You only get two weeks for recovery, then recharging, between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
Orb appears to have made it through the first stage. Now, the trick is to get just enough of a work into him on Monday to put him back in the race cycle without taking too much more out of him.
Back in familiar, comfortable surroundings at Belmont Park — despite rain this week — the Derby winner did some light work over the last three days, and will crank it up a notch on Monday before heading to Pimlico for next Saturday’s Preakness.
“The first thing we’ve got to do, and what we’ve been doing, is getting him over his last race — try to get him back on his feet the best we can, get him fresh and happy again,” trainer Shug McGaughey said on Thursday.
“[On Monday] we just want to put him back in the game. We don’t need anything fast, just something that puts his mind back on what he’s doing. Then we’ll get him to Pimlico and get him acclimated. There’s not much else we can do.”
Orb, who debuted at Saratoga Race Course with a third to Violence and Titletown Five last August, actually has a little bit of experience with a quick turnaround between races.
In November, he broke his maiden at Aqueduct two weeks after having raced there.
He hasn’t lost in four starts this year, including the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, giving him wins at three different tracks.
“Day in and day out, with your better horses, you don’t want to run them back in two weeks, because they give you a lot when they run,” McGaughey said. “You’ve got to train them a little bit to get them to run again. There’s no compromise here. You’ve got to do it. You’ve just got to hope you haven’t drained your horse over the winter prep races and his training, so he can bounce out of a big race like he had on Derby Day. But I think we’ll be fine.”
In his return to the track, Orb jogged a mile on a sloppy track at Belmont on Wednesday under regular exercise rider Jennifer Patterson, then jogged about a half-mile before picking it up to a gallop for another mile on Thursday.
He showed an affinity for a sloppy track on Derby Day, when it rained all afternoon.
“Jenn said he was kind of bucking and playing and jumping the water puddles on the backstretch [on Thursday],” McGaughey said. “I was pleased with what I saw. His energy level is right where you’d want it to be Thursday after Saturday.”
On Friday, Orb galloped a mile and a quarter at Belmont.
McGaughey remains supremely confident that Orb and jockey Joel Rosario will be able to adjust to any sort of pace scenario.
Palace Malice produced some of the fastest early fractions in the history of the Derby, and subsequently four of the top five finishers, including Orb, were in 15th place or worse in the 19-horse field through six furlongs.
The only horses in the front group early who stayed there were Normandy Invasion (fourth) and Oxbow (sixth).
Orb was almost 20 lengths out of it through the half-mile and as far back as 17th through three-quarters behind the torrid pace, and won by 21⁄2 lengths over Golden Soul.
“In the Florida Derby, Johnny [Velazquez] said he got there quicker than he thought he would, and he had to throttle him down,” McGaughey said. “I think it was the same in the Kentucky Derby. He got to those horses quicker than [Rosario] thought he would.
“It depends on the color of the race. If it’s a fast pace, he’ll be off of it, but if it’s slow, I think he’ll actually be laying up close like he was in the Florida Derby, within four, five, six lengths. And he’s got enough of a punch that you don’t take him out of the game plan when you do lay up close.”
Sunday morning, Mechanicville native Chad Brown said Normandy Invasion would skip the Preakness in an effort to devise a plan to get to the Travers at Saratoga.
He backed off that on Monday, saying he wanted to see the Tapit colt, who took the lead in the Derby heading into the stretch before tiring at the sixteenth pole, gallop this weekend.
Brown told the Daily Racing Form on Friday that Normandy Invasion would not breeze, but if he believes he has a big chance to win the Preakness, he’d prefer to strike while the iron is hot.
With or without Normandy Invasion, it appears that Orb would have from nine to 11 challengers, including Derby runners Mylute, Oxbow, Will Take Charge, Itsmyluckyday, Goldencents and Vyjack.
Also in the mix are Illinois Derby winner Departing, Governor Charlie, Titletown Five and Street Spice.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a five-time Preakness winner, could have three in the race — Oxbow, Will Take Charge and Titletown Five — who is owned in part by Pro Football Hall of Famers Paul Hornung and Willie Davis.
Mike Smith, who rode Palace Malice in the Derby, would get the mount on Will Take Charge, and Julien Leparoux, 13th on Java’s War, would be on Titletown Five.
Itsmyluckyday, second to Orb in the Florida Derby, is scheduled to work at Monmouth Park this morning, unless it rains. He is supposed to ship to Pimlico on Tuesday.
Velazquez has been named to replace Elvis Trujillo.
Itsmyluckyday galloped at Monmouth on Friday.
“He looked as good to me as he did in Kentucky,” trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said. “His gallop was very, very well into the bit. He’s just feeling very good.”
Goldencents, who faded to 17th in the Derby, jogged a half-mile before picking it up for about six furlongs at Pimlico under jockey Kevin Krigger.
“I got what I was looking for out of him, a pretty good relaxed gallop,” Krigger said.
“We wanted to see how he would come out of the Kentucky Derby, and he’s bounced out of it with high energy,” said trainer Doug O’Neill’s assistant, Jack Sisterson. “He moved over the track well.”
Departing galloped a mile and a half at Churchill Downs for trainer Al Stall Jr.
