05/03/2013 1:16PM

Kentucky Derby: Orb has McGaughey at brink of crowning achievement

Barbara D. Livingston
Orb, shown training at Churchill Downs Thursday, could give trainer Shug McGaughey a Kentucky Derby victory to go along with his nine Breeders' Cup wins and Hall of Fame honors.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When trainer Shug McGaughey left New York late last year for his winter base in Florida, Orb owned only a maiden win, and McGaughey figured Orb would likely return to New York in the spring with, perhaps, having added an allowance win to his resume.

“At the beginning of the year, I had no idea I’d be standing here, none whatsoever,” McGaughey said.

He was standing outside Barn 43 in the stable area at Churchill Downs, and he was standing near the colt who has morphed into the morning-line favorite for the 139th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, that very same Orb.

“He’s taken us so much farther than I thought he would,” McGaughey said. “He’s done it. I remember going to Florida thinking we’d start him off in an allowance race, but I didn’t think his running style would suit Gulfstream Park.”

[DRF LIVE AT THE KENTUCKY DERBY: News updates, photos, video]

Orb won that allowance race. Then he won the Fountain of Youth. Then he won the Florida Derby. As McGaughey said, “Orb brought us here.”

A Derby win is about the only thing missing from the resume of McGaughey, 62, who went into the Hall of Fame long ago for training Hall of Famers such as Lure and Personal Ensign, who got better as they got older. He’s won nine Breeders Cup races, but just one with a 2-year-old colt. This is only his second Derby appearance since 1989, when he finished second with another Hall of Fame horse, Easy Goer.

“He’ll get a mile and a quarter, hopefully faster than the rest,” McGaughey said. “And if he does, a dream will come true.”

But for Orb to prevail, he will have to outrun 18 rivals, five from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, including the unbeaten Verrazano, who until recently was ranked atop most 3-year-old polls. They will start near one another, with Verrazano in post 14, and Orb in post 16, but should not be near one another for awhile after that in the 1 1/4-mile race.

Orb also may have to overcome an off track. The Weather Channel forecast for Saturday calls for a 70-percent chance of rain, with a high temperature of 61 degrees.

Verrazano figures to be near what should be an honest pace with the likes of Goldencents and Falling Sky in the field. Orb should be midpack, his position into the first turn likely dictated by how fast the leaders are traveling.

“If the pace is slow, I think he’ll have to be in position like he was in the Florida Derby,” McGaughey said. “If the pace is fast, we’ll let him run his race.”

The likely reason Verrazano’s standing as the unquestioned favorite has waned in recent weeks is concern whether he can handle 1 1/4 miles.

“If everybody told the truth, we’re all a little concerned about the mile and a quarter,” Pletcher said. “But he hasn’t shown anything in his racing or training that he won’t be able to do it, and I’m even more confident after seeing his last two works.”

Verrazano figures to be in a good tactical position, especially if the pace is moderate, which would compromise horses who are trying to rally. A critical early point in this race will be the first turn, since several midpack horses have similar running styles and will be trying to avoid getting caught wide or stuck in traffic behind horses.

“The first turn, a lot of years the field is spread out more than it might be this year,” Pletcher said.

Verrazano is ridden by John Velazquez, who returned to action Thursday after being off 3 1/2 weeks following an accident at Aqueduct in which he fractured a rib and chipped a bone in his right wrist.

Pletcher’s other elite contender is the late-running Revolutionary, who will be seeking to give jockey Calvin Borel his fourth Derby win.

“I think Revolutionary’s running style and Calvin’s riding style suit each other very well,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher does not envision the bulky field hampering his colt Overanalyze because “he’s the kind of horse who doesn’t mind mixing it up.”

Pletcher’s other two runners are the longshot Charming Kitten and Palace Malice, who is adding blinkers.

Itsmyluckday was second to Orb in the Florida Derby, a race Eddie Plesa Jr., his trainer and co-owner, said was a means to an end.

“I know it sounds ludicrous to say we were using the Florida Derby as a prep, but he hadn’t run for 62 days, by design,” Plesa said. “Was he 100 percent fit? No. He was close. But to beat Orb, you’d better be 100 percent. He’ll have no excuses coming into the Derby.”

Goldencents is trained by Doug O’Neill, who is seeking consecutive victories after winning with I’ll Have Another a year ago.

“I believe he has it in him to go a mile and a quarter,” O’Neill said.

Goldencents will be ridden by Kevin Krigger, who is seeking to become the first black jockey to win the Derby since 1902.

