By Dick Downey
Photo by Leslie Martin
For a man whose horse may go off as the post time favorite in the Kentucky Derby, Shug McGaughey was very calm and composed Monday morning after Orb breezed at Churchill Downs.
About 90 minutes after Orb worked four furlongs in :47.80, McGaughey made himself available for a press briefing at the track's media center.
"He's getting over the race track really well, which I think is important," the trainer said matter-of-factly of Orb, who had put in his first-ever breeze at Churchill today.
The son of Malibu Moon arrived here early last week from Payson Park, a considerably quieter environment, and has been galloping over the surface.
McGaughey said he was not at Churchill Downs yesterday, but that an assistant told him Orb had "the best day he's had" so far. But that was before the buzz generated by today's workout.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he (is) the post time favorite. He has a good following here," McGaughey, who is from Lexington, said.
The Switch to Lasix
Orb ran without Lasix until his fifth start -- which was his first as a 3-year-old.
"We were on board with not running with Lasix as 2-year-olds, and we will do that again this year," McGaughey said.
But once Orb turned three, the trainer wanted his horse on a level playing field.
"If everybody else is going to run on it, we are too," he said.
Orb took four starts to break his maiden, and that happened on Nov. 24 going a mile at Aqueduct. He was shipped to Florida and won a nine-furlong allowance at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26.
"At the first of January, I had no idea we'd be here," McGaughey said. "The first part of February, I started hoping."
His Derby Strategy
Subsequently, Orb won the Grade II Fountain of Youth, closing behind fast fractions. Then in a race with more moderate fractions, the Grade I Florida Derby, Orb won after stalking the pace.
With those things in mind, McGaughey said that if Orb draws a good post position and there is a good pace during the initial running of the Derby, "I think will be in the middle of the pack."
Should Orb draw draw inside, McGaughey said he thinks the colt will be further back. If there is a moderate pace, McGaughey said he expects Orb to run "like the Florida Derby."
Joel Rosario rode Orb his first five starts, but John Velazquez was aboard in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby. Rosario, who just won the riding title at Keeneland in dominant fashion, is back on Orb in the Kentucky Derby after Velazquez opted to stay on Verrazano.