Belmont Stakes: Orb's strong gallop has McGaughey wanting to run

Story by: David Grening
Source: DRF.com

Kentucky Derby winner Orb galloped a strong mile Thursday morning at Belmont Park, his first day back to the track since his fourth-place finish in last Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.

Afterward, trainer Shug McGaughey said he was pleased with what he saw and if things continue to go well, he would like to run Orb in the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 8.

[BELMONT STAKES: Probable field and latest updates]

“If everything’s right, he’s doing right, puts his weight back on, his energy level’s good, we would like to run in the Belmont,” said McGaughey, who trains Orb for co-owners/breeders Ogden Mills Phipps and Stuart Janney III. “If we hit any stumbling block along the way there are plenty of other good opportunities.”

The Belmont Stakes lost a contender Wednesday evening when trainer Tom Amoss said via text message that Preakness third-place finisher Mylute would skip the Belmont and “point to a start later in summer.”

Orb certainly displayed a high energy level on a cloudy, humid Thursday morning. Orb, with his regular exercise rider Jennifer Patterson aboard, entered the sealed, good main track at 6 a.m. and stood quietly alongside a stable pony at the 1 1/4 mile pole.

Orb didn’t appear to turn a hair when two loose horses went by him from opposite directions seconds apart.

“They said it was quite exciting down there with the loose horses and the outriders,” McGaughey said. “With all he’s been through, he’s seen so much, I don’t think it’s going to startle him. It got me off my seat.”

Once the commotion died down, Orb jogged for about three-eighths of a mile before leaving the stable pony at the 6 1/2 furlong pole. He jumped right into his gallop, but was kept closer to the outside rail than the inside rail owing to the presence of two sets of orange traffic cones, commonly referred to as dogs, which forced all horses to train on the outer half of the sealed track.

Patterson had a good hold of Orb has he galloped in sub-16-second eighths through the stretch.

“I thought he went really good,” McGaughey said. “I told Jenn, 'I can live with that.’ He seemed to come out of his race really well. He gradually picked his feed up. I brought him out of his stall yesterday afternoon and came out on his back feet. He galloped nice this morning. If he continues in that direction, I’ll be a happy guy.”

- additional reporting by Marty McGee