Rosie Napravnik would become the first female jockey to win the Derby should she get to the winner’s circle with Mylute.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is seeking his fifth Derby win with two longshots, Oxbow – ridden by the Comeback Kid, three-time Derby winner Gary Stevens – and Will Take Charge.

Trainer Kenny McPeek also has two longshots, Frac Daddy and Java’s War. Java’s War rallied from last to first after breaking poorly to win the Blue Grass at Keeneland in his final prep.

“That was pretty special,” McPeek said. “He overcame a lot.”

Normandy Invasion usually rallies from far back, but he has shown improved speed in recent training sessions and appeared to run off with his exercise rider while training Thursday morning. Javier Castellano will be aboard for the Derby.

“He really started to work sharp after the Risen Star,” said trainer Chad Brown, referring to Normandy Invasion’s first start of the year. “If the pace is soft, he’ll be laying closer.

[KENTUCKY DERBY FIELD: Contender profiles and handicapping videos]

“I want him sharp enough so my jock will be able to pick a spot and get there, not have others dictate where he’ll be.”

Vyjack is seeking to improve upon a third-place finish behind Verrazano and Normandy Invasion in the Wood Memorial. He tuned up for the Derby on Thursday morning with a three-furlong drill in 37.13 seconds, according to Daily Racing Form .

Golden Soul is a longshot who has trained well here. Lines of Battle, who has never raced on dirt, arrived from Ireland on Wednesday. Giant Finish was a late addition to the field at the request of his owner, Andrew Cohen.

There were 21 entered in the Derby, but a maximum of 20 can start, so Fear the Kitten, who had earned the fewest points of the 21 in designated prep races, was placed on the also-eligible list. The only way he could draw into the race was if one of the top 20 was scratched before 9 a.m. Friday. Unfortunately for him, he was scratched at that time. A little more than an hour later, the scratch of Black Onyx was announced.

Churchill Downs officials said the number 1 post, which Black Onyx drew, will be left open.

The Derby, with a listed post time of 6:24 p.m. Eastern, is the 11th race on a 13-race card that begins at 10:30 a.m. It will be shown live on NBC Sports during a telecast that begins at 4 p.m. The NBC Sports Network will have undercard coverage from 11 a.m to 4 p.m., as well as a post-race show at 7 p.m.

There are five other graded stakes on the card, two Grade 1, including a sensational edition of the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, featuring the 2012 Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, against Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up Point of Entry.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch

