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Florida Derby preparation finds Orb in perfect spot
By Mike Welsch
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.
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.”
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.
Mark, did you watch the same race I did? IMLD is far superior? Bobby galloped out past him after the wire.
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.
I like Bobby. I'm not sold on Orb.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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...
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