05/13/2013 6:25AM

Preakness Stakes: Orb's Monday workout puts McGaughey at ease


ELMONT, N.Y. – Shug McGaughey is not known for hyperbole. But in assessing Orb’s final workout for Saturday’s 138th Preakness Stakes, the Hall of Fame trainer was not afraid to toss around works like “freaky,” “breathtaking,” and “spectacular.”

Nine days after winning the Kentucky Derby and five days before he looks to add the Preakness to his résumé, Orb worked four furlongs in 47.18 seconds Monday morning over the Belmont Park main track.

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The work was reminiscent of his half-mile breeze the Monday before the Kentucky Derby when Orb went four furlongs in 47.89. That work was done with a stablemate; Monday, Orb worked by himself.

Monday’s workout – plus two defections from the field – may have served to drop his odds below even money. More importantly, perhaps, the work helped calm the nerves of an admittedly increasingly uptight McGaughey.

“I’m less uptight now,” McGaughey said about 30 minutes after the work. “I had been a little more uptight than, say, Derby week. I think I’m in pretty good shape now.”

Working under clear blue skies and over a fast track on a chilly spring morning, Orb, with his regular exercise rider Jennifer Patterson up, got his final quarter in 23.12 over a glib racetrack. He galloped out five furlongs in 59.54 and pulled up six furlongs in 1:13.14.

“I thought it was freaky,” McGaughey said. “It didn’t look like he got out of a high gallop. It gave me chills, I’ll tell you that. That’s what good horses do.”

Orb was one of five horses who put in workouts Monday morning in advance of Saturday’s Preakness. The rest of the activity took place at Churchill Downs, where Derby also-rans Mylute, Oxbow, and Will Take Charge, as well as Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, all were credited with timed workouts. Titletown Five, another Triple Crown newcomer, put in a strong gallop.

On Sunday, Itsmyluckyday, 15th in the Kentucky Derby, worked four furlongs in 47.20 at Monmouth Park. He was scheduled to van to Baltimore on Tuesday.

Departing, who worked Sunday at Churchill, and Goldencents, who galloped Monday at Pimlico, are the other Preakness runners.

Meanwhile, the field for the Preakness shrank to nine with the announcement Monday by owner David Wilkenfeld that Vyjack, the Gotham Stakes winner and 18th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, would skip the Preakness. Wilkenfeld said the horse lost some weight out of the Derby and “my instincts tell me not to go.”

On Sunday, owner Rick Porter had declared Normandy Invasion, fourth-place finisher in the Derby, out of the Preakness. He will point to a summer campaign focusing on the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 24.

Orb had been at Belmont since the day after the Kentucky Derby, making him the first Derby winner to train for the Preakness in New York since Funny Cide in 2003. Since he resumed training May 8, Orb had been galloping over nothing but wet surfaces.

Monday, the main track was fast and yielded quick times throughout the 4 1/2-hour training session.

Orb entered the track alongside a stable pony and walked to just in front of the winner’s circle where he stopped and stood for several minutes. He walked further up the track to the eighth pole, where he again stood for a few minutes. Orb turned around and galloped alongside the pony through the lane and around the clubhouse turn before being turned loose in the middle of the turn.

Patterson kept Orb in the middle of the track down the backside before guiding him to the rail approaching the half-mile, which is at the head of the far turn.

Orb, as timed by Daily Racing Form, went his first eighth in 12.21 and went a quarter in 24.06. Approaching the eighth pole, Patterson said she squeezed the reins slightly and Orb lengthened his stride, getting his last quarter in 23.12.

“I was not expecting to hear that time,” Patterson said. “He just does things so easily; it’s scary how easily he does it. I was a little nervous. I thought ‘I hope I don’t get in trouble.’ Shug just looked at me when I came off the track and said ‘scary.’ I said ‘Yeah, he’s a freak.’ I never sat on anything like him that can do things as easily as him.”

McGaughey said that Monday’s move may have been more impressive than the half-mile move before the Derby – which was done in company – and was a “tribute to the way he came out of the Derby.”

“Right now, I’m on cloud nine,” he said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with what I’ve seen – the way he was striding today, the way he held his leads through the lane, I thought he was spectacular.”

Orb left Belmont Park by van about 10:20 a.m. and arrived at Pimlico at 3:07 p.m. McGaughey said that Orb would have a day off Tuesday and resume training Wednesday.