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Shug McGaughey to give Orb a good look before committing to Belmont Stakes

Hall of Fame trainer Claude R.

Hall of Fame trainer Claude R. "Shug" McGaughey is deep in thought on the track at Pimlico Race Course before the Preakness Stakes. (May 18, 2013) Credit: AP

Instead of returning in triumph, Orb just went home.

About 12 hours after the 3-5 favorite finished a distant fourth behind 15-1 shot Oxbow in the Preakness, the Kentucky Derby winner stepped on a van Sunday at 7 a.m. for the 4 1/2-hour ride from Pimlico to Belmont Park. The overcast sky and mist reflected the mood after the Triple Crown dream was washed away for the 35th consecutive year.

Trainer Shug McGaughey said Orb was in good shape after losing by nine lengths to a colt he beat by 9 3/4 lengths on Derby Day. "Physically, everything is fine," McGaughey said. "He's sound."

McGaughey said he will monitor Orb before deciding whether to run June 8 in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes. "I want to see him bounce back and see his soundness level and his energy level."

The trainer said he and co-owners Stuart Janney III and Ogden Mills Phipps "came to the conclusion we should just watch Orb and see. The Belmont Stakes is on our radar screen. We'd like to run. I might know in about a week."

A combination of factors ended Orb's five-race winning streak and his chance to become the 12th Triple Crown champion. Jockey Gary Stevens stole the race by setting a slow, unchallenged pace, and even if Orb had repeated his powerful Derby rally, he still might not have caught Oxbow. Orb also seemed uncomfortable with the footing and with being caught between horses approaching the far turn, when he went from third to fifth.

"The racetrack was probably deep down the inside there," McGaughey said. "There was a lot of dirt thrown back, and we couldn't get to the outside. I thought [Joel Rosario] took him to the right position, and all of a sudden, he had no horse.

"Why that was, I don't know. I think it wasn't our day and it was Oxbow's day."

After the Derby, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he thought the Preakness would be Orb's biggest obstacle, and the 77-year-old Hall of Famer not only called it right but also tripped him up. Lukas' sixth Preakness victory gave him a record-setting 14 wins in the 3-year-old classics. He'd been tied with the late Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons since Commendable upset the 2000 Belmont.

Lukas and two vans carrying his nine-horse contingent were headed for Churchill Downs before dawn. When he ruled the sport in the 1980s and '90s, Lukas' nickname was "Wayne off the plane" because he flew horses to stakes all over the country. Now he's "the man in the van."

"I used to get on airplanes and stand with the horses all the time," he said. "We don't fly much anymore."

Notes & quotes: The New York Racing Association reported that six horses are confirmed for the Belmont: Oxbow; Derby runner-up Golden Soul; Revolutionary (third, Derby); Overanalyze (11th); Palace Malice (12th) and Peter Pan winner Freedom Child. Trainer Eddie Plesa said Itsmyluckyday is "50-50" after finishing second in the Preakness. Trainer Bob Baffert said he is likely to run Power Broker or Code West . . . Rosie Napravnik's third-place finish was the best by a female jockey in Preakness history. Napravnik was only the third woman to ride in the race, joining Patti Cooksey (sixth, 1985) and Andrea Seefeldt (seventh, 1994).

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