It's hard to imagine a more idyllic setting than Saratoga Race Course, but Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Orb seems to have found one at Fair Hill Training Center near Elkton, Md.
Though Hall of Fame horseman Shug McGaughey originally planned to bring Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney III's Malibu Moon colt to the upstate New York track Aug. 7 to continue preparations for the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes (gr. I), he reported that Orb is thriving under the care of exercise rider Jennifer Patterson in Maryland and could remain in Maryland for about another week.
"He was scheduled to come on Wednesday, but I might keep him there a couple extra days," McGaughey said Aug. 5. "Jen's the one asking me, 'Leave him here for another week, let me work him there one more time without having to change tracks.' He's really doing excellent up there. Every time I go see him, I'm more pleased."
Orb breezed five furlongs in 1:00 Aug. 3 on the dirt at Fair Hill. McGaughey said Janney planned to visit the colt Aug. 5.
"I said 'I'm going to leave it up to you,' have him take a look and see how well he's doing," the trainer said.
Orb has breezed five times at Fair Hill since running third in the June 8 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), his most recent start off a fourth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). He went three furlongs in :36 on July 3, then turned in three steady four-furlong moves–:50 1/5 on July 10, :49 1/5 on July 20, and :48 1/5 on July 27–before stretching out to five furlongs for the first time there in this latest move.
Orb skipped the July 27 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), Saratoga's traditional Travers prep, which was won by Belmont victor Palace Malice. That Dogwood Stables runner is still on track for the Travers, as is Let's Go Stables and Coolmore partners' July 28 William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I) winner Verrazano .
Both are trained by Todd Pletcher. Oxbow , winner of the Preakness for Calumet Farm, came out of the Haskell with a soft tissue injury and will miss at least the rest of the summer season, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
"I thought both horses ran great races," McGaughey said of Palace Malice and Verrazano. "We're not going to be able to drop out of it, we're going to have to be up there closer to them. But I think we'll be very, very competitive."