BALTIMORE (AP) — Orb has settled into the place reserved for royalty at Pimlico Race Course — stall 40.
The Triple Crown hopeful arrived at Pimlico on Monday afternoon, five days before the Preakness. He was immediately taken to stall 40 at the Stakes Barn, which traditionally serves as home to the Kentucky Derby winner.
Some of the greatest horses in history have been kept there, including Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978). "I can’t believe how proud I am," trainer Shug McGaughey said.
Orb was shipped by van after an outstanding workout at Belmont Park. With exercise rider Jennifer Patterson aboard, Orb seemed to move effortlessly around the track on a clear, sunny day. He breezed four furlongs in 47.18 seconds and galloped out five furlongs in 59.54.
"The way he worked this morning was nothing short of magnificent," McGaughey said. "I could be any happier where we are, and I’m very excited about Saturday afternoon."
McGaughey wasn’t concerned with the fast fractions, which came nine days after running 1¼ miles in the Derby.
"I think it’s a tribute to the way he came out of the Derby, and to come back and be able to have a work like that and do it the way he did it — I couldn’t be more thrilled," he said in New York. "Right now, I’m on cloud nine. The way he was striding today, the way he held his leads through the lane, I thought it was spectacular."
McGaughey understands the pressure associated with trying to the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed, although he sees no reason to be nervous.
"Obviously I’m thinking about what I’m going to do this week, but I’m not really worried about it," he said.
Not to mention, Orb hasn’t done anything that would indicate he won’t be at his best on Saturday.
"Everything just of sort of keeps getting better, his demeanor and as much as he’s enjoying what he’s doing," the Hall of Fame trainer said.
Orb was the second horse to arrive at Pimlico, joining Goldencents, the 17th-place finisher in the Derby.
"I wanted to just get him down here, get him used to his surroundings," McGaughey said. "I like to school him in the paddock, and I didn’t want to do too much at one time. So I thought we’d get him in here today, give him his off day tomorrow and then maybe we’ll train a little on Wednesday."
For McGaughey, being the favorite in the Preakness is preferable to coming in as the long shot. "I want to be the favorite every time I run," he said. "Today we’re standing up here with a little bit of a target on our back. I like that. If it doesn’t work on Saturday, that’s going to be just the way it is. I’ve been doing this quite a long time, and I know you win some and you lose some."
McGaughey has never won a Preakness. The last time he tried was in 1989, when Kentucky Derby runner-up Easy Goer lost to Sunday Silence by a nose.
"Obviously I’m here with the Derby winner so I’m a lot more at ease than when I came in that time," he said.
A win in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on Saturday would set up a Triple Crown try in the Belmont Stakes on June 8.
Orb, owned by the Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney III, takes a five-race winning streak in the Preakness, where he will face what look to be nine challengers. Among them are Derby runners Mylute (fifth), Oxbow (sixth), Will Take Charge (eighth), Itsmyluckyday (15th) and Goldencents. Also set for the race is Departing, winner of the Illinois Derby.
"I think it’s formidable," McGaughey said. "I know that Oxbow made a good run in the Derby. I never really kind of sat down and watched it and pinned it down. The other horse (Will Take Charge) got in some trouble. You’ve got to respect Departing coming in there off his race in the Illinois Derby and being relatively fresh. My main concern is just trying to get Orb over there the best way we possibly can and if he runs his race I think they’ll know he’s in there."