Orb dazzles in final pre-Kentucky Derby workout
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A wide-open Kentucky Derby might finally have a clear favorite after Orb dazzled onlookers Monday at Churchill Downs.
The Florida Derby winner looked the part of the public choice in his final tuneup before the race on Saturday. Working in tandem with stablemate Overwhelming, Orb effortlessly surged away from his companion in the stretch and galloped out strongly up the clubhouse turn. He completed the half-mile drill in 47.80 seconds.
While the time wasn't the fastest of the overcast morning, Orb scored big on style points.
Even his usually reserved Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was impressed.
"I thought it was great," he said. "I thought he finished up really well. He's getting over this racetrack really well, which is important. I'm happy to be sitting here."
After posting his first win at Aqueduct in November, Orb emerged a top Derby horse by reeling off three straight wins at Gulfstream Park, culminating with the Florida Derby. The four-racing winning streak, coupled with a workout that showed a high comfort level over the Churchill Downs strip, will likely lure betting support.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he was the post-time favorite," McGaughey said. "He's done so well here, and people have seen it."
NO BAFFERT: Bob Baffert won't be saddling a horse in the Derby for the first time since 2008.
The Hall of Fame trainer said Monday that Govenor Charlie would not run. His other possibility, Code West, also won't compete in the Derby at Churchill Downs.
Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie was 11th on the points leaderboard that determines the maximum 20-horse field for the 1 1/4-mile race. Code West was ranked 21st.
Baffert hasn't been on the Derby sidelines since 2007 and `08. He has won the race three times, but not since 2002.
Govenor Charlie galloped Monday for the first time since April 11, a layoff caused by a foot bruise and soreness in his hind end.
"You cannot have any kind of hiccup," Baffert said. "We want to be competitive and if you're not competitive, my clients don't want to be in there. We're just going to watch and good luck to everybody else."
Baffert said Govenor Charlie could be pointed toward the May 18 Preakness, while Code West is a possibility for the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
Three weeks ago, Baffert took Santa Anita Derby runner-up Flashback out of consideration because of a knee injury that will sideline the colt at least two months.
"It wasn't meant for me to be in the Derby this year," he said.
Baffert will saddle Midnight Lucky in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, then fly home to California for his youngest son's first Communion on Saturday, when the family is planning a Derby watch party.
DOWN TO FIVE: Todd Pletcher said that Lexington Stakes winner Winning Cause would skip the Derby, leaving him with a record-tying five starters.
The decision wasn't a negative reflection on Winning Cause or his workout Monday. The colt has already won twice this month at Keeneland and a Derby run would mean three demanding races in a tight timeframe.
"He seemed to come out of the Lexington in good shape and he worked well," Pletcher said. "He seems to be a happy, healthy horse."
Pletcher pointed to the Preakness, the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 11 or the Marine Stakes at Woodbine on May 26 as possible next races for Winning Cause.
"We felt the proper thing to do for the horse was to sit back, let things unfold in the Derby and see where to go after that," Pletcher said.
He will send out undefeated Verrazano, Overanalyze, Revolutionary, Palace Malice and Charming Kitten in the Derby.
FIELD OF 19: As of Monday, 19 runners were committed to the Derby after Govenor Charlie, Code West and Winning Cause were withdrawn. Tiz a Minister, who ran last weekend at Betfair Hollywood Park, was not expected to make the trip from California.
After the defections, Golden Soul moved into 19th place on the points leaderboard. The Derby field is limited to 20 horses.
A drop-back closer who figures to be far behind the early leaders, he knows Churchill Downs. Golden Soul closed from 10th to miss by only a head in his debut here last November.
AP Racing Writer Beth Harris contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index