ORB -- Marylander Stuart Janney III dropped in on trainer Shug McGaughey at the Preakness Stakes Barn Thursday morning at Pimlico Race Course, monitoring the morning activities of his Kentucky Derby winner, Orb.
“It’s a huge sense of pride. I’ve been out here most mornings before the Preakness for most of my life, so it’s great to bring this horse here,” the Butler, Md. resident and chairman of Bessemer Trust Company said. “I’m proud of him.”
Janney and the Phipps Stable bred and campaign Orb, who captured the Derby by 2 1/2 lengths with a seventeenth-to-first performance. The Janney family and the Phipps family have had a longstanding history in horse ownership and association with McGaughey.
“We’ve been doing this for the last 20 years together. Some they own entirely. Some I own entirely. I think we’d all say that we’re very glad we were together at the Kentucky Derby and lucky enough to win it with a horse that we happened to own together,” Janney said. “I said after the race, ‘Shug was very clever to do that so that he didn’t have one owner that was ecstatic and another owner who was less than ecstatic.’ ”
Orb produced the first Kentucky Derby success for Janney, Phipps and McGaughey.
“It was maybe a feeling of relief that it’s actually happening. I thought we went to Churchill with the best horse. You never know. There are a lot of reasons that the best horse doesn’t always win. Rain was one of them,” Janney said. “But I did feel a huge sense of relief when he crossed the finish line and a great feeling of elation.”
Orb, who has been installed as the even-money favorite for Saturday’s 138 Preakness Stakes (G1), jogged at Pimlico Thursday morning before galloping a mile under exercise rider Jenn Patterson.
“Today I just wanted to see how he was moving and how he got over the racetrack,” McGaughey said. “I’m very pleased with what I saw.”
The Hall of Fame trainer said he didn’t lose any sleep over Orb drawing the No. 1 post position at Wednesday’s draw.
“It doesn’t bother me. The ‘1’ is different here than it is at Churchill. The race starts at the three-sixteenths pole here and it’s a straight shot,” McGaughey said. “We’ll be fine. If I got to pick it out, that wouldn’t have been what I picked, but I’m not worried about it.”
Noting the nine-horse field of the Preakness, McGaughey expressed full confidence in jockey Joel Rosario, who rode Orb to victory against 18 rivals at Churchill Downs.
“I think he’ll get a good spot in the race with the speed outside of him. I think Joel will get him where he wants him to be and we’ll take it from there. That’s all you can do,” McGaughey said. “The same thing in the Derby, I thought he had him in a good place. Before he asked him to run, I began to think, ‘Are you too far back?’ But when he pushed the button, I knew we were going to be a factor. I didn’t know if he would win, but I knew he’d be a factor. I think we’ll see the same thing Saturday.”
McGaughey continues to adhere to the “if it happens, it happens” attitude he maintained during Derby week.
“I think if he goes over and runs his race, I’m quietly confident that he’ll be tough to beat,” McGaughey said. “It’s just like I was at the Derby. I was quietly confident all week that he was going to run his race and if that was good enough, it would be good enough. I feel the same this time.”
DEPARTING – Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Illinois Derby winner Departing got his first taste of the Pimlico racing surface Thursday morning by galloping 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Trina Pasckvale.
“There were a lot of tents out there in the infield for him to look at and that kept his mind occupied a bit. He has been tough on Trina the past few days,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said.
Departing had flown to Pimlico from Churchill Downs on Wednesday, marking the gelding’s first plane trip.
“We had vanned him to Houston and to Chicago,” Stall said. “He got a little stirred up on the plane, but not in a bad way. He dropped his head when he got here and he was fine. I am glad we shipped yesterday and not Thursday or Friday.”
Departing, who will break from the No. 4 post position under Brian Hernandez Jr. in Saturday’s 138th Preakness, has won four of five starts with the only blemish coming in a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby.
“He did not have a lot of trouble in the Louisiana Derby,” Stall said. “It is like going from the college game to the pros, except for RG III or Andrew Luck. Everything is a little faster and the holes were moving a little faster than he was.
“In the Illinois Derby, he took Brian where he needed to go. I think the extra ground (a sixteenth of a mile farther than the 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby) will help him. There is plenty of gas in the tank.”
