Shug McGaughey catches Derby fever every once in a while, and the Hall of Fame trainer just might have it again thanks to a 3-year-old colt named Orb.
Sure, it's more than two months before the Kentucky Derby, but it's never too early to start planning for a trip to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Orb rallied in the stretch for a half-length win over favorite Violence in Saturday's Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park for his third straight victory. The result moved the bay colt into the No. 5 slot in the AP's latest Run to the Roses list of Top 10 Derby contenders.
Even though McGaughey admits he's excited about a chance to win his first Derby — he's 0-for-6 in four Derbys, including a second-place finish with Easy Goer in 1989 — he's trying to remain his usual low-key self.
"If he keeps improving, maybe he'll be something," the trainer said after confirming Orb came out of the race in good shape and is likely headed next to the Florida Derby on March 30. "He's come so far over the winter. My people have done a great job with him."
Violence, meanwhile, is off the Derby trail after breaking a bone in his right front ankle during the race. The colt trained by Todd Pletcher was ranked fourth last week, but Pletcher still has four in the Top 10, including No. 1 Shanghai Bobby. His others are Verrazano, Overanalyze and Revolutionary.
This weekend's Derby prep is Saturday's 1 1/16-mile Gotham at Aqueduct. Among the probable starters are Overanalyze, Vyjack, Honorable Dillon, Escapefromreality, Siete de Oros and Ore Pass.
McGaughey's last try at the Derby was 2002, when Saarland finished 10th. Before that, it was favorite Easy Goer second and Awe Inspiring third in '89, Seeking the Gold seventh in '88 and Pine Circle and Vanlandingham, sixth and 16th, respectively, in 1984.
Asked if he's worried about the Derby, McGaughey replied: "I've been worried about it since I started rubbing horses in 1972."
Here's our Top 10:
1. Shanghai Bobby (Todd Pletcher, Rosie Napravnik): Worked 4 furlongs in 49.61 Monday at Palm Meadows, his second breeze since running second in Holy Bull. ... 2-year-old champion is a son of Harlan's Holiday (seventh in the 2002 Derby). ... Next start: Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park, March 30. ... Derby Future Wager odds: 14-1.
2. Itsmyluckyday (Eddie Plesa Jr., Elvis Trujillo): Remains on target for another showdown with Shanghai Bobby. ... Holy Bull winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.77 Saturday at Calder. ... Next start: Florida Derby. ... Odds: 13-1.
3. Goldencents (Doug O'Neill, Kevin Krigger): Sham winner worked 6 furlongs in 1:10.40 last week at Santa Anita. ... Son of Into Mischief has won three of four starts for trainer of 2012 Derby, Preakness winner I'll Have Another. ... Next start: San Felipe, Santa Anita, March 9. ... Odds: 20-1.
4. Verrazano (Pletcher, John Velazquez): Worked 5 furlongs in 59.21 Monday at Palm Meadows. ... Has two wins at Gulfstream by combined 24 lengths. ... Next start: Tampa Bay Derby, Tampa Bay Downs, March 9. ... Odds: 11-1.
5. Orb (Shug McGaughey, Velazquez): McGaughey looking at first Derby runner since Saarland in '02. ... Made it three in a row with half-length win in Fountain of Youth. ... Next start: Florida Derby. ... Odds: 8-5 (mutuel field).
6. Flashback (Bob Baffert, Julien Leparoux): Worked 6 furlongs in 1:11 Monday at Santa Anita. ... Robert B. Lewis winner owned by Gary and Mary West. ... Next start: San Felipe. ... Odds: 12-1.
7. Super Ninety Nine (Baffert, Rafael Bejarano): Southwest winner is 2-for-2 and needs to impress in next start for Derby consideration ... Could run next at either Oaklawn or home at Santa Anita. ... Next start: Undecided. Odds: 47-1.
8. Overanalyze (Pletcher, Velazquez): Johnny V could be facing some tough choices for his Derby mount. ... Remsen winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.75 Monday at Palm Meadows. ... Next start: Gotham, Aqueduct, Saturday. ... Odds: 33-1.
9. Revolutionary (Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Withers winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.43 Monday at Palm Meadows. ... A big race in next start could see him move up in rankings. ... Next start: Tampa Bay Derby. ... Odds: 13-1.
10. Ive Struck A Nerve: (Keith Desormeaux, James Graham): Sneaks in after winning Risen Star at odds of 135-1. ... Had done little of note previously, but merits consideration for now. ... Next start: Louisiana Derby, Fair Grounds, March 30. ... Odds: 8-5 (mutuel field).
Keep an eye on: Code West, Den's Legacy, Dynamic Sky, Oxbow, Uncaptured.
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