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Rivals believe Orb has Triple Crown potential

Preakness favorite Orb grazes some greenery after workout Friday Pimlico. | Getty Images

Preakness favorite Orb grazes on some greenery after a workout Friday at Pimlico. | Getty Images

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Updated: June 19, 2013 6:19AM



BALTIMORE — Everything’s a go for Orb.

The Kentucky Derby winner was in a playful mood the day before the Preakness, making faces for photographers between nibbles of grass outside his stall at Pimlico Race Course.

“He’s really settled in well. He seems to be energetic about what he’s doing so I couldn’t be more pleased,” trainer Shug McGaughey said on a warm and sunny Friday morning. “We’re excited about giving him a whirl to see if we can get it done and go on to the next step.”

Getting it done would mean defeating eight rivals in the 13/16-mile Preakness to set up a Triple Crown try in the Belmont Stakes three weeks from Saturday. Orb is the even-money favorite, and there’s a growing feeling that this 3-year-old bay colt might be special enough to give thoroughbred racing its first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.

“We’d sure love to have that opportunity,” said McGaughey, seeming relaxed and confident. “Probably the racing world would love to see it, too. It brings a lot more attention to what we’re doing from all standpoints.”

Orb extended his winning streak to five with a thrilling victory in the Derby two weeks ago, when jockey Joel Rosario patiently guided the colt from 17th to first in the final half mile over a sloppy track.

In the Preakness, Orb will break from the No. 1 post, a spot that has seen only one winner — Tabasco Cat in 1994 — since 1961.

“Who knows how this race is going to go, but I don’t think it will be a problem,” Rosario said of the inside post. “He’s a horse that comes from behind, so I really don’t think it will affect him. I’m just excited to go into this with a horse who has a chance to win.”

A chance?

While rival trainers aren’t conceding the race, most agree Orb is the best of the bunch.

“Orb, he’s a freak. Everybody should be rooting for Orb, except for the connections of the other horses in the race,” trainer Bob Baffert said — and he’s got a horse in the race, 12-1 choice Govenor Charlie. “Anybody who’s not rooting for Orb, there’s something mentally wrong with them.”

However, six of the last eight Derby winners did not win the Preakness, and McGaughey is well aware of the pitfalls.

“There are a lot of ways you can lose. Freaky things can happen,” he said. “You hope he doesn’t get in any trouble, you hope he handles the track, you hope he handles the kickback of the dirt, you hope he handles the day. If he does all that, I would have to think it will take a pretty darn good horse to beat him.”

NOTE: Fiftyshadesofhay made a late move to overtake Marathon Lady and win the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan on Friday at Pimlico. The race, held annually before the Preakness since 1919, is for 3-year-old fillies. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert saddled Fiftyshadesofhay, and Joel Rosario, who won the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, deftly rode the filly to her first win in three tries since Jan. 26. The winner covered the 11/8-mile distance in 1:52.73.

AP



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