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McGaughey Impressed With Orb's Latest Workout

Florida Derby winner polishes off five-furlong move at Payson with a strong finish.

Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) victor Orb  impressed trainer Shug McGaughey at Payson Park on the morning of April 21 while breezing five furlongs during a key workout for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. i) May 4.

Scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs later in the day, Orb was clocked in 1:02 1/5 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 4/5 under regular exercise rider Jennifer Patterson. Working in company with Puzzling, a 5-year-old mare ridden by Octavio Vergara, the Malibu Moon  colt ran the last quarter of a mile in :23 4/5.

"This was the one we need to get behind us," McGaughey said. "What I really wanted to see was to see him finish good. I didn't want to see him walking the last part of it."

During the 7:15 a.m. workout that attracted several spectators, including two-time NFL Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells, Orb raced side by side with his stablemate for three furlongs through fractions of :13 3/5, :26 4/5, and :38 2/5 before finishing a neck in front and galloping out strongly.

"What I liked to see was that he was very settled going to the track, warming up and coming home," McGaughey said. "Walking around here now, he's as calm as can be. That's what we've got to have the next two weeks."

The Hall of Fame trainer said Orb would likely breeze at Churchill April 29. McGaughey has saddled only six Kentucky Derby starters during his illustrious career and has been represented in the Run for the Roses by only one (Saarland, 10th in 2002) since favored Easy Goer finished second behind Sunday Silence in 1989.

"I'm really excited. I hope I stay excited and don't get nervous, but I know that's not going to happen. I had a lot of anticipation about today to get this over with in the right way. We got a good bottom work into him. We'll sharpen him up over there," McGaughey said. "But I am excited about the opportunity. If everything goes right in the next 13 days, I'll really get excited about maybe having a chance to win."

Orb made a quick jump in the 3-year-old ranks at Gulfstream Park after breaking his maiden at Aqueduct Racetrack in his fourth lifetime start Nov. 24. Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable's homebred captured a 1 1/8-mile allowance race Jan. 26 before upsetting previously undefeated Violence  by a half-length in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (gr. II) Feb. 23.

Orb capped off a spectacular Gulfstream meeting with a commanding 2 3/4-length triumph over Holy Bull (gr. III) winner Itsmyluckyday  in the $1 million Florida Derby March 30. The bay colt has now won four of seven starts while compiling a bankroll of $921,050.

"When he won the allowance race at a mile and an eighth, we were way ahead of where we wanted to be. Then, when he cut back to a mile and a sixteenth (for the Fountain of Youth), drawing the one post, I didn't know what to expect," McGaughey said. "Then, going into the Florida Derby, he'd trained so well and made so much physical improvement from the Fountain of Youth to the Florida Derby, I said to myself when they were going into the gate, 'I'm going to be interested to see how this horse runs today.'''

Orb ran like a top contender for the Kentucky Derby under deft handling by jockey John Velazquez.

"I've never had a horse show so much improvement over this short period of time at this time of the year," McGaughey said.

Velazquez, who also guided Orb to victory in the Fountain of Youth, made the tough choice to ride undefeated Verrazano , who is trained by longtime client Todd Pletcher, in the Kentucky Derby.

Joel Rosario, who had ridden Orb in his back-to-back maiden and allowance victories, gave up the mount on Orb to honor a previous commitment to ride Speak Logistics in the Fountain of Youth. When he needed to once again fill the open mount on Orb, McGaughey didn't hesitate to go back to Rosario for the Kentucky Derby.

"It was always in the making," he said. "There was not a thought about getting anyone else."