Orb, McGaughey Settled In at Pimlico -- and Ready to Run
By Dick Downey
BALTIMORE, MD -- After jogging at Pimlico Wednesday morning, Kentucky Derby winner Orb happily grazed before Shug McGaughey took questions from reporters.
There's a small, grassy strip behind the stakes barn at Pimlico where Orb spent more than 30 minutes winding down from his morning exercise. Unfazed by the multitude of media watching and recording his every move, Orb put his appetite on display. He occasionally nuzzled his exercise rider, Jenn Patterson, who's been aboard Orb all Winter and Spring.
As for McGaughey, he said everything is going well, including his opinion of condtions at Pimlico. Orb was shipped here on Monday from Belmont Park.
"The (racing) surface looks good to me," he said. "He has settled in real nicely. The thing that surprises me is how he is coming out of these races, not just mentally, but physically. I was looking at him a second ago..and I was seeing a different horse that I saw a week ago. I think there is more there."
McGaughey was still marveling at Orb's workout at Belmont on Monday morning, timed in :47.18 for four furlongs.
"His workout at Belmont was something maybe I had never seen, really, the way he did it, the way he was striding out and holding his leads," an obviously impressed McGaughey said.
Not to put the cart before the horse -- McGaughey was asked if he had yet allowed himself to think about the prospect of capturing the Triple Crown.
"I'd be lying to you if I said no," the 62-year-old conditioner said. "You feel like you have a bit of a target on your back, but I like that."
The weather forecast indicates that the track will be rated fast on Saturday. Of course, Orb's Kentucky Derby win came on a sloppy track. Will the conditon of his footing make a difference in the Preakness?
McGaughey's reaction to the question was immediate.
"I don't think that why he won the Derby. I think if it had been a dry track, you would have seen the same result," he said. And that was that. Next question.
The remainder of the week, Orb will have routine gallops; in addition, he'll be schooled at the gate, not that he necessarily needs the education.
"The last time we schooled him at Payson (Park), he walked in on his own. On Derby day, he was fine," McGaughey said.
Preparations will also include paddock schooling. Traditionally, Preakness horses are saddled on Pimlico's turf course between an array of corporate tents and the main track. However, McGaughey, who prefers to use a walled enclosure, plans to use the indoor paddock to saddle Orb for the Preakness. They had a session there this morning.
The last time McGaughey came to Pimlico for the Preakness was in 1989, when Easy Goer lost by a nose. "Once I got here, it all started coming back to me," he said. "Now I'm just ready for the race to be run on Saturday."
--Photos by Dick Downey