02/25/2013 3:24PM

Gulfstream Park: McGaughey excited about Orb's Kentucky Derby chances

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Tom Keyser
Orb has won two straight races, including the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Shug McGaughey said he is trying not to worry about the Kentucky Derby just yet, even after watching his top 3-year-old, Orb, upset Violence in Saturday’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth to all but assure himself a spot in the big dance on May 3. But the Hall of Fame horseman does admit that the Derby has crossed his mind at least once or twice this winter.

“I don’t get Derby fever,” McGaughey said Sunday. “But don’t think I’m not excited, because I am.”

McGaughey has every reason to get excited about Orb, who registered his second straight victory around two turns when rallying to a one-length decision over the previously undefeated Violence under jockey John Velazquez in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth. Orb, a homebred son of Malibu Moon owned by Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable, received a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance.

“He’s really surprised me that he’s come along this far, this quickly,” McGaughey said of Orb, who has captured three straight races after needing five starts to win his maiden. “I hope we can just keep it going.”

McGaughey believes Orb showed a little more maturity in his race Saturday, although he said there are still some elements of his game that can be improved with experience.

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

“He was very good in the gate, and he broke well,” McGaughey said. “I was watching the race on TV, so I didn’t really see him until he got to about the quarter pole, but then he just kept going. When he made the lead, he kind of eased up a bit, the same as he had in his previous start. But when the other horse came back a bit, it made him go on, although I wasn’t really worried at that point that he was going to lose the race. I think that’s a habit he’ll learn to overcome with racing.”

McGaughey said the $1 million Florida Derby on March 30 is the likely first option for Orb’s next start and his final Kentucky Derby prep.

“I’m probably leaning towards the Florida Derby, with the other option being the Wood,” McGaughey said. “Although I don’t want to make any rash decisions until Mr. Janney returns from New Zealand this week and we get a chance to talk about it.”

If Orb does run in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby, it would set up quite a showdown with Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby, the first- and second-place finishers in the Grade 3 Holy Bull earlier this winter, also expected to return in that spot.

Shanghai Bobby breezed an easy half-mile in 49.61 seconds at Palm Meadows on Monday.