x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Horse racing: Kentucky Derby winner Orb disappoints at Preakness

Trainer Shug McGaughey feels gutted after Oxbow creates a major upset.

Gary Stevens, the jockey, celebrates aboard Oxbow after winning the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, trails at centre and finished fourth. Patrick Semansky / AP Photo
Gary Stevens, the jockey, celebrates aboard Oxbow after winning the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, trails at centre and finished fourth. Patrick Semansky / AP Photo

Orb came up short in the Preakness, frustrating everyone who thought the Kentucky Derby winner was a contender – no one more than trainer Shug McGaughey.

"I'm disappointed," McGaughey said after Orb finished fourth and Oxbow pulled off the upset on Saturday.

"I'll be more disappointed tomorrow than I am right now. I know the game. It is highs and lows. Probably more lows than highs."

McGaughey and Orb were certainly on a high in the two weeks since the Derby. The colt had trained sensationally ahead of the Preakness, fanning hopes that a horse was finally going to end the Triple Crown drought that dates back to Affirmed in 1978.

Orb needed a Preakness win to set the stage for a Triple try three weeks later in the Belmont Stakes. He could not deliver, despite the outpouring of support at Pimlico as fans cheered loudly when he led the post parade.

He never settled into a groove. Orb broke from the rail and did not seem comfortable being surrounded by horses.

In the Derby, Orb unleashed a breathtaking rally around the final turn, circling the field on a sloppy track to win by 2 lengths.

But there was no explosive move in the Preakness, only a mild kick in the late stages to make a dull effort appear a little better than it was.

"The pace was slower than I anticipated," McGaughey said. "I thought maybe they would speed it up, but they didn't. I still thought he would close into it, but it just wasn't his day."

McGaughey, as gracious as he has been throughout the Orb run, saluted fellow Hall of Fame trainer D Wayne Lukas on the victory.

"We had a great run two weeks ago," McGaughey said. "My hats off to Wayne, winning his sixth Preakness. That's a pretty remarkable record."

McGaughey will take Orb back to his home base at Belmont Park and figure out the next move. He is left with the feeling that something special slipped away.

"I would be disappointed anytime you had this kind of opportunity, and didn't get it done," he said.

The loss ended Orb's five-race winning streak that included victories in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. He was the 5-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby, and that impressive win dropped his Preakness odds.

Orb was only McGaughey's third Preakness starter, and first since 1989 when Easy Goer, also a 3-5 favorite, lost by a nose to Sunday Silence.

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