x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

'Very sharp' Orb is back in the horse racing gates

Orb has not raced since finding Palace Malice too good in the Belmont Stakes, the concluding Triple Crown race in June, but will will compete in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, writes Geoffrey Riddle.

Jockey Joel Rosario will ride Orb on Saturday at Saratoga. Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images
Jockey Joel Rosario will ride Orb on Saturday at Saratoga. Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images

Shug McGaughey is convinced Orb will not lack for fitness when the Kentucky Derby hero makes his first start for 11 weeks by tackling the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday.

Orb has not raced since finding Palace Malice too good in the Belmont Stakes, the concluding Triple Crown race in June.

The mount of Joel Rosario, the Dubai World Cup-winning rider, has been at the Fair Hill facility in Maryland since his run in New York and returns a much-improved specimen, according to his trainer.

"I think he is mentally very sharp right now," McGaughey said by teleconference. "Physically, I think he went on the van to Fair Hill a horse and came off the van as a man.

"He's gotten a lot stronger. He couldn't be any better than he is and it is all systems go.

"He's got a different look to him. He's heavier because he's put on some muscle more than fat. I think we've got a much better horse today than we had back earlier in the year."

Orb will need to be in the form of his life because Palace Malice is in line to confirm his Belmont superiority under Mike Smith, while the improving Verrazano lines up under John Velazquez in the nine-runner event, staged over 10 furlongs.

Verrazano flopped in the Kentucky Derby, behind Orb, but since then has thrived. He won the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes, which was handed to him on plate after his main rival was pulled up, and then Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes by almost 10 lengths, but in the slowest time for 35 years.

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