Showcasing the same ease as he did leading up to his Kentucky Derby triumph, Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable's Orb sparked slack-jawed reactions Monday when he worked 4 furlongs in 47.18 at Belmont Park in preparation for his start in Saturday's Preakness Stakes.
With regular exercise rider Jennifer Patterson aboard, Orb stepped onto the main track shortly after 6 a.m. Breaking off at the half-mile pole, Orb was caught by The New York Racing Association, Inc. clockers going the first quarter in 24.47 and galloping out 5 furlongs in 59.54.
Afterward, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said the move gave him "cold chills" and said he thought it was even more impressive than Orb's final work at Churchill Downs.
"I thought it was nothing short of magnificent," McGaughey said. "He broke off very relaxed and finished up unbelievably, just on his own. I was shocked when I looked down at my watch and saw he worked from the eighth-pole to the wire in 11-and-change.
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"He was covering the ground as good as a horse could cover it."
McGaughey added he was not concerned about the quick fractions.
"No, not at all, because of the way that he did it," he said. "If he'd been struggling or she'd been asking, (maybe). I think it's a tribute to the way he came out of the Derby."
After cooling out, Orb was loaded on a van shortly after 10 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive at Pimlico in mid-afternoon.
The list of possible contenders Orb is likely to face shrunk again Monday when trainer Rudy Rodriguez informed Maryland Jockey Club officials Monday that Vyjack, the 18th-place Derby finisher, will not be entered in the Preakness Stakes.
Vyjack's defection leaves a probable field of nine currently for the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Trainer Bob Baffert said a final decision on whether to run Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie in the Preakness will likely be made Tuesday. Govenor Charlie showed that he has recovered from a foot bruise that kept him out of the Kentucky Derby with a sharp 6-furlong work in 1:10.80 Monday at Churchill Downs.
"He worked good enough to run," Baffert said. "I think today we're caught up for the little time that we lost. He went very, very well. That's a call that I have to make."
Mylute, the fifth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, was also among the handful of Preakness candidates working at Churchill Downs Monday. The Tom Amoss-trainee drilled a half-mile in :49.60 on his own with jockey Rosie Napravnik up.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent Oxbow and Will Take Charge, his sixth- and eighth-place Kentucky Derby finishers, respectively, to the track for 4-furlong workouts Monday at Churchill.
Oxbow, with jockey Gary Stevens, came out to work a half-mile in :49.80 while Will Take Charge covered the same distance in :48.20.
"We varied them a bit, but it was pretty much what I wanted," said Lukas of Oxbow and Will Take Charge. "Coming off a tough race in the mud (in the Derby), the tendency sometimes is to do too much."
Titletown Five, who will be ridden in the Preakness by Julien Leparoux, was the first Lukas horse on the track Monday and he open-galloped 1¼ miles with a blowout down the stretch that was not recorded by clockers.
"I think it's formidable," said McGaughey of the prospective field. "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. 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."
When: 6:20 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore
Possible field: Orb, Departing, Mylute, Goldencents, Govenor Charlie, Itsmyluckyday, Oxbow, Titletown Five, Will Take Charge, Vyjack