03/25/2013 4:15PM

Florida Derby preparation finds Orb in perfect spot

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Barbara D. Livingston
Orb, with Jennifer Patterson riding, works Monday at Payson Park with a stablemate, Overwhelming.

INDIANTOWN, Fla. – One visit to Payson Park and it’s easy to see why Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has used the training center located approximately 90 miles north of Gulfstream Park as his major base of operations in south Florida for the past 30 years.

One horse who has enjoyed the wide-open spaces and crisp, clean air at Payson Park as much as any this winter has been Orb. Already virtually assured of a spot in this year’s Kentucky Derby field as a result of the 50 points he earned for his victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, Orb will go off among the favorites along with Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

With co-owner Dinny Phipps in attendance, Orb had his final tune-up for the Florida Derby on Monday morning at Payson, breezing four furlongs under regular exercise rider Jenn Patterson in 48.89 seconds in company with stablemate Overwhelming. The pair went along as a team through a 24.68-second opening quarter-mile, with Orb asserting his superiority through the final furlong, finishing willingly without the need of any encouragement before galloping out a strong five-eighths in 1:01.29. He barely took a deep breath upon returning to the barn several minutes later, looking fresh, cool, and like he could go right back out and do it all over again.

“I was tickled to death with the work,” said McGaughey. “He was just galloping, I thought he galloped out really, really well. I think we’re in good shape.”

[FLORIDA DERBY: Get PPs, watch Saturday's full card live]

McGaughey said being at Payson has been a big plus for Orb, who he says has grown and gotten even stronger since his victory in the Fountain of Youth.

“I think it’s really helped him since he shipped down for the winter,” said McGaughey. “I could see the difference the first time we worked him here. And the conditions are so good. It was already 77 degrees and humid when I left home early this morning, and now it’s at least 10 degrees cooler with no humidity at all.”

Although Orb is among the favorites for both the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, neither McGaughey nor his owner are looking beyond the Florida Derby just yet.

“I’m one who doesn’t get Derby fever,” said Phipps, who owns Orb in partnership with Stuart Janney III. “I won’t have any thoughts about that until we see what happens on Saturday. We’ll know after Saturday how good he is. We’re not going to go to the Derby unless we think he belongs. I don’t want to run in the Derby just to be an also-ran.”

Orb was the last of the big three for the Florida Derby to have their final tune-ups over the weekend. Itsmyluckyday breezed an easy four furlongs over his home base at Calder on Saturday, while Shanghai Bobby went five-eighths in 1:00.77 in company with stablemate Palace Malice at Palm Meadows on Sunday morning. The team posted slow early fractions of 13.70 and 26.02 seconds before shading 35 for their final three furlongs, with Palace Malice about a half-length best at the wire. Shanghai Bobby galloped out three to four lengths behind Palace Malice after six furlongs in 1:14.01.

“I thought he worked well, consistent with what he normally does,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of Shanghai Bobby. “He’s not an overzealous work horse. But I thought we got a good tightener, and everything’s gone according to schedule.”

Palace Malice is also scheduled to have his final Kentucky Derby prep on Saturday, in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

It appears a field of nine is likely when the Florida Derby is drawn on Wednesday. The other 3-year-olds expected to enter are Frac Daddy, Pick of the Litter, Merit Man, Pontiff, Are You Kidding Me, and Narvaez.

