Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Orb galloped 1 1/4 miles under exercise rider Jenn Patterson May 10 at Belmont Park, looking the picture of a happy, healthy horse ready to take on the challenge of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.
"I was pleased with everything I've been seeing," trainer Shug McGaughey said.
The Hall of Fame trainer has had trouble taking his eyes off the 3-year-old colt that provided him with his first Kentucky Derby success May 4 at Churchill Downs.
"He has filled out so much physically," McGaughey said. "I look at him and I can't believe what I'm seeing from last November to now. Mentally, everything has come together. He was a bit difficult at the gate all of his 2-year-old year and that's all behind him. I couldn't be more pleased with his development."
Orb, who closed from 17th to post a 2 1/2-length victory in the Derby, has won five races in a row, starting with his maiden victory at Aqueduct Racetrack in November. In his two most recent starts in the Kentucky Derby and the Florida Derby (gr. I), in particular, Orb was well in command as he crossed the finish line, leading observers to conclude that in each instance he had reserved some energy for his next race.
"I think it's because he's getting it done quicker than we think he is," McGaughey said. "In the Florida Derby, Johnny (Velazquez) said he got there quicker than he thought he would, and he had to throttle him down. I think it was the same in the Kentucky Derby. He got to those horses quicker than (Joel Rosario) thought he would."
Orb is regarded as a closer, but his running style doesn't leave him at the mercy of the early pace.
"He comes from back, but they don't take him back," McGaughey said. "It depends on the color of the race. If it's a fast pace, he'll be off of it, but if it's slow, I think he'll actually be laying up close like he was in the Florida Derby–within four, five, six lengths. And he has got enough of a punch that you don't take him out of the game plan when you do lay up close."
Itsmyluckyday, who finished second to Orb in the Florida Derby before faltering to 15th in the Kentucky Derby, galloped at Monmouth Park May 10. Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., who arrived from his South Florida home base to Monmouth May 9, supervised the morning exercise.
"He looked as good to me as he did in Kentucky (before the Derby)," Plesa said. "His gallop today was very, very well into the bit. He's just feeling very good."
Forecasts for weekend rain in New Jersey caused Plesa to call an audible while mapping out Itsmyluckyday's work schedule.
"I'm hoping to work him the next couple days," Plesa said. "We're expecting rain up here. I was initially going to work him (May 12), but I've moved it up to Saturday. "We'll see what it looks like. I can work him as late as (May 15).
"If something happens and it's still raining on Monday, which it could be, I don't have to work him, but my preference would be to work him."
Plesa said Itsmyluckyday is tentatively scheduled to ship to Pimlico May 16.
Goldencents turned in an enthusiastic gallop May 10 at Pimlico under his jockey, Kevin Krigger. It was the first piece of serious exercise for the colt since he finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby. He returned to the track May 9 and jogged.
Krigger is spending the two weeks between the Derby and the Preakness with trainer Doug O'Neill's outfit at Pimlico. He is the exercise rider for all 14 of the O'Neill horses stabled at the Baltimore track, and has picked up a pair of mounts on the May 11 racing program at Pimlico, but his priority is Goldencents, the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner.
Goldencents jogged for a half-mile and appeared to be very alert and interested when Krigger asked him to pick up the pace and gallop about six furlongs.
"This is the first time I've ever been able to gallop him and I got what I was looking for out of him, a pretty good relaxed gallop," Krigger said. "He stayed relaxed and that's basically what I'm focusing on, letting him achieve the workouts that he needs, not be rank doing it, and be comfortable and relaxed. I got that out of him this morning."
Assistant trainer Jack Sisterson liked what he saw from the Into Mischief colt during the 20 minutes he was on the track.
"He's one horse that gets a lot out of his training," Sisterson said. "We wanted to see how he would come out of the Kentucky Derby, and he has bounced out of it with high energy. He moved over the track well and Kevin was really happy with him this morning."
Goldencents trained well at Churchill but turned in a disappointing performance in the Derby, which was run on a sloppy, sealed surface.
"It's not the first race that he has not run to expectations, but it was the Derby and a race that we all wanted to win," Krigger said. "At the same time it was a race that we enjoyed participating in. We didn't get the turnout that we were looking for, but he came out of the Derby happy and he came out of the Derby sound, and his energy level is up. It's like he didn't even run last week.
"We're just keeping our focus. I don't think any of us has lost any confidence. We looked back at the race, and if he had gotten beaten in the stretch we would probably feel more disappointed than we do. It's as simple as he didn't run his race at all. We're just drawing a line through that race and staying focused and keeping our confidence. As you can see, he's doing the same thing. We're all on the same page."
Goldencents is scheduled to gallop again May 11-12. O'Neill is flying in from California to watch the colt breeze May 13.
Krigger said O'Neill will see a horse that has adapted well to the track. "He looks great, is traveling great," Krigger said. "From my first day galloping him, I'm pretty confident that we're going to be pretty competitive in the Preakness."
Krigger is looking to become the third African-American rider to win the Preakness and the first since 1898 when Willie Simms won aboard Sly Fox. George "Spider" Anderson captured the 1889 Preakness with Buddhist.
Six African-American riders have previously ridden in the Preakness. The last was Wayne Barrett, who finished eighth in 1985 with Sparrowvon.
Illinois Derby (G3) winner Departing galloped "a spirited" 1 1/2 miles in the words of trainer Al Stall Jr. May 10 at Churchill. Owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Departing is scheduled to work at 8:30 a.m. EDT May 12, walk May 13, and then train the next two mornings before shipping to Pimlico May 15.
GoldMark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm's Mylute galloped 1 1/2 miles at Churchill May 10. A decision on the Preakness status of the fifth-place Derby finisher will be made May 11.
"He trained well this morning and showed good energy. I was satisfied with what I saw and passed that on to the owners," trainer Tom Amoss said. "After he trains in the morning, I'll call the owners at 7 and we will make a decision on the race."
All three of trainer D. Wayne Lukas' Preakness hopefuls, Oxbow , Will Take Charge, and Titletown Five, galloped May 10 at Churchill. Lukas plans to van nine horses to Pimlico May 14 with a 3 a.m. departure from Churchill.
The Hall of Fame trainer saddled Oxbow and Will Take Charge for sixth- and eighth-place finishes, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby. Lukas was particularly impressed with Will Take Charge's effort during a troubled journey.
"You look at the aerial view of the race, and Will Take Charge may have been running the best of all," Lukas said. "He was moving with Orb and then he got checked twice when Verrazano ducked in and out in front of him."
Normandy Invasion galloped at Belmont May 10 for trainer Chad Brown. The Tapit colt owned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms remains a Preakness candidate. Govenor Charlie, Vyjack and Street Spice also remained Preakness candidates as of May 10.