimlico riding a five-race winning streak, including a 2 ½-length Kentucky triumph on May 4, has amazed his trainer with his development.
“I think there’s more there. What really surprises me is how he comes out of his races, not only mentally, but physically,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “I looked at him just a second ago with the blanket off of him. Looking from behind, the sun was shining on him, and I was looking at a different horse than I saw a week ago and two weeks ago.
“His work at Belmont on Monday was something I had never seen, maybe before — the way he finished up with very little urging, if any; the way he was striding out and the way he was holding his leads. He’s sure come a long ways since the Florida Derby. I think there’s more there, but he’s got to tell us that. I can’t wait to run him on Saturday afternoon and, maybe we’ll see something special.”
A victory on Saturday would put Orb in line to become the 12th Triple Crown champion and first since Affirmed (1978) with a triumph in the Belmont Stakes (G1). McGaughey admitted that that thought has crossed him mind.
“I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said, ‘No.’ I try to block it out, but if you’re in this position, anybody would think about it. Of course, you get reminded of it quite often,” McGaughey said. “It’s a thrilling thought, but we’ve got to get by Saturday. If we get by Saturday, it’ll be quite an interesting three weeks.”