LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Now that Shug McGaughey has won the Kentucky Derby, it’s time for the 62-year-old trainer to go after another race missing from his Hall of Fame resume.
Orb will follow up his win at Churchill Downs by running in the Preakness on May 18, giving the colt a shot at the Triple Crown.
Churning through a sloppy track that resembled creamy peanut butter, the bay colt picked up speed and, one by one, blew past rivals Saturday.
By that time, jockey Joel Rosario knew he was aboard the Kentucky Derby winner.
Orb powered to a 2½-length victory Saturday at Churchill Downs, giving trainer McGaughey and Rosario their first Derby wins.
“I was so far behind,” Rosario said. “He was very relaxed. It’s exactly what I wanted.”
Rosario had Orb in the clear on the outside, and they forged to the lead in deep stretch, with enough momentum to hold off 34-1 shot Golden Soul.
“It did not matter if it was wet or dry, the best horse won,” rival trainer D. Wayne Lukas said
Orb arrived back at his home base in New York on Sunday, as did McGaughey and Rosario. The colt extended his winning streak to five races Saturday.
McGaughey has never won the Preakness in two previous attempts. He hasn’t had a horse in the race since 1989, when Easy Goer finished second to Sunday Silence, duplicating their Derby finish that year.
For a trainer who has always shown patience with his horses, McGaughey is eagerly anticipating the grueling Triple Crown campaign that compresses three races into a 5-week span.
“I can’t wait to get to the Preakness and do it again,” he said.
It’s fitting that Orb is set to run in Baltimore, the hometown of Stuart Janney III. He and co-owner Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, who also bred Orb, have never won the Preakness.
“The Preakness is important to me. I grew up around it, went there all the time,” Janney said.
McGaughey has worked exclusively for Janney and Phipps for years, training the horses they breed. In a sport known for rampant jealousy, there was an outpouring of goodwill for all three men after the Derby.
Trainers Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown stopped by to wish McGaughey well, while Lukas and Bob Baffert, who didn’t have a horse in the race, spoke warmly of him, too.
“It was a wonderful victory for Stuart Janney and Dinny Phipps. There was a lot of karma there that rewards people that have been great to the sport,” Lukas said. “I saw Dinny before the race and told him that I thought it was going to be his turn, and I was a little worried.”
After watching replays of the Derby, McGaughey was more impressed with Orb.
“The maturity he showed yesterday in everything he did, from his Derby day to his experience in the paddock, which was tremendous, going in the post and the way he raced, it was kind of amazing to me,” he said.
Orb will see some familiar challengers in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. Mylute and Oxbow, who finished fifth and sixth in the Derby, along with Will Take Charge (eighth), Itsmyluckyday (15th) and Goldencents (17th) are likely to face off against him again.
“As good as he is, if Goldencents rebounds and gets back to his Santa Anita Derby effort, I think we have a chance to be right there,” trainer Doug O’Neill said about his horse.
Among the new horses possibly joining the Preakness field are Illinois Derby winner Departing, Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, Southwest runner-up Fear the Kitten and Bellarmine.
Lukas, a five-time Preakness winner, thinks the next race will be the toughest for Orb.
“If he gets by that, he gets to go back home to Belmont and run right out of his stall,” he said.
Golden Soul, who finished second in the Derby as a 34-1 shot, will likely pass on the Preakness and point toward the Belmont Stakes on June 8, trainer Dallas Stewart said.
The final leg of the Triple Crown is where some of Pletcher’s Derby quintet could land, too.
Revolutionary, third in the Derby, and Overanalyze (11th) will likely run in the race.
Pletcher wasn’t sure about future plans for Palace Malice and Verrazano, whose four-race winning streak ended in the Derby. Charming Kitten will go back to turf races.