DERBY WINNER ORB PRIMED FOR START IN SATURDAY’S PREAKNESS
NAPRAVNIK HAPPY TO BE HOME; DEPARTING READY TO STEP UP
BALTIMORE, 05-17-13 – Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s Orb galloped an energetic 1 ¼ miles at Pimlico Friday morning, letting exercise rider Jenn Patterson and trainer Shug McGaughey know that he’s ready for Saturday’s 138th running of the Preakness Stakes.
“He took a nice little hold of Jenn, was right on with his leads and moved over the track great, so I couldn’t be more pleased with what I saw,” McGaughey said.
Orb has pleased his trainer every day since he captured the Kentucky Derby by 2 ½ lengths. While training at Belmont, where he produced an eye-catching half-mile workout on Monday, and since arriving at Pimlico Monday afternoon, Orb has given his trainer the same signals he gave off during his pre-Derby training.
“I think it’s been every bit as good. I think maybe his work at Belmont was even better. Since he’s gotten down here, he’s really, really settled in well,” McGaughey said. “He’s been eating really well. I’m very pleased with his appearance and everything is on ‘go.’ ”
Orb, who is the even-money favorite for the nine-horse Preakness, has boosted his trainer’s confidence in his chances to add the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown to his resume. McGaughey, however, isn’t counting the winner’s share of the $1 million purse just yet.
“There are a lot of ways to lose, as we all know. Freaky things can happen. I think we’re in the position where we can kind of dictate the race and hope, if we don’t get in trouble, that he can make his run and then see what happens,” McGaughey said. “We hope he doesn’t get in trouble; we hope he handles the track; we hope he handles the kickback of dirt; we hope he handles the day. If he does all that, I would have to think it’s going to take a pretty darn good horse to beat him.”
If there has been anything that could possibly be perceived as a negative for Orb, it’s probably his No. 1 post position that may hold at least the slight potential to get him trapped inside.
“I don’t think it’s a problem. I think he’ll be fine; it’s a long distance,” said jockey Joel Rosario, who rode Orb to victory at Churchill Downs two weeks ago.
Rosario’s flawless ride in the Derby did nothing but boost McGaughey’s faith in his jockey’s big-race ability.
“I don’t know if anyone could have ridden him better. He got him over a little bit to get around the first turn without losing a whole lot of ground. He held his position there, got him to the outside and was very patient with him,” McGaughey said. “Being that far back, you might want to move a little bit quicker than you want to and hang. But he was very patient and he told me he was relaxed and got into the flow of the race very well and ‘was just waiting on me.’ “
McGaughey said he wouldn’t give Rosario detailed instructions on how to ride Orb in the Preakness.
“I’m a man of very little instructions, because you never know what’s going to happen once the gate opens,” he said. “We will talk a little bit, but the biggest thing I’ll tell him is, ‘Ride him with confidence.’ ”
Winning the Kentucky Derby for the first time realized a career-long dream, but McGaughey isn’t ready to rest on his laurels.
“I think winning the Derby does take a little pressure off you,” he said. “But I also think that we’re excited about giving him a whirl tomorrow afternoon and see if we can’t get it done so we can go on to the next step.”
MYLUTE – Jockey Rosie Napravnik started her career in Maryland, rode her first winner at Pimlico and returns to Old Hilltop as one of the top stories of the 138th Preakness. The local favorite, now one of the leading riders in the country, followed Derby-winning trainer Shug McGaughey and winning jockey Joel Rosario to the podium for the Friday morning press conference at the Pimlico Stakes Barn.
“Preakness or not, I’m so excited to be home,” she said. “I had a terrible trip coming in last night, but I was driving home at 11 o’clock just excited to be here. To come and ride the Preakness is really a dream come true. I’m really happy to be here.”
Napravnik, 25, moved to trainer Holly Robinson’s farm in Sparks, Md., in the summer of 2004 and started exercising horses. She won her career debut aboard Ringofdiamonds for trainer Dickie Small on June 9, 2005. Nearly eight years, another 1,543 wins and more than $49 million in purse earnings later, she is ready for her first ride in Maryland’s signature race.
While most jockeys would call a Kentucky Derby victory the most important achievement, Napravnik said for her the Preakness is in the discussion.
