LOUISVILLE – As his Hall of Fame trainer tended to media obligations and the staff around him packed up the barn to ship out to New York, Kentucky Derby hero Orb was delivering another winning performance less than 24 hours after his classic triumph.
Looking not the least bit taxed after giving his trainer, jockey and owners their first Derby victories, Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s homebred Orb walked the shedrow Sunday morning and held court for several admirers before shipping to Belmont Park where he will prepare for the Preakness Stakes on May 18.
The son of Malibu Moon dutifully accepted mints, treats and bits of hays while posing kindly for children and adults alike wanting a closer look at the colt already being pegged as a prime Triple Crown candidate.
Of the 18 sophomores Orb bested during his 2 1/2 length Kentucky Derby win Saturday night – his fifth consecutive victory and fourth win in 2013 – only Mylute (5th), Oxbow (6th), Will Take Charge (8th), Itsmyluckyday (15th) and Goldencents (17th) – are considered candidates to challenge the bay colt in the Preakness.
On the list of new shooters for the Preakness are Illinois Derby winner Departing, Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, Southwest runner-up Fear the Kitten and allowance winner Bellarmine. Orb, Oxbow, Will Take Charge, Goldencents and Departing are regarded as likely starters with Itsmyluckyday, Mylute, Govenor Charlie, Bellarmine and Fear the Kitten as possible.
As trainer Shug McGaughey reflected on Orb’s sweeping triumph in the 1 1/4-miles test and the sustained burst of acceleration that brought it on, the same confidence that radiated from the Lexington native leading up to the Derby bubbled up in discussing his charge’s prospects for the Preakness and beyond.
“He continually impresses me with what he does and how he races. I think there is maybe even more there than what we’re getting,” said McGaughey, who saddled his first Derby winner in his more than 30-year career. “The maturity he showed yesterday with everything he did; to the paddock, to the post-parade to the way he raced was kind of amazing to me.
“I’m excited. I don’t really know what I got. I know what I got now, I’ve got the Derby winner but…I’m looking forward to running him two weeks from now.”
As one of the most respected members of his profession, McGaughey inspired heartfelt congratulations for practically every trainer on the backstretch. His multiple Grade I winning charge is inspiring a new wave of wariness from his potential challengers.
In terms of his tactical ability, the way he finished up in the Derby and his bloodlines, there doesn’t appear to any obvious holes to be exploited in Orb’s form. Should he get through the 1 3/16-miles Preakness in winning fashion, he will be running right out of his stall once the final leg, the 1 1/2-miles Belmont Stakes, rolls around.
“He’s got Triple Crown talent written all over him,” said Doug O’Neill, trainer of Goldencents. “I think if you’re going to beat him, Baltimore would be the place. Belmont would be his home and with his style it sure looks like he’ll be ultra tough there.”
Having saddled I’ll Have Another to victory in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, O’Neill was seeking to become the first trainer since Bob Baffert (1997-98) to win back-to-back editions of the race.
After rating off quick fractions, Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents faded to 17th. With no other excuse to be found, O’Neill is chalking that effort up to the son of Into Mischief not handling the sloppy track.
“We’re still scratching our heads at how the race unfolded,” O’Neill said. “Just didn’t think he enjoyed the kickback and the slop and I think we’re all in agreement that (jockey) Kevin (Krigger) did a great job…once he realized it wasn’t his day took it easy on him.
“With the shorter distance (of the Preakness), we would take the approach of come and get us, so I think it would be more to his liking there.”
Golden Soul, who put in an outstanding run to finish second at odds of 34-to-1, and third-place finisher Revolutionary both are slated to skip the Preakness and train up to the Belmont.
“The way he galloped out, I wished he’d have had a clear path so he could have shown what he could do,” said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Revolutionary.
Golden Soul wasn’t even part of the Derby field until last Monday when several defections came down but trainer Dallas Stewart felt the added distance was what the chestnut colt needed.
“We sat down and talked about it and probably the Belmont would be the right thing,” Stewart said. “I watched (the Derby horses) all train and I thought that he was training as good or better than most. There was one that was training as good, and that was the winner.”
Revolutionary was one of five entrants Pletcher had in the Derby field in addition to Charming Kitten (9th), Overanalyze (11th), Palace Malice (12th) and Verrazano (14th).
None of the five will run back in the Preakness with Overanalyze also being pointed for the Belmont. Verrazano, who suffered first loss in five starts, did emerge with a gash on his left hock.
“It isn’t that serious and I don’t think it was the reason for why he ran the way he did, but it was just indicative of what kind of race it was,” Pletcher said. “The ones that win it usually put themselves in a great position to do so. Orb certainly did that yesterday.”