Orb, above, winning the Kentucky Derby. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing
While other premier 3-year-olds are prepping for the “Mid-Summer Derby” by competing either in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga or in the $1 million Haskell Invitational Stakes on Sunday at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., Orb’s exercise will be limited to a scheduled breeze at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.
“I think being able to bring a fresh horse is going to be a really big advantage,” said McGaughey as he looked ahead to a Travers that should go a long way toward determining year-end championship honors. The Triple Crown races produced three different winners and considerable debate.
Preakness winner and Belmont Stakes runner-up Oxbow is joining Derby runner-up Golden Soul and well-regarded Grade 1 winner Verrazano as part of a field of seven for the Haskell, the centerpiece of Monmouth’s summer meet. Verrazano, set to break from farthest outside in post seven, is rated a slight favorite at 9-5 with Oxbow the second choice at 2-1 from post five.
Palace Malice, last seen staging an impressive show as an emphatic 3 ¼-length winner of the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes, looks to become the 18th horse to start in the Jim Dandy and use that as a steppingstone to a Travers victory.
Palace Malice, who skipped the Preakness as trainer Todd Pletcher opted not to enter any horses in the middle leg of the Triple Crown, is listed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite from post five. The Jim Dandy also attracted Mylute, who gave Rosie Napravnik top finishes by a female rider in the Derby (fifth) and the Preakness (third), before sitting out the Belmont for his trainer, Tom Amoss.
Pletcher said of his decision to run Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy, “I think we need a bridge from the Belmont to the Travers, and this is a good place to do it. The Jim Dandy on its own is a very significant race, and we’re not using it as a prep. We’re hoping to run well here and move forward to the Travers.”
Pletcher knows firsthand how useful the Jim Dandy can be. Stay Thirsty took that path to a Travers triumph for him in 2011. Alpha, from the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin, did the same last year in finishing in a rare dead heat with longshot Golden Ticket.
As for McGaughey, he indicated before the Belmont that he would probably train Orb up to the Travers as part of the price to be paid for running him in the three spring classics in a five-week span.
ORB: MAKING OF A DERBY WINNER
Although Fair Hill was not well known to McGaughey before this, he is delighted that he sent Orb to such a pastoral setting that also provides a hyperbaric chamber to soothe aching muscles.
“In his time down there, he has done really, really well,” he said. “All systems are go.”
McGaughey added, “I think he’s going in a real forward direction right now. I wouldn’t want to take a chance by running him in the Jim Dandy and taking one step forward and two steps back.”
He plans to ship Orb to Saratoga in the next 10 days to two weeks. That would provide time to tighten him for the 1 ¼-mile Travers following a series of breezes at Fair Hill.
“I think I can get him ready to run a mile and a quarter,” McGaughey said. “That’s not a problem.”
EXPERIENCE FAIR HILL
Fair Hill: Best Kept Secret - Veterinarian Kathleen Anderson and trainer Michael Matz discuss the benefits of training racehorses at Fair Hill Training Center. The picturesque grounds at the Elkton, Md., facility provide an ideal setting for a racehorse to develop and flourish. Situated on 350 acres in Cecil County, Fair Hill boasts dirt, synthetic, and turf tracks as well as miles of trails, on-site veterinary care, and state-of-the-art equipment.
ALL OF THE AMENITIES
Dr. Bruce Jackson explains the benefits of Fair Hill’s cold salt spa in this segment.
Bruce Jackson, director of Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center, explains the benefits of the underwater treadmill for horses recovering from injury. Jackson’s facility is based at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.
Bruce Jackson, director of Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center, discusses the healing advantages of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber in equine therapy and rehabilitation. Jackson’s Elkton, Md., facility offers the benefits of a hyperbaric chamber.