“I would say they are head-and-head,” she said. “The Derby would mean so much for my career and to so many people. The Preakness would really be a great personal accomplishment. I don’t know which would be more exciting. I haven’t won either yet, so I’ll let you know when it happens.”
Napravnik will be the third female rider in Preakness history and the first since Andrea Seefeldt finished seventh in 1994. At the press conference, she fielded a question about being a female rider.
“I guess it will always be asked. I’m glad to be here,” she said. “I’m not doing this because I’m a girl. I’m not trying to win the race because I’m a female jockey. I just want to win the race.”
The Preakness will be Napravnik’s third ride on Mylute. They won an allowance race together at Fair Grounds in December and finished fifth in the Derby, 3 3/4 lengths behind Orb. Mylute, the 5-1 second choice on the morning line, drew the No. 5 post in the nine-horse field. Orb has the rail.
One of the first questions she was asked at the press conference was, “How do you beat Orb?”
“We followed him last time in the Derby,” she said. “We do have a little bit of an outside advantage on him, We’ll have to see how the race sets up and we’ll have to move forward a couple of lengths. I do think that Mylute is moving forward.”
Napravnik smiled at the follow-up: How good is Orb?
“He seems like a very good horse and one that is moving forward, as well, but Mylute is definitely coming along, too,” she said. “He’s a little bit of a slow learner, but I think he’s really waking up and improving as a race horse. He’s really getting that competitive drive and he’s got a powerful move.”
Napravnik knows Pimlico and said it will suit Mylute’s closing style.
“I think that this track is stereotypically called a speed-biased track, but, honestly, I’ve ridden on this track a million times and I really think that it’s a fair track,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to be any disadvantage to us coming from behind and it’s a very long stretch.”
Still, she said that her familiarity with Pimlico does not give her a serious home-track advantage.
“Jockeys, in general, we adjust all the time to new tracks,” she said. “I don’t think it’s such a huge deal, but obviously being very familiar with the track is probably an advantage. I’ve ridden this race course a million times and won plenty of races on it. At least for me, it’s not something I have to get to know.”
The Derby experience gave Napravnik a better understanding of how to handle Mylute on Saturday.
“A lot of people had said he broke bad, which is not true,” she said. “He broke fine with the group, but he just dropped back. If there is anything I would change is maybe not be quite as far back. He’s got a great running style. He’s very relaxed. He’s very easy to ride. You can move him in or out, wherever he wants to go.
“What I really learned about him is that his class is kind of coming out and he’s really improving. I’m really excited about this race.”
DEPARTING – Illinois Derby (G3) winner Departing was on the fast track at Pimlico at 6:30 Friday morning for a 1 ½-mile gallop under exercise rider Trina Pasckvale.
“He was very relaxed and gradually picked it up on his own and got stronger the last half-mile,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “I wish we had taught him that, but that’s him. He does it on his own.”
Departing may go to the track Saturday morning during the training period between 5-5:30 that will be reserved for Preakness horses.
“I think I might jog him a mile and try to keep him in a routine,” Stall said. “The race isn’t until after 6 and it is a very long day.”
On Thursday afternoon, Departing schooled in the paddock with horses from the fourth race and passed with flying colors.
“That was fine,” Stall said. “They (Departing and Miss Preakness entrant Tread) stood like soldiers.”
Owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Departing will break from post position 4 under Brian Hernandez Jr., who has been aboard the gelding for all five of his starts.
The lone loss was a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2), a race in which the winner, Revolutionary, ran third in the Kentucky Derby (G1), runner-up Mylute was fifth in the Derby and fourth-place finisher Golden Soul was second in the Derby.
Stall had equated Departing’s Louisiana Derby effort to a college player going to the NFL. Was Departing NFL material after the Louisiana Derby?
“Definitely, and he showed it in the Illinois Derby,” Stall said of a race Departing won by 3 ¼ lengths after breaking from the No. 13 post. “In retrospect, looking at how the horses performed coming out of the race, that was an NFL game. We handicapped the race coming in and looked at Revolutionary. He was not an (Aqueduct) inner track horse. You could throw that out the window. (Trainer) Todd (Pletcher) had him down in Florida for eight weeks. He was a dirt horse.”
Departing will be Stall’s first Preakness starter since Terrain ran seventh in 2009, finishing eight lengths behind Rachel Alexandra. Like Departing, Terrain did not run in the Kentucky Derby.
