05/14/2013 12:30PM

Preakness: O'Neill alters training for Goldencents to what worked earlier

Barbara D. Livingston
Goldencents gallops a mile Tuesday at Pimlico with regular rider Kevin Krigger aboard.

BALTIMORE – Orb’s triumph in the Kentucky Derby was viewed by some as a victory for the old-school training methods of Shug McGaughey.

When it comes to Goldencents, trainer Doug O’Neill – who won last year’s Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another – is employing some old-school methods of his own. As in two months old.

After Goldencents disappointed in the San Felipe in March, O’Neill changed his training regimen with the colt to put in slower, longer-distance gallops in order to get him to relax. When Goldencents won the Santa Anita Derby, O’Neill naturally decided to stick with that training style leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

Now, after Goldencents flopped in the Derby – he finished 17th over a sloppy Churchill track – O’Neill has reverted to his previous training methods of shorter, quicker gallops.

On Tuesday at Pimlico, Goldencents had his most rigorous training session since the Derby, galloping a strong mile under jockey Kevin Krigger. Daily Racing Form timed the gallop in 1:51.25 with a final half-mile of 53.73 seconds.

“Slowing the gallops down, slowing the works down wasn’t in my comfort zone,” O’Neill said Tuesday outside Pimlico’s Barn D. “I feel more comfortable letting them stretch and breathe like they do in a race setting. To me, if you can make the race setting not much more different than their daily training then it is easier for them.”

Nothing was easy for Goldencents in the Derby. Goldencents got caught up in a wicked early pace battle with Palace Malice for the opening quarter, and then found himself chasing that rival through a half-mile in 45.33 and six furlongs in 1:09.80. Goldencents backed up around the far turn and was basically eased by Krigger from the three-sixteenths pole to the wire.

[2013 PREAKNESS FIELD: Probable starters and early odds]

“Kevin took care of him and we’re seeing the fruits of it now,” O’Neill said. “His attitude is great, his appetite is great, and he seems happy.”

Krigger, who decided to come to Baltimore with Goldencents and about a dozen other O’Neill-trained horses, was enthusiastic with the way Goldencents trained on Tuesday.

“Awesome morning, couldn’t ask for better training out of this horse,” said Krigger, who waited patiently at the gap atop Goldencents while a loose horse was being corralled by an outrider. “I was enjoying myself. The horse was having a great time too. He’s galloping as good as a horse can gallop right now.”

Krigger is on board with the return to the quicker, shorter gallops that Goldencents has turned in since arriving at Pimlico.

“The majority of the time we let him dictate what he wants to do,” Krigger said. “He’s a graceful, free-moving horse. He does everything himself. We’re not making him do it. I’m just up for the ride.”

As was the case before the Derby, all signs indicate that Goldencents will be the pacesetter in the Preakness. Govenor Charlie, who pressed a hot pace in the Sunland Derby and hasn’t been out since that March 24 race, and Titletown Five, who pressed the pace in the Louisiana Derby before retreating to ninth, are the other early speed horses in the nine-horse field.

[2013 PREAKNESS STAKES: Latest news, video, and more]

“If someone does a Palace Malice, we should be able to run our race regardless of how it unfolds,” O’Neill said.

In 1996, Louis Quatorze finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby and came back two weeks later to win the Preakness on the front end with a time of 1:53.43 that equals the second-fastest clocking of the Preakness behind only Secretariat’s 1:53.

While O’Neill has respect for Orb, he is expressing confidence going into the Preakness.

“With a smaller field, and good weather, we can turn the tables on Orb,” he said.

The forecast for Saturday has changed somewhat and now calls for a high of 76 degrees and partly cloudy skies with only a 20-percent chance of rain, down from Monday’s forecast of 30 percent.

◗ On Tuesday morning, Orb walked the shed row at Pimlico for 40 minutes and grazed. He was scheduled to make his first visit to the track on Wednesday morning.

“Everything’s fine here,” trainer Shug McGaughey said.

◗ Trainer Bob Baffert on Tuesday indicated he plans to send Govenor Charlie to Pimlico on Wednesday, but left himself a little wiggle room to change his mind. On Tuesday, Govenor Charlie, worked five furlongs in 1:10.80 at Churchill.

“The horse worked like he’s supposed to work. He looked great today. Got him checked out. He’s 100 percent. Now I have to make the call,” Baffert said from Southern California.

Govenor Charlie, along with Mylute and Departing, were scheduled to leave Churchill Downs for nearby Louisville Airport at 10:45 a.m.

“Don’t make a decision till you have to,” Baffert said. “I got my flights. I got my hotel. We are on red alert.”

◗ Itsmyluckyday, 15th in the Kentucky Derby, jogged at Monmouth Park on Tuesday morning and vanned to Pimlico.

◗ The trio of D. Wayne Lukas runners – Oxbow, Will Take Charge and Titletown Five – were due to arrive by van from Churchill early Tuesday evening.