Courtesy of NYRA and Churchill Downs publicity departments:
Kentucky Derby winner Orb returned to the Belmont Park main track Thursday morning for the first time since his fourth-place finish in the Preakness, galloping a mile and leaving Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey happy with what he saw.
“I was pleased,” McGaughey said. “We’re taking it as it comes and not looking too far ahead. But if everything goes well, we’d like to run in the Belmont.”
Orb’s fourth place finish behind Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow halted his five-race win streak and was his first loss since breaking his maiden at Aqueduct last November.
The 145th running of the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown, is expected to attract a large field including Oxbow, currently at Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ barn at Churchill Downs. Lukas, who has won four editions of the “Test of the Champion,” also is expected to saddle Will Take Charge, seventh in the Preakness, in the 1 ½-miles Belmont.
Lukas’s victory in the Preakness was his record 14th Triple Crown win after previously being tied with “Sunny” Jim Fitzsimmons. Lukas scored his 13th Triple Crown win in the 2000 Belmont Stakes with Commendable, who won at odds of nearly 19-1.
“I think the most significant thing for me was to be in the same company with Sunny Fitzsimmons,” Lukas said Thursday. “I found it interesting that he won his last (Triple Crown race) at 82. He meant so much to the industry, so to be with him all those years was enough for me. I think I enjoyed it every bit as much as my first and maybe more. It stirred up a lot of old relationships and friendships. I got hundreds of voicemails and texts. It’s special to have so many people come forward. There were a lot of people pulling for us.”
Other likely starters for the Belmont, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, include Peter Pan winner Freedom Child, Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul, Giant Finish, 10th in the Derby, and a sizable contingent from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher that includes Revolutionary, Overanalyze, Palace Malice, Micomanage, Midnight Taboo and the filly Unlimited Budget. Bob Baffert trainees Code West and possibly Power Broker are also under consideration.