“It was a 20-horse field (for the Derby) and he had finished fourth in the Blue Grass,” Stall said. “We had already made plans for the Preakness before Jess Jackson bought Rachel Alexandra.”
Stall has made a couple of trips back to Pimlico since the 2009 Preakness, winning the William Donald Schaefer (G3) in 2010 with Blame and repeating in 2011 with Apart.
Blame’s victory started a campaign that culminated with a triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) over the wildly popular mare Zenyatta. On Saturday, Stall will be in a similar spot trying to knock off Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
“I am sure all the riders will be keeping an eye on Orb,” Stall said. (Trainer) Shug (McGaughey) said he wanted a target on his back and he’s sure got one. This will probably be the shortest field for a Triple Crown race and the craziest races and weird things can happen in short fields.”
Orb will break from the No. 1 post position and sometime in the race, Joel Rosario on Orb may have to get off the rail.
“There can’t be any ushers out there tomorrow,” Stall said with a laugh.
Stall was asked what he would like to see from Departing in Preakness 138.
“I want to see Brian have a handful of horse,” Stall said. “There are three to five of them who figure to be in front early with us being behind them.”
Stall expects horses such as Goldencents and Itsmyluckyday to perform better Saturday than they did at Churchill Downs, as well as Will Take Charge, who had a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby in his first race in seven weeks.
And then there is Orb.
“I know Orb will run his race and it is not like him to take a step back,” Stall said. “We need to take a step forward. I am confident he (Departing) will run well. The rest of it is out of our control. Orb has found his level; now it is a matter of how high we can go.”
Departing will attempt to become the eighth gelding to win the Preakness. The two most recent geldings to prevail came 10 years apart, Prairie Bayou in 1993 and Funny Cide in 2003.
GOLDENCENTS – Trainer Doug O’Neill broke up his regular routine Friday morning and sent the Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner out nearly two hours before his usual Pimlico appearance for a one-mile maintenance gallop shortly after 7 a.m. The result was the same as it’s been all week.
“He looked great,” said O’Neill, who saddled Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another for a victory in last year’s Preakness. “He’s had a terrific week. This track in the morning is almost like a training center. It’s so tranquil and quiet. We enjoyed it last year, and so far, so good this year.”
Owned by W.C. Racing, Dave Kenney and Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino’s RAP Racing, the $62,000 yearling purchase has proven an outstanding investment. A three-time stakes winner, the Into Mischief colt already has bankrolled $1.25 million with four victories from seven starts.
The downside to Goldencents is his dismal 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby over a sloppy, sealed racetrack at Churchill Downs. He was listed at odds of 8-1 in the morning line for the Preakness after drawing the No. 2 post position in the field of nine.
“We haven’t closed our eyes and just said, ‘Oh, we’ll do the exact same thing that we did going into the Derby,’” O’Neill said. “We tweaked a few things and I just think with the track looking like it’s going to be a nice, safe, fast track, that’s one less excuse, too. But when they throw in a head-scratcher, the next time, as confident as you may be, it’s tempered a little bit.”
A colt with great tactical speed, Goldencents had been in every other race he’d started, his close fourth in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita being the worst performance before his Derby flop.
“He gallops at a real high cruising speed and we kind of reeled that in before the Santa Anita Derby,” said O’Neill, who decided not to conduct a formal workout between the Derby and Preakness. “Now we’ve kind of gone back to our original way of preparing him and we’ll see what happens. He looks really, really good and I’m excited about him. I think he’s going to run a big race.”
Part-owner Dave Kenney was here last year as part of O’Neill’s much larger post-Derby entourage, and although he didn’t have any stake in I’ll Have Another, he did get a taste of the Preakness flavor.
“The experience has been great,” said Kenney, who owns a large transportation dealership in Southern California and counts multiple-stakes winner Richard’s Kid among his many thoroughbred holdings. “We’re anxiously excited about the race. The people at the Preakness have just been phenomenal to us. They’re gracious hosts, and hopefully we can get a little different result than the last big race.”
Jockey Kevin Krigger, who has been aboard all seven starts for Goldencents, will try to become the first African-American rider to win the Preakness since Willie Simms captured the 1898 edition with Sly Fox.