Stall said that Departing would go to the track at 6:30 on Friday.
“We only have the one horse to train and the one that runs (Tread in the Miss Preakness on Friday) is going to walk,” Stall said.
GOLDENCENTS -- W.C. Racing, Dave Kenney and RAP Racing’s Goldencents made his daily trip to the track Thursday morning shortly after 8:30 for yet another smooth mile gallop under regular rider Kevin Krigger.
“He looked great, just comfortable stretching, in control but with good energy,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, who will try to become the first trainer to win back-to-back editions of the Preakness since Bob Baffert in 2001 (Point Given) and 2002 (War Emblem). Kevin’s just done a brilliant job with this horse and I really like what we’re seeing. They communicate with you through their energy and the way they eat, and he’s doing super.”
A three-time stakes winner including the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Goldencents drew post 2 and was rated as the 8-1 fourth choice in the field of nine when positions were drawn Wednesday.
“The ‘2’ has won the Preakness numerous times, so we’re hoping to add to that,” said O’Neill, who won with his first starter last year when I’ll Have Another overtook the Baffert-trained Bodemeister in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. I’ll Have Another never saw his Triple Crown hopes come to fruition when a leg injury forced him to be scratched the day before the Belmont Stakes.
This year, O’Neill has the chance to play spoiler to Kentucky Derby winner Orb, who has won five in a row after a stirring score in the Kentucky Derby.
“Orb obviously looks like the horse to beat,” the 44-year-old O’Neill said. “He’s not like a one-race hit. All year long he’s been super impressive. Hall of Fame trainer, future Hall of Fame jockey, and he’s looked great here at Pimlico. But we’ve seen Goldencents do some brilliant things in the afternoon. If he does, I think he can beat him.”
Other than Orb, Goldencents has the best credentials of the opposition in the Preakness. He won a stakes race at age 2 (Grade 3 Delta Jackpot) and has won the Sham (G3) and Santa Anita Derby as a sophomore. His dismal 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby may be attributed to the sloppy, sealed track.
At this point, a fast track is more probable than not on Saturday at Pimlico, with which O’Neill became familiar last year.
“People think of this track as being more of a speed-favoring track than Churchill,” he said. “As long as the horse is doing well and gets a hold of the track, I think he’s got a big chance to knock Orb off. I would assume with the tighter turns (Goldencents) would be forwardly placed. I think all of us would like a dry track, just so there’s no excuses.”
And while there’s less on the line this year for O’Neill, the Preakness still ranks high on his to-do list.
“Last year off the Derby win, you come in dreaming of the Triple Crown,” he said. “This year we’re dreaming of the double crown. I know it doesn’t get a lot of play, but to have a horse that’s worthy of being in a Preakness race is an honor and a privilege. I think we’re extremely lucky to have two.”
According to National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame historian Allan Carter, no horse who has finished as far back as 17th in the Kentucky Derby has won the Preakness. Louis Quatorze, who was 16th in the 1996 Derby, had the greatest turnaround in history when he won the Preakness that year for trainer Nick Zito.
GOVENOR CHARLIE – Mike Pegram’s Sunland Derby (G3) winner Govenor Charlie had a routine first morning at Pimlico since shipping from Kentucky Wednesday and went to the track shortly after 6 o’clock Thursday for some exercise.
“He handled the track fine. He galloped a mile to let him get over the track,” said Jimmy Barnes, trainer Bob Baffert’s longtime assistant. “He went over it fine and seemed to like it.”
Baffert, who is scheduled to travel from California to Baltimore on Thursday, waited until he was sure the colt was fully recovered from a minor hoof injury before committing to the Preakness. Govenor Charlie was examined at the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., in mid-April after the injury was discovered. He was able to return to training, but Baffert decided that he was not ready for the Kentucky Derby on May 4.
“It was minor, but I wanted to make sure that there was nothing else involved,” Baffert said. “That’s why I sent him to the clinic and they did the scan on him. I wanted to make sure that we weren’t missing something.”
Govenor Charlie has had three timed works since the visit to Rood and Riddle, including a snappy six-furlong breeze in 1:10 4/5 Monday morning at Churchill Downs.
