Twitter photo April 21
Trainer Shug McGaughey said he was pleased Sunday morning at Payson Park after Orb's five furlong breeze. That leaves one more workout at Churchill Downs about a week from now, and then the Kentucky Derby.
Scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs later in the day, Orb breezed five furlongs in 1:02.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.80 under regular exercise rider Jennifer Patterson. Working in company with Puzzling, a 5-year-old mare, Orb ran the last quarter of a mile in :23.80.
“This was the one we need to get behind us,” McGaughey said. “What I really wanted to see was to see him finish good. I didn’t want to see him walking the last part of it.”
During the 7:15 a.m. workout that attracted several spectators, including two-time NFL Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells, Orb raced side by side with his stablemate for three furlongs through fractions of :13.60, :26.80 and :38.40 before finishing a neck in front and galloping out strongly.
“What I liked to see was that he was very settled going to the track, warming up and coming home,” McGaughey said. “Walking around here now, he’s as calm as can be. That’s what we’ve got to have the next two weeks.”
The trainer said Orb would likely breeze at Churchill Downs on Monday, April 29 if all goes well.
“I’m really excited. I hope I stay excited and don’t get nervous, but I know that’s not going to happen. I had a lot of anticipation about today to get this over with in the right way. We got a good bottom work into him. We’ll sharpen him up over there,” McGaughey said. “But I am excited about the opportunity. If everything goes right in the next 13 days, I’ll really get excited about maybe having a chance to win.”
At Gulfstream Park this past Winter, Orb captured a 1 1/8-mile allowance race on Jan. 26 before upsetting previously undefeated Violence by a half-length in the Grade II Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth. He followed that up by winning the Grade I Florida Derby.
“When he won the allowance race at a mile and an eighth, we were way ahead of where we wanted to be. Then, when he cut back to a mile and a sixteenth (for the Fountain of Youth), drawing the one post, I didn’t know what to expect,” McGaughey said. “Then, going into the Florida Derby, he’d trained so well and made so much physical improvement from the Fountain of Youth to the Florida Derby, I said to myself when they were going into the gate, ‘I’m going to be interested to see how this horse runs today.’’’
Orb was ridden by John Velazquez, who will be aboard Verrazano in the Kentucky Derby. Joel Rosario will be on Orb after riding him in back-to-back maiden and allowance victories.
“I’ve never had a horse show so much improvement over this short period of time at this time of the year,” McGaughey said.
Edited Gulfstream Park release