GOVENOR CHARLIE – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is satisfied that his Midnight Lute colt belongs in the 138th Preakness, in which he is one of the new shooters ready to take on Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner.
Baffert knows a little bit about the Preakness, a race he has won five times from 13 starters since 1996. He was second with Bodemeister last year and third with Congaree in 2001.
“Can he beat Orb? We don’t know, but I think he could run 1-2-3,” Baffert said Friday morning. “I feel if I can run 1-2-3 then I have a chance. I want to be competitive.”
Govenor Charlie missed some training time in April with a minor foot bruise and was kept out of the Kentucky Derby. He showed that he was in top form with an impressive six-furlong breeze Monday at Churchill Downs and Baffert decided to send the colt to Baltimore.
“When he did what he did, we were waiting for something like that,” Baffert said. “When you go that fast, 1:10 4/5 at Churchill Downs, out in 1:24 4/5, with Fed Biz, well, the light just went on.”
Govenor Charlie is a Mike Pegram homebred, a descendent of some of the owner-breeder’s top runners, Hall of Famer Silverbulletday and Derby-Preakness winner Real Quiet. The colt was slow to develop and didn’t make his debut until Jan. 19. He broke his maiden in his second race, at a mile in mid-February and became a Derby prospect with a runaway victory in the Sunland Derby (G3) in March
“He was actually a surprise to us because he was this little bulldog-looking horse,” Baffert said. “When I stretched him out that’s when he really showed a big race and then he ran fast, broke the track record at Sunland.
“And he’s got that family, Silverbulletday. It’s just champion, champion, champion. There are champions all over that pedigree. Yet, he doesn’t look like her. He’s got a lot of Storm Cat.”
Govenor Charlie’s dam is Silverbulletway, an unraced daughter of Storm Cat and Silverbulletday. Midnight Lute, was sired by Real Quiet out of the Dehere mare Candytuft.
Orb, who won the Derby by 2 1/2 lengths, has trained well for the Preakness and is the even-money favorite in the morning line. Baffert was asked whether it was too early to anoint Orb a legitimate threat to sweep the Triple Crown.
“He’s got to get by this one. You can’t get ahead of yourself,” Baffert said. “I think it’s a very competitive race. A lot of horses that didn’t run well in the Derby come back and run well. I’ve seen that.”
Baffert said other Preakness runners have looked good to him and that he was impressed by Itsmyluckyday’s appearance.
Govenor Charlie, who will be ridden by Martin Garcia, drew post No. 8 and is 12-1 in the morning line.
“I’m a long shot and I should be a long shot,” Baffert said. “I think we’re all thinking about what kind of horse Orb is. Is he a super horse? He’s a very good horse. When you win five in a row, you’re a really good horse. The way he does it, he doesn’t have to be on the lead and that’s a big difference. If he was a front-running horse, then it makes it tough.”
ITSMYLUCKYDAY – Eddie Plesa Jr. looked on as Itsmyluckyday’s coat glistened in the morning sun following a bath outside the Preakness Stakes Barn Friday morning. The veteran South Florida trainer liked what he saw, just as he liked what he saw at the 2012 Ocala Breeders’ March sale.
“I liked the pedigree and I liked what he would become as far as growing up. You can look at horses and you can envision what they’re going to turn out to be. That’s part of the process,” Plesa said. “He certainly exceeded my expectations.”
When he purchased Itsmyluckyday for his wife, Laurie, and the Trilogy Stable for $110,000, Plesa didn’t exactly envision that the son of Lawyer Ron would develop into a Kentucky Derby and Preakness starter.
“For someone to say that, you’re telling a little story. Way, way, way back in your mind, you might say, ‘I hope.’ But I didn’t look at him and say, ‘My Derby horse!’ ”Plesa said. “I liked the pedigree and I liked what I saw, and we were lucky enough that he fell into our price category.”
Itsmyluckyday, who went to the track for a routine gallop Friday morning, finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby over a sloppy track that his connections blame for the subpar performance. His only “off” track experience produced a four-length victory in a minor stakes at Calder last year.
“People look to Calder and you can’t compare them. Calder’s like no other racetrack when it’s sloppy. It’s a sand racetrack and when it rains, it tightens the racetrack up. There might be puddles on top and it might splash back at you, but as far as firmness for the horse, it’s firmer when it rains than when it doesn’t rain,” Plesa said. “The slop line at Calder…people who put credence into it are doing wrong.”