“We’re running because after his last work he’s back to 100 percent,” Baffert said. “I just lost that little time with him, five days of training and an important work. I had to get him right and now he’s 100 percent. The way he worked the other day, it looked like he’s doing well. He’s back to his old self.”
By Tuesday morning, Baffert was willing to say that the colt would go on to the Preakness.
“The main thing is that he came out of the work really well,” Baffert said. “It looks like he’s sitting on a big race. He had to be 100 percent and he had to be training really well. He handled the work really well and didn’t get tired. We’ll find out if he’s good enough.”
ITSMYLUCKYDAY – Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. is set to saddle Itsmyluckyday for a start in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes with full confidence that the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (G3) winner will fire his best race.
“He’s given me every sign that he’s ready for the war; he’s ready for the race; he’s ready for the battle,” said Plesa, after sending Itsmyluckyday for a gallop around Pimlico’s racetrack Thursday morning. “Let’s just get it on.”
The veteran South Florida-based trainer also knows what his colt will be up against when he clashes with Kentucky Derby winner Orb in the Preakness.
“He’s the best 3-year-old in the country, no question about it. He could be Horse of the Year. We could be sitting here in a very short period of time and they could be talking about him as Horse of the Year,” Plesa said. “Orb has been sensational since he turned 3, and he’s absolutely the horse to beat for all of us. He deserves the accolades he’s getting.”
Itsmyluckyday, who finished second behind Orb in the Florida Derby (G1) on March 30, finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby, which was contested over a sloppy, sealed racetrack.
“To me it is a throw-out, no doubt about it. I just want him to be able to show what he’s capable of doing and what he did at Gulfstream wasn’t a byproduct of a bias for a surface, and I don’t think it was,” Plesa said. “We believe he is capable of running those numbers at any racetrack. I thought the Derby was going to be the place, and it wasn’t. As long as this racetrack is fast, he’ll have no excuses.”
“He struggled with the racetrack (at Churchill), there’s no question about that. Did it take anything out of him? No more than a regular race. He’d have been running back in two weeks anyway. If I thought it took anything out of him, A) I wouldn’t have worked him and B), I don’t have to come here.”
Itsmyluckyday, who turned in a sharp half-mile workout (47 1/5 seconds) at Monmouth Park Sunday before shipping to Pimlico Tuesday, has shown all the signs of being ready to revert back to the form he showed in Florida last winter.
“His work Sunday -- he just worked so effortlessly – his energy level, the way he looks – all the things that you would look for,” Plesa said. “He’s just doing great. He’s ready to run. All we’re asking for is a fast racetrack. I don’t want to use that as an excuse again I don’t want excuses. I just want to be a realist.”
MYLUTE – Trainer Tom Amoss and the gray colt went in different directions Wednesday in their respective journeys from Churchill Downs to Pimlico Race Course.
Amoss headed south to his home state to attend the graduation of his daughter, Ashley, from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, while the fifth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby was flown from Louisville, Ky., to Baltimore for the Preakness
The college graduation season and the Triple Crown often produce personal and professional conflicts. For Amoss and Mylute, the schedule of events has worked out nicely. Amoss will be able to handle all of his commitments and still be at Pimlico in plenty of time to saddle the colt for the 138th Preakness, which has a post time of 6:20 p.m. Saturday.
The 280th LSU commencement will be held Thursday afternoon and Ashley’s diploma ceremony at the Manship School of Mass Communication is on Friday afternoon. The Amoss family will celebrate the graduation Friday evening and Amoss, his wife, Colleen, Ashley and younger daughter, Hayley, will fly from New Orleans to Baltimore-Washington International Airport Saturday morning.
“Although the Preakness is something I’m very proud of in terms of my professional life, nothing makes me prouder on a personal level than my daughter graduating from college,” he said. “That comes first.’’
Todd Quast, the general manager and trainer at GoldMark Farm, which co-owns the colt with Whisper Hill Farm, works closely with Amoss and is at Pimlico with Amoss’ staff.
“Tom ships horses all around,” Quast said. “This is obviously a bigger race than most that you ship off to, but his crew is very comfortable with that.”
Quast said there never was a question about how Amoss would handle the schedule this week.
“Family is first,” he said. “His daughter is graduating from LSU. He graduated from LSU. His wife graduated from LSU. I think he would have been disowned if he wouldn’t have gone.
