Exercise rider Jennifer Patterson rubs the face of Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness Stakes hopeful Orb as he grazes outside the stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course on Wednesday in Baltimore.
BALTIMORE — Kentucky Derby winner Orb has drawn the rail in Saturday’s Preakness and has been installed an overwhelming even-money favorite in the nine-horse race.
Orb will seek to keep alive his bid to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Orb won the Derby by 2 lengths as the betting favorite.
The brown colt is looking for his sixth straight victory as part of the smallest Preakness field since 2007. Govenor Charlie, trained by Bob Baffert, added his name to the list Wednesday for the 1 3/16th-mile race.
The field, from the rail, with odds in parenthesis: Orb, Goldencents (8-1), Titletown Five (30-1), Departing (6-1), Mylute (5-1), Oxbow (15-1), Will Take Charge (12-1), Govenor Charlie (12-1) and Itsmyluckyday (10-1).
Orb had his first tour of the Pimlico racing surface as he prepares for Saturday’s race.
Orb went out for an easy jog on an overcast Wednesday morning with regular exercise rider Jenn Patterson aboard.
“He went really good,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “He seemed to be moving really well, full of energy. The surface looked great to me. He seems to be settled in. I’m really pleased with what I see.”
Later that morning, Orb visited the saddling area under the Pimlico grandstand as part of his orientation.
Orb had his final Preakness workout on Monday at Belmont Park, a half mile in 47.18 seconds. McGaughey then opted to ship the colt immediately to Pimlico when he cooled out.
The decision was a mild surprise as many New York-based trainers prefer waiting as long as possible, often until Wednesday, before heading to Baltimore.
“When I was driving down Monday I was wondering to myself if I was coming too early,” McGaughey said. “I am glad we did come when we came. It was really quiet when we got down here. I’m happy with my decision.”
Orb merely walked around the barn on Tuesday. Wednesday was a leg stretcher. He will have a more vigorous gallop on Thursday.
The serious work has been done. Now it is a matter of keeping Orb happy and sound in the days leading up to the race.
“The one thing that really surprises me is how well he’s come out of his races, not only mentally but physically,” McGaughey said. “I was looking at him with the blanket off him and the sun shining and I saw a different horse than I saw a week ago. He’s sure come a long way since the Florida Derby.
“I’m hoping there’s more there, but he’s going to have to tell us that. All things being equal, I can’t wait to run him on Saturday afternoon. Maybe we’ll see something special.”
ALWAYS SHUG: Claude R. McGaughey III has always been called “Shug.”
And he has no idea why.
“I grew up with it,” McGaughey said. “I’m the third, so they had to call me something. That’s what they came up with. I’ve never had a definitive answer from anybody as to why we did that.”
The one thing he does know: It wasn’t a variation on sugar.
“My aunt told me that,” he said.
After all this time, McGaughey has grown comfortable with the nickname.
“Oh yes” he said, when asked if he liked it. “There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve had it for 62 years. My whole life I’ve been called that.”
JOCKEY SHUFFLE: Trainer D. Wayne Lukas sends out three runners in the Preakness: Oxbow, Will Take Charge and Titletown Five.
Two will have new riders.
Mike Smith replaces Jon Court aboard Will Take Charge following an eighth place finish in the Derby. Julien Leparoux lands on Titletown Five, replacing Gary Stevens who retains the ride on Oxbow, sixth in the Derby.
“I thought if we could get three world-class Eclipse Award riders, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give my clients that opportunity,” Lukas said.
Lukas believes Will Take Charge could have finished second in the Derby, with a cleaner trip. The colt was moving in tandem with eventual-winner Orb before hitting a traffic jam that took him out of the running.
“Nothing against Jon Court,” Lukas said. “I rode him all spring and had good luck with him. I always tell the riders we’re only going to date; we’re not going to get married. Jon understood. He took it very well.”
Lukas hopes Leparoux can convince the speedy Titletown Five to relax in the early stages and conserve energy for later stages.
“I think his style will fit that horse and maybe take a little off his fastball,” Lukas said.
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