Updated on 06/04/2013 7:48AM

Belmont Stakes: Orb ready to roll after solid half-mile workout


ELMONT, N.Y. – If there was any doubt about Orb’s starting status for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes – and there really wasn’t – it was removed early Sunday morning when the Kentucky Derby winner worked a solid half-mile in 48.30 seconds over a lightning-quick main track at Belmont Park.

Working in company with the Grade 1 winner Hymn Book, Orb started about a half-length behind and tracked from the outside through a first eighth in 13.01 seconds. He was on equal terms with Hymn Book after a quarter in 24.95 seconds as exercise rider Jennifer Patterson maintained a firm hold of Orb.

In the stretch, Patterson barely moved her hands, yet Orb got his last quarter in a strong 23.35 seconds. Orb moved away from his workmate while galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.48, six furlongs in 1:13.77, and seven furlongs in 1:28.85.

“I thought he worked excellent,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “I asked between 48 and 49; he went off in hand, finished up really well, galloped out well. He was playing a little bit coming off the track, so I think all systems are go.”

McGaughey has indicated a desire to run in the Belmont since shortly after Orb finished a disappointing fourth in the Preakness. He just wanted to make sure Orb was displaying the energy he had during this demanding Triple Crown campaign, which has seen him win an allowance race, the Fountain of Youth, and the Florida Derby before the Derby and Preakness.

“He’s shown good energy all week,” McGaughey said. “I walked him around a couple of turns before Jenn got on him, and he was pulling me around there. If he hadn’t worked to my satisfaction, I would have pulled the plug, but he worked to my satisfaction. I think that the appropriate thing to do is to run him.”

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McGaughey had worked Orb in company most of the year but elected not to prior to the Preakness because the horse was running back in two weeks, and he wasn’t looking for a stout work. On Sunday, he went back to using a workmate.

“I wanted to put his head in the game a little bit,” McGaughey said. “His workmate is a nice horse who is not as good a work horse as Orb. I knew he’d pull him along a little ways, but we’d probably get away a little bit at the end. That’s sort of what happened. He finished up the way I wanted to. He seemed to come back with a decent amount of energy.”

McGaughey did express concern over what is shaping up as a 14- or 15-horse field for the Belmont.

“It concerns me because I think a lot of them that are going to be in there probably don’t belong,” McGaughey said. “The field size in the Derby didn’t concern me because I thought it would sort itself out a little bit. Here, I think they’re going to be spread out everywhere.”