“And this horse is so relaxed, so easy going, that it was really a non-issue. I told him, ‘Go. We’re fine.’ ”
Quast said that Mylute, runner-up to Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby (G2), was calm throughout the trip from Kentucky and has settled in at Pimlico, the seventh track he will race over in his 11-month career.
“He handled it; didn’t turn a hair,” Quast said. “There were horses that came off a little hotter, a little sweatier. If he did, it would be a big thing because he is so laid back. He is the consummate professional horse. His demeanor off the track is what you would want. He eats, sleeps and nothing bothers him. It’s a perfect type of situation.”
Mylute went to the track with exercise rider Maurice Sanchez at 6 a.m. Thursday to jog a mile and gallop 1 ¼ miles.
“He looked around and said, ‘All right, I’m home.’ ” Quast said. “He handled it very, very well. He’s very seasoned and very relaxed wherever he goes. He handled it super, had good energy, came off the track good and cooled out good.”
Rated second in the morning line at 5-1, Mylute, who drew the No. 5 post position, will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik.
OXBOW/TITLETOWN FIVE/WILL TAKE CHARGE – D. Wayne Lukas has been hovering around history since the start of the millennium, and the Hall of Fame trainer is scheduled to have three chances in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes to finally set the record for most Triple Crown successes.
The former basketball coach, who traded his whistle for a saddle in the 1970s, has been tied with the legendary “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons for the most wins in Triple Crown races (13) by any trainer in history since Commendable won the 2000 Belmont Stakes.
On Saturday, Lukas has one of his best opportunities in recent years with a three-pronged attack in the nine-horse field.
“It would be nice to get over that, but the guy that holds it with me is pretty special in this game,” Lukas said Thursday morning after Oxbow, Titletown Five and Will Take Charge returned from morning gallops at Pimlico. “I think we’ll get over it. I don’t know if it’ll be Saturday, but there’s an excellent chance we’ll get that 14th one somewhere down the line. You know, though, the sooner the better.”
Lukas has had pretty good numbers in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, having saddled five winners from 37 starters – more than any trainer in history.
He’d like nothing more than to add a sixth Preakness, which would put the 77-year-old Wisconsin native one behind turn-of-the-19th-century trainer Robert Walden. Lukas is tied for second with Bob Baffert (Govenor Charlie) and Thomas Healey, whose last winner came during the Great Depression.
“The Preakness is special to me,” Lukas said, while admitting he’d be in favor of Orb winning if he can’t get the prize for one of his three ownership groups on Saturday. “As a trainer you think more or less of achieving something for a certain client. You don’t run against the other guy or even the other horse. You’re pretty much centered on your own program.”
Titletown Five, owned by some former Green Bay Packers including Paul Hornung and Willie Davis, would be a long shot – already at 30-1 in the morning line. Will Take Charge was rated at 12-1 and Oxbow, who was sixth in the Derby, was made 15-1.
“They had a good morning,” Lukas said after dismounting his pony. “I like the way the track’s playing. I think it’s very fair for everybody. I was real comfortable with it. I like it when they go by and you can’t hear them.”
Lukas said he was a bit miffed and was joking with track handicapper Frank Carulli after Mylute was made the second choice behind Orb in the morning-line odds.
“I personally don’t think Mylute should be the second choice in the race, unless they bet on Rosie (Napravnik),” Lukas said. “I think Will Take Charge and Oxbow are about equal and their odds are going to fall somewhere between 5-1 and 8-1. The other horse is going to be a long shot, probably one of the longest shots on the board.”
Oxbow and Will Take Charge ran 1-2 in the Rebel (G2) in March at Oaklawn Park. Will Take Charge was a troubled eighth in the Kentucky Derby behind Oxbow’s pace-pressing sixth on the sloppy, sealed track. He expects both to run well here.
“Will Take Charge is 17 hands,” Lukas said. “He and Orb have a similar style. They’re not stop-and-start horses, so he didn’t get to run his race in Louisville. Oxbow is a gutsy little horse. I think they both had a chance to be part of the equation in the Derby.”
And Lukas readily admits the percentages are in his favor with a third of the field being saddled by a guy who knows how to win this race.
“I feel comfortable with the field,” he said. “It only takes one horse to spoil your day.”