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Orb Bounces Out of His Florida Derby Victory

McGaughey waiting to see if he needs to find a new jockey for the Kentucky Derby.

Shug McGaughey made the trip to Payson Park March 31 to check on Orb , his Besilu Stables Florida Derby winner (gr. I) the preceding afternoon, reporting that the son of Malibu Moon  was looking bright and feeling good after his latest impressive showing at Gulfstream Park.

"I'm kind of surprised how well he bounced out of his race, to tell you the truth," McGaughey said.

With his 2 3/4-length victory in Gulfstream's signature race March 30, Orb climbed to the top of the Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) leader board, which for the first time is based on a points system instead of graded earnings. The Florida Derby was worth 100 points to the winner, giving Orb a total of 150 points, including the 50 points he collected with his triumph in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (gr. II) at Gulfstream Feb. 23.

The Orb team, however, isn't totally set for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. Jockey John Velazquez has not committed to Orb and is slated to ride undefeated Verrazano  in the April 6 Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack. Depending on the outcome of the Wood, McGaughey may have to look for another jockey to ride Orb in the Derby.

"We're going to have to wait until next week. It's not a problem. I knew going in," said the hall of Fame trainer, with full knowledge he'll have no problem finding a prominent jockey to accept the Derby mount aboard Orb.

McGaughey's stable is in the process of shipping to Kentucky for the upcoming Keeneland meeting, but Orb will linger at Payson Park for a while.

"He's going to be at Payson Park for at least a week," McGaughey said.

Orb came to South Florida fresh after a maiden victory at Aqueduct in November and surprised his trainer with his rapid development. After winning an allowance race at the Florida Derby distance of 1 1/8 miles Jan. 26, the homebred for Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable narrowly beat previously undefeated Violence  in the Fountain of Youth. A return to 1 1/8 miles in the Florida Derby produced a powerhouse triumph in going-away fashion.

"I think he's the kind of horse that's probably better the farther they get," McGaughey said.

The 62-year-old native Kentuckian has started only six horses in the Kentucky Derby and only one, Saarland (10th in 2002), since saddling Easy Goer for a second-place finish behind Sunday Silence in 1989.

Elsewhere, trainer Todd Pletcher reported that Shanghai Bobby  came out of this fifth-place finish in the Florida Derby in good order. The 2012 juvenile champion has only 26 points and likely would need more points to qualify for the Derby.

Trilogy Stables and Laurie Plesa's Itsmyluckyday  was "110 percent" Sunday morning, trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr reported from Calder Casino & Race Course. Itsmyluckyday was the runner-up as the 17-10 favorite under jockey Elvis Trujillo.

"I really wanted to win the Florida Derby," said Plesa, who hadn't raced Itsmyluckyday since capturing the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 26. "It would have meant so much to me and the other owners, but I was very pleased with his race and Orb was the best horse Saturday. As important as Saturday's race was to us, it wasn't the ultimate goal.

"I had my reasons to give him the 60-plus days between the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby and I still wouldn't change anything with having made that decision. It may have made some difference in how he ran Saturday, but it was just a stepping stone. I believe he has the points (50) to get into the Derby."