May 2, 2013

Hall of Fame trainer seeks a Derby crown

Shug McGaughey hasn't won the Derby in six tries, but he thinks Orb is 'solid' out of the No. 16 post.

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Doug O'Neill had a pretty darned good day on two courses.

Kentucky Derby entrant Orb
click image to enlarge

Orb, above, is a 7-2 favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. The horse, trained by the respected Shug McGaughey, comes into Saturday’s Derby on a four-race winning streak.

The Associated Press

KENTUCKY DERBY

WHAT: The first of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown races

WHEN: About 6:24 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Churchill Downs, Louisville

DISTANCE: 1 1⁄4 miles

TELEVISION: NBC

First he birdied the eighth hole during a Wednesday afternoon golf outing at Valhalla and then he aced the Kentucky Derby draw when Goldencents landed in the No. 8 post and was made the 5-1 third choice for Saturday's race.

"It should be perfect for him," said O'Neill, who saddled last year's winner, I'll Have Another.

"Perfect" was not the way last year's Triple Crown series ended for O'Neill and his colt. He came under intense scrutiny after another one of his horses failed a drug test and I'll Have Another was retired with a leg injury the day before the Belmont Stakes.

As for the birdie -- the highlight of an otherwise forgettable round -- he said, "That was like winning the Derby on the golf course. It was a par-3 and I just knocked it right in the middle."

Orb was made the slight 7-2 favorite over undefeated Verrazano, one of a record-tying five horses for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Trained by Shug McGaughey, Orb drew the No. 16 post in a full field of 20 horses. Four horses have won from there, most recently Animal Kingdom two years ago.

McGaughey is in racing's Hall of Fame, but the 62-year-old trainer has yet to win the Derby in six previous tries.

"I think where from he is, we'll be solid," McGaughey said.

"Kind of hold our position, maybe try to creep in a little bit more around the first turn, and he can kind of watch what's going on down on the inside."

Orb comes into the Derby on a four-race winning streak. He won the Florida Derby in his last start.

Pletcher was pleased about where his posse landed in the starting gate.

Wood Memorial winner Verrazano drew the No. 14 post and was the 4-1 second choice.

"We got everything we wanted," Pletcher said. "No complaints whatsoever."

There were four spots left in the gate -- including the dreaded No. 1 and No. 2 -- before Verrazano's name was called.

Being in the No. 14 hole gives the colt the benefit of extra room because of the gap between his spot and No. 15, which is the start of the auxiliary gate.

Another Pletcher horse, Revolutionary, was the fourth choice at 10-1 on the morning line set by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.

The colt is ridden by Calvin Borel, a three-time Derby winner famous for riding the rail. Revolutionary drew the No. 3 post, leaving Borel close to his favorite route on the track.

"Very happy," Pletcher said. "I think Calvin will be looking to go inside as soon as he could, so starting off inside was a good thing. Super Saver started from four."

Pletcher won his only Kentucky Derby in 2010 with Super Saver under a rail-hugging ride by Borel.

Normandy Invasion is the fifth choice at 12-1.

Post time is 6:24 p.m., and the winner earns $1,439,800.

 

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