russell More than 1 year ago
Mark, did you watch the same race I did? IMLD is far superior? Bobby galloped out past him after the wire.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Orb is too slow. Bobby is second fiddle to IMLD. IMLD does not need to win to make the Derby. He has to finish second to have a strong chance. But here is the kicker, IMLD is so superior to Bobby and Orb that he DOESNT have to run his best race to even win.
russell More than 1 year ago
I like Bobby. I'm not sold on Orb.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Before The FOY I touted this colt. Then Majestic Hussar and Violence went the first 3/4 in 1:08 and change while Orb was about 7 lengths off give or take at that point. Then caught them at 1/8 pole n drew off...greenly hesitating last 1/16. So with extra distance Saturday coupled by a decimated slower pace...I believe he lays closer and with Lucky to run at in the lane we'll see a great match unfold.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
You want I should paint a target on the silks of Lucky's rider? I know what Orb is doing at Payson and it's huge, and Shug is smiling so you know he should run big, but Lucky is going to go well also. Orb better have good aim. This race and the Wood will be great and the likely Derby winner coming from there, but I do want to see how Palice Malice runs this weekend as well.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Nice. I like humor in sportsmanship. About Palice Malice..I hope for Mr. Campbell's sake and Dogwood syndicate he runs well. Should improve from Risen Star. Revolutionary is the ??? Withers was WEAK but he ran impressively..also Code West has room to move up..or falter again. Wood looks like a nice set up for Chad's colt.
Richard More than 1 year ago
I do not blame Dinny Phipps for not looking ahead of anything until he sees how Orb does in The Florida Derby. There are about three prep races that pay $1,000,000, the same as The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes. This lowers the quality of the final two crowns. These preps should be going off like The Santa Anita Derby which is $750,000. Maybe putting that extra money in a fund like The Breeders Cup so they can raise the purses on The Preakness and Belmont Stakes. That bonus of $5,000,000 by Visa should have never been allowed. The Horsemen and track owners need to be the ones that are controlling the business!
Mooch J More than 1 year ago
As a Handicapper/Gambler I loved the Visa Bonus. It kept most contenders in all three legs. The Derby was always a token bet for me but I loved the Preakness when the top finishers from the Derby were in it instead of a lot ducking the Preakness for the Belmont. The Preakness was a lot better race with the bonus
Jason Kassa More than 1 year ago
The top 3 all have questions to be answered. Itsmyluckyday feels like a 7f type of horse for some reason, but I think that if he hailed from a more popular barn, he would be a significant favorite. I'd love to see him run a huge race and be a classic distance star. Orb can also be a star in this division. Key will be his final 1/16th here. By no means is he a one dimensional closer. I think Orb wins. Shanghai Bobby ran a big race last out and it should help his odds that he lost. Normally a dream bet. For whatever reason my gut is against.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
I have to stick up for Itsmyluckyday who I've liked since Jan 1. He is far more than a 7f horse and answered that well with a record performance at 1 1/16. We'll see if he's 1 1/8 or 1 1/4 but have a feeling he is. He will run huge, but so will the others you mentioned, having to get past one and hold off the other and run no worse than second to secure a spot in the Derby gate.
Jason Kassa More than 1 year ago
Hard to know how to factor Pletcher's work duo. Palace Malice apparently out-worked Shanghai Bobby. Time can be very deceiving with workouts. In their last races SB ran a G1 effort and galloped out extremely well, while PM faltered in the midst of a perfect opportunity in a G3 level race/performance.
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
ORB-IT...IMLD...BOX-IT!!!...ty...
kjoe More than 1 year ago
Always enjoy Mike Welsch's training reports. There is nothing like seeing a horse training, standing around the backside with Zito, Shug, and other trainers owners waiting for their horse to breeze. In addition you certainly get valuable insight into the horse's chances in the upcoming race. Thanks Mike for the color and the analysis!
MichaelC More than 1 year ago
I fully concur. Mr Welsch's reports are always thoughtful and insightful. His analysis adds greatly my handicapping perspective. keep up the good work Mike!
Geral John Pinault More than 1 year ago
I've been a big fan of Itsmyluckyday for a while now but the Fla Derby looks like a speed duel between him and Shanghai Bobby and this will set up Orb with his powerful kick to blow them away in the stretch. It all depends on just how hard the track is. Remember when Monarchos won? The track was deep that day and Monarchos got up. He didn't like Aquduct's hard surface and so he ran 2nd. Then he closed to win THE DERBY going away on another deep track with Chop Chop up, so surface is everything this week at The Gulf...
Joe Rockhold More than 1 year ago
Monarchos won his Derby on a deep track? Fractions were 22 1/5, 44 4/5, 1:09 1/5, 1:35 flat and final time of 1:59 4/5. Doesn't sound too deep to me.
Perl More than 1 year ago
The track was insanely glib that day. I think the 7f CD Handicap went in sub 1:21 if my memory serves me correctly. Aldebaran perhaps?
Allan Gauthier More than 1 year ago
SB usually sits off the pace. All his races at 2 were stalking or off the pace. Not sure why everyone thinks he's a speedball