Orb’s reputation began growing at Churchill Downs the Monday before the Kentucky Derby, when the colt breezed four furlongs in 47.80. The run looked effortless and made Orb the talk of Louisville – and the morning-line favorite.
Though there is no doubt he will be an overwhelming favorite for Saturday’s 138th running of the Preakness, Orb again turned in a promising breeze -- in which he's basically allowed to run without much guidance from the rider -- the Monday before the race. Again going a half a mile, this time in 47.18, the colt’s run was described as “breathtaking” by trainer Shug McGaughey.
“For him to go off nice and relaxed in 24 and change and come home on his own the way he did,” McGaughey said, “and gallop out the way he did, and drop his head and walk home, it sent cold chills up my back.”
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Orb is expected to pull into Pimlico Race Course this afternoon, having boarded a van from Belmont Park at about 10 a.m.
Racing analysts continue to feel that the only thing stopping Orb from taking the second leg of the Triple Crown would be a failure to bounce back from the grueling Derby run over a track surface many have described as “peanut butter.” His run Monday could assuage those fears.
McGaughey was even asked if he thought his colt had gone too fast.
“No, not at all, because of the way that he did it,” he said. “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.
“I’d probably have been a little bit disappointed if he’d gone out there and gone 52, but right now I’m on cloud nine. The way he was striding today, the way he held his leads through the lane, I thought was just ... I thought it was spectacular.”
We’ll have coverage of Orb and McGaughey’s arrival later this afternoon.
In the meantime, here are a couple of stories you may have missed over the weekend:
Childs Walker delivers this absolutely fascinating piece on why today's horses aren't running as fast -- let alone faster -- as horses 40 years ago did. Human athletes in track and swimming continue shaving time from past records, but the opposite is true with thoroughbreds. This is a must read.
Mike Klingaman counts down the top 16 horses with Maryland ties of all time.
Rosie Napravnik will finally get a chance to ride in the Preakness, eight years after moving to Maryland to pursue her dream of becoming a jockey.
Normandy Invasion, fourth at the Kentucky Derby, won't run in the Preakness, further opening the field for Orb. Laffit Pincay III, son of the hall of fame jockey and an analyst for HRTV, considers Orb unbeatable -- if he runs his race -- but said Departing is a wild card. "We just haven't seen what he can do," he said. "We really don't know how good he is." Also, since this story was written, Vyjack has been ruled out of the Preakness. That leaves the confirmed field at 8, with only Govenor Charlie also under consideration. For now.
Gabby Gaudet, 22, will become the new face of Maryland Racing when she takes over as the handicapper at both Pimlico and Laurel later this year. But she – and her family – are hardly new to the sport.