NEW YORK (AP) — Orb is ready.
The Kentucky Derby winner put in his final workout before the Preakness, breezing four furlongs in 47.18 seconds, galloping out five furlongs in 59.54 and delighting trainer Shug McGaughey.
"I thought it was breathtaking," McGaughey said Monday morning.
With exercise rider Jennifer Patterson aboard, Orb seemed to move effortlessly around the track on a clear, sunny day. In fact, McGaughey called it more impressive than the colt's workout before he won the Derby by 2½ lengths on May 4.
"For him to go off nice and relaxed in 24 and change and come home on his own the way he did, and gallop out the way he did, and drop his head and walk home, it sent cold chills up my back," the Hall of Fame trainer said.
After cooling down and receiving a sponge bath, Orb was loaded onto a van headed to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. A win in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on Saturday would set up a Triple Crown try in the Belmont Stakes on June 8. The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978.
McGaughey wasn't concerned with the fast fractions, which come nine days after running 1¼ miles in the Derby.
"I think it's a tribute to the way he came out of the Derby, and to come back and be able to have a work like that and do it the way he did it — I couldn't be more thrilled," he said. "Right now I'm on cloud nine. The way he was striding today, the way he held his leads through the lane, I thought it was spectacular."
Orb, owned by the Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney III, takes a five-race winning streak in the Preakness, where he will face what look to be nine challengers. Among them are Derby runners Mylute (fifth), Oxbow (sixth), Will Take Charge (eighth), Itsmyluckyday (15th) and Goldencents (17th). Also set for the race is Departing, winner of the Illinois Derby.
"I think it's formidable," McGaughey said. "I know that Oxbow made a good run in the Derby. I never really kind of sat down and watched it and pinned it down. The other horse (Will Take Charge) got in some trouble. You've got to respect Departing coming in there off his race in the Illinois Derby and being relatively fresh. My main concern is just trying to get Orb over there the best way we possibly can and if he runs his race I think they'll know he's in there."
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