Craig More than 1 year ago
Orb holding at 7 to 1,let me call my broker.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I have followed his races and on occasion caught a breeze. Loved him before FOY. Still do. ORB, Itsmyluckyday, Goldencents, Java's War, Oxbow. ORB WIN/PLACE. 50cent tri box. Exacts box Orb with these.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Verrazano overanalyze WTC rev no
Mark More than 1 year ago
Francisco Pannaci More than 1 year ago
Same day Orb won the Florida Derby, Dreaming of Julia carrying 6 more lbs , ran the same distance 2 seconds faster than Orb. Yesterday Dreaming of Julia was not what we thought she was in the Oaks. In the Fountain of Youth Orb he beat a very very good horse called Violence, but it happens that Violence set suicidal fractions ( 23', 45' and 1:08 ' for 1 1/16 miles ) and tired in the final furlong. So carefull with that Orb hype, no legit foundation.
Casey Ennis More than 1 year ago
Julia tired the final furlong??? Do you wear glasses???She got crushed at gate, crushed on back stretch, didn't grab hold of the track to the 3/4 finished willing, switching leads the final 70yards. That's coming from someone who bet the 6. She also had the best rag number ever in the history of them the race before, so the bounce was in effect. But she's that good.
Shea Heesacker More than 1 year ago
I really can't judge Dreaming of Julia by the Oaks. She had no chance after the break.
Casey Ennis More than 1 year ago
All you need to know is bet this, all three horses are standouts on rags, thorograph, beyer rules, and the strike rule, and all three are bred and proven on off track. Here you go. A free handout that should cost 200 to look at. My Selection is #14 Verrazano, with #12Itsmyluckyday, and #3 Revolutionary. My savers are #9 Overanalyze and #16 Orb. My bomb is #9 Overanalyze . My Pick 4 tickets will be attached to this, obviously only big players or a group could play the tickets that I attach to this. P3 39121416 w 125678 w 124567891112 Exacta 31214 w 39121416 reverse Trifecta 31214 w 39121416 w 345689101112141617181920……39121416 w 31214 w 345689101112141617181920 50cent tics $78 a tic 391214 w 391214 w 345689101112141617181920
Casey Ennis More than 1 year ago
Thank me later, I do except small donations, I understand these tixs cost a lot, but that's my budget.
Michael Natale More than 1 year ago
Where is your strategy? You are just picking the field... Why not pick some horses and stand for something? I'm just fooling with you. I would say good luck but I think you already won...
Casey Ennis More than 1 year ago
Im keying 3,12,14 on top in tri and 2nd with the 3,9,12,14,16, it's called wrapping a set of numbers. you only see 3 12 14 and 3 9 12 14 16, keyed first and second with all those other's underneath
Michael Natale More than 1 year ago
I just don't know if you will win enough to cover those wages.
Casey Ennis More than 1 year ago
I will get my money back for sure, even if it's all favs trust me, These are the bets from the top handicapper in america.
Casey Ennis More than 1 year ago
Just yesterday he had 7 of 11 winners. 2 grand pk4, 7grand pk4 3 grand super, and the 6 in the oaks
Richard Berry More than 1 year ago
Orbs problem is going to be Javas War. We know he can make the mile and quarter, can Orb? Iv got my worries there. I think its going to be Javas War first and Orb 2nd
andy More than 1 year ago
Just something to consider...Javas War looks live except for how he might handle Churchill. His only race here was one of his worst and he isn't training that great here either... Take a look and make your own opinion. I got off of him because of his one race here AND how he is training on this track...
Con MacCarthy More than 1 year ago
Oxbow,Arkansas Derby was a workout,watch the race,ran him wide into first turn,put him in the middle of horses on the back strech,and excellerated on the turn for home,finished up nicely.Awesome Again is his Daddy and loved this track.Oh yeah,he already has a win over the surface.He'll catch Orb at the wire.We're all throughing darts so that is my best guess.
Jason Zeber More than 1 year ago
Oxbow is a good horse don't get me wrong. He's very competitive and rarely runs a bad race. That being said he's not going to be "catching" Orb or anyone he's also not going to be "holding off" anyone either near or on the lead. Gary Stevens said that the Arkansas Derby was a test of sorts to see if Oxbow can rate or close and clearly he didn't like dirt in his face rocking his head about. So with the poor 2 hole post and the fact he does his best running on the lead he's going to be sent. Goldencents and Falling Sky would be the better speed imo and probably have Oxbow pinned to the rail. Oxbow's best races have been on the lead with a slow setup which he wont get on Derby day. He's also been more of a hanger recently taking short leads in deep stretch only to be run down by huge longshots. Orb, Verrazano, Normandy Invasion, and OverAnalyze would be better plays. Good Luck to you. I've been wrong before but I doubt Oxbow beats me tomorrow.
Brandon Towery More than 1 year ago
N the 3 horse closes like a freight train has always been the favorite or the 5 ni will be coming not orb lol 13.1 come home time doubt he'll be catching many gl n I hope yal make him the favorite. Longshot I like palice malice had lots of trouble in louisiana derby
Brandon Towery More than 1 year ago
Pace makes the race verrazano very scary since they have hand ridden him but my favorite would be goldenscents by far the fastest as itsmyluckyday has already found out. Orb has won his derby already the florida one never the kentucky one.
Brandon Towery More than 1 year ago
Do u really think orb will win what did he beat? Itsmyluckyday come on guys everything points to goldenscents or verrazano . Goldenscents beat itsmyluckyday by7 1/4 lol orb beat him by 2 3/4 off a 62 day layoff n everything verrazano has beat came back n won lol. Javas war not to mention vvjack beat orb by 5 come on guys n this is ur derby favorite?
Jason Zeber More than 1 year ago
So you're putting more stock in what these horses did at 2 then what they did at 3? lol. As a 3 YO tell me what Goldencents beat aside from Flashback? Tiza Minister, Power Broker, War Academy? The West coast crop was extremely weak this year. There will be no free rides on the lead dispite the fact that there are no true speed of speed types this year with the points. Orb has improved dramatically each race at 3 and has beaten very good horses Violence, IMLD. The better races were run on the east coast in NY and FL not CA. Verrazano is a good horse and should be in a nice spot with the post but he's decresed his figures as the races get longer. Definately a distance question with him but he's clearly one of the most talented horses in the field. We'll see what happens. Good luck.
akhiym james More than 1 year ago
Yes Verrazano figures have decreased but he still has run the fastest coming home. His last 3/8ths in the Wood was 36 and change and that's the fastest of all the major 1 1/8 prep races. Verrazano will be tough just as Bodemiester was last year. He's learned to harness his speed as they go further; he's running faster than any other horse as they go curther and that's what shows me he can get the distance.