If you’ve ever met Shug McGaughey, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Orb, you’ll understand what “old school” really means in horse racing.
Bragging is not in the vernacular. Superlatives must be pried out of his mouth using a crowbar. Old school trainers let their horses do the talking.
Thus, when McGaughey called a Monday workout by Orb at Belmont Park “breathtaking” and “spectacular” and said it gave him “cold chills,” it was a rare admission by the Hall of Fame trainer.
Orb was timed going four furlongs in 47 1/5. The key for McGaughey was his colt showed his normal energy post-Derby. He appears to have exited Churchill Downs no worse for wear.
The horse that wins the Kentucky Derby typically has to run the best race of his life. Then the likelihood exists of a bounce in the Preakness on short rest, just two weeks later.
Many of his Derby foes must believe that the only horse that can beat Orb in the Preakness is Orb.
The next three finishers behind Orb in the Derby — Golden Soul, Revolutionary and Normandy Invasion — are passing on Pimlico. We may see them again in the third jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes on June 8.
If Orb is able to win the Preakness on Saturday, then more fresh shooters will await his Triple Crown try in New York.
Orb (1-1) is the morning-line favorite with Mylute (5-1), fifth in the Derby, a distant second choice. Only nine horses entered the Preakness to face Orb, who drew the rail post.
I doubt if post position will be a factor with so few starters. Orb prefers to sit midpack, or farther, behind the field. The two horses to his right, Goldencents and Titletown Five, both have a lot of early speed. This should create a natural pocket for Orb and jockey Joel Rosario to sit in.
Every horse in the Preakness has either an excuse from the Derby, or is a fresh-faced newcomer to the Triple Crown.
Will Take Charge (12-1) had the most troubled Derby trip, getting checked hard near the top of the stretch when Verrazano tired in front of him.
Goldencents (8-1) and Itsmyluckyday (10-1) were two horses that hated the sloppy main track at Churchill. Their jockeys eased both horses in the stretch when hopelessly beaten. That saving move has allowed their trainers to run right back in the Preakness.
Oxbow (15-1) was the lone horse who was involved in a suicide early pace of the Derby and stuck around, finishing a gutsy sixth.
Departing (6-1) and Govenor Charlie (12-1) are two fresh shooters from trainers Al Stall Jr. and Bob Baffert, respectively.
Both are exiting big prep wins, are lightly raced and appear to have much potential. Departing, in particular, sticks out after winning the Illinois Derby while getting a wide trip from post 13.
■ ENG’S PREAKNESS PICKS — Orb, Departing, Goldencents, Itsmyluckyday.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.