Plesa said he was hoping for a fast track, over which everyone would get a fair chance.
OXBOW/TITLETOWN FIVE/WILL TAKE CHARGE – With two Hall of Famers keeping watch over him Friday morning, Titletown Five seemed to be getting an inordinate amount of attention for a potential 30-1 shot in the field for Preakness 138.
“I feel good, just being in it,” said NFL Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, the ex-Green Bay Packer and part-owner of the colt who represents the “Five” in Titletown Five. “I’ve been here many times. This is the first time one of the horses I own is in a race of this magnitude. I’m going to be very interested in watching him run. We’re gonna make a run somewhere.”
Hornung, who is the same age (77) as his Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, knows he may not have many more chances like this on racing’s big stage. And as a native of Kentucky Derby hometown Louisville, Hornung has always had more than a passing interest in horse racing, even when he was setting records on the gridiron at Notre Dame and helping the Packers win an NFL championship in 1965.
“I’ve been to the Derby many times; I’ve been here many times; I’ve been to New York and Saratoga many times,” said the former “Golden Boy,” who along with ex-teammate Willie Davis and Lukas comprise the majority of the Tiznow colt’s ownership. “This is a real thrill for me to be involved.”
Titletown Five is a colt that he and Lukas had high hopes for as a 2-year-old, but following his maiden victory at Churchill Downs in October, the $250,000 purchase was found to have bone chips in a front knee that required surgery.
“If Titletown Five didn’t get that chip in his knee, he was going to be one of the really good horses,” Lukas said. “I was devastated; he’d won by nine or 10 lengths. He’s sound, but we lost the whole winter conditioning and everything.”
Titletown Five is winless in three starts this season, but it does bear mentioning that as a 2-year-old he got the best of Kentucky Derby winner Orb in a maiden race at Saratoga.
“He beat Orb,” said Lukas, who is seeking his sixth Preakness win with a three-horse contingent that includes Oxbow and Will Take Charge. “It was early in his career and he’s (Orb) a late-developing horse, but we still beat him.”
Hornung was there that August afternoon when Titletown Five finished second and Orb was third in one of Saratoga’s key maiden races of 2012.
“It gives me an idea that we’ve got a good horse,” Hornung said. “I think we can do it if we run our race. If you do it once, you can do it again.”
Lukas pronounced all three horses ready for the assignment after Friday morning gallops at Pimlico. Julien Leparoux will be aboard Titletown Five for the first time Saturday.
“I was really pleased with what I saw today,” Lukas said. “They’ve gotten better every day since they got here (Tuesday).”
Two more Hall of Famers, jockey Gary Stevens and Mike Smith, will have the mounts on Oxbow and Will Take Charge, respectively. Between them, they have won the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown three times, Stevens won aboard Silver Charm (1997) and Point Given (2001) and Smith with Prairie Bayou (1993). Stevens was retired when Oxbow began his racing career at Saratoga last August.
“When I saw Gary around January or February he was fit and I thought he looked better on a horse in the morning than prior to his retirement when his knees were bothering him,” Lukas said. “He just looked better and seemed in a better place. There’s no doubt about his talent, so I said to him, ‘Gary, I’ve got a couple 3-year-olds that are coming along. Watch them, and if one of them looks like it’s going to be good enough, I’d have no problem putting you on.’”
Still, Stevens was attempting a comeback at the age of 50 in a sport where most of the competitors were 20 or 30 years younger.
“He started winning a few races at Santa Anita and I thought, ‘Hell, let’s go,’” Lukas said. “I was telling somebody else who was criticizing me for putting him on: ‘You know any other combination that’s got seven Derbys between them?’
“Mike Smith has been good for us, too. The experience thing is huge in these races. It really shows up in these big ones – pressure. These young guys they say, ‘Aw, it doesn’t bother me,’ but it bothers them. And this may be more of a jockey’s race than the other two. I think they better have their heads screwed on here.”
With saddling a third of the field, he feels good about his chances.
“I only like to come here if I’m competitive,” he said. “I think we are. Orb’s the best horse, let’s face it. This year it’s exciting for me. I’ve got a lot of passion for it.”