He’s scheduled to breeze on Sunday, and will gain the services of Brian Hernandez in what would be his first Preakness.
Hernandez rode Departing in his career debut in December at Fair Grounds, seven weeks after he rode Fort Larned to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Departing has lost just once in five starts, a third in the Louisiana Derby.
“I had just won on Bind, and Al was bragging on this first-time starter in the next race,” Hernandez said. “That was Departing. I had never been on him, and he ran huge.
“After the Louisiana Derby, they made the plan to go to the Illinois Derby and then the Preakness. I can’t be disappointed in missing the Derby. We have a chance to upset Orb, and the Preakness is not a bad race to run in.”
The decision on Street Spice, son of Derby winner Street Sense who was fifth in the Illinois Derby, will be made after he breezes in Chicago this morning.
MORE HOT WATER
Vyjack’s trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, has been cited by the New York State Gaming Commission for another Banamine overage not long after returning from a 20-day suspension for the same drug.
Tests showed that Belle of the West, who finished fourth at Aqueduct on April 21, exceeded the limit for the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, also known as Flunixin, used to treat colic and muscle pain.
Rodriguez has been cited for a Banamine overage four times now, with the third positive still being investigated.
That instance was so high over the limit that two of Rodriguez’s owners, including Vyjack’s David Wilkenfeld, offered a $40,000 reward for information about possible tampering.
Rodriguez was subjected to an interview by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and extra video surveillance of his barn at Churchill Downs in order to run Vyjack in the Derby. He is already licensed in Maryland.
PETER PAN TODAY
A tough field of 3-year-olds has been assembled for the nine-furlong Grade I Peter Pan at Belmont today, considered a prep for the Belmont Stakes.
The slight 7-2 morning-line favorite is Illinois Derby fourth-place finisher Abraham, one of two for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The field also includes Declan’s Warrior, winner of the Bay Shore on Wood Memorial Day, and Fear the Kitten, who was scratched from the Derby as the only also-eligible.
‘PRINCESS’ of Saratoga
Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar, owned by Schenectady native Ed Stanco, will be pointed to a Grade I double at Saratoga, the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama, the 1967 Linton graduate said in a text on Friday.
The CCA Oaks will be run on July 20, and the Alabama on Aug. 17.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Groupie Doll, the 2012 Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter, returned to Churchill Downs to begin training after three months on the farm.
Trainer Buff Bradley said she had not been training well at Gulfstream Park, so she was brought home to Kentucky and has been acting like her old self.
“Is it a 180-degree turnaround from Florida? Absolutely,” he said. “She has really good energy, and she wants to do it.”
Groupie Doll will jog this month and begin galloping in June before a race schedule is planned. . . .
Jockey Rafael Bejarano had one winner at Hollywood Park on Friday to give him 2,999 for his career.
He has seven scheduled mounts at Hollywood to get No. 3,000 today. . . .
Starlight Racing’s Lawn Man returned to the races for the first time since finishing eighth to stablemate Shanghai Bobby in the Hopeful last September.
Lawn Man was last of five in the eighth at Belmont on Friday, won by Retreive.
Retreive finished ahead of Orb in a maiden race won by Vyjack at Aqueduct in November. . . .
Effective next Saturday and in light of the Boston Marathon bombings, Delaware Park will restrict what patrons can bring into its popular picnic area, called “The Grove.”
Among the banned items are coolers, grills, thermoses, backpacks and alcoholic beverages brought onto the grounds. Clear plastic bags are permitted. . . .
Power Broker, who had been considered a Derby prospect for trainer Bob Baffert, won an allowance at Churchill on Friday, his only start of 2013 other than a fifth in the Santa Anita Derby. . . .
The Churchill stewards have suspended jockey Robby Albarado for three racing days for his role in a disqualification in the Grade II Alysheba on the Friday of Derby weekend.
Albarado and Cyber Secret finished second behind Take Charge Indy, but Cyber Secret was disqualified to eighth for crowding his rivals from the outside going into the first turn.
Albarado will serve the days today through Thursday.
HERE AND THERE
Aubby K, winner of the Grade I
Humana Distaff on Derby Day, was sent to Saratoga the day after the race. Trainer Ralph Nicks said she’ll come back in the Princess Rooney at Calder on July 6, with the primary summer goal being the Grade I Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 23. . . .
Alpha, who dead-heated with Golden Ticket to win the Travers last summer, was on the Oklahoma Training Track in Saratoga Springs last Sunday for his first timed work since finishing fifth in the Godolphin Mile on March 30. He went three furlongs in 37.29. . . .
Padua Stables owner Satish Sanan has resigned from the board of directors of the Breeders’ Cup over what he calls a clash over his public comments criticizing board decisions. . . .
Leading equine surgeon Dr. Larry Bramlage was scheduled to be released from the hospital on Friday after being re-admitted with a head injury suffered when he fell off the back of a golf cart in the barn area at Churchill Downs on May 2, two days before the Derby.
Bramlage was released, then went back to the hospital for undisclosed reasons on Wednesday.
According to a tweet from Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, where he practices, Bramlage had a CT scan, and was in stable condition Thursday.
Bramlage was supposed to be a representative for the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ on-call program at the Derby, but was replaced by Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.