Derby winner Orb stays on track for the Preakness
BALTIMORE -- Kentucky Derby winner Orb remains on track for the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, when a win would set the stage for a Triple Crown try three weeks later in the Belmont Stakes.
While a media frenzy is building around the Pimlico stakes barn where Orb is housed, both the colt and Shug McGaughey, his trainer, remain unflappable.
Orb went out Thursday morning for a routine gallop with regular exercise rider Jenn Patterson aboard.
"Today was good, as it has been all week," McGaughey said. "He jogged a good ways and then he galloped a mile. He seemed to be very settled and he got over the racetrack as well as I could have hoped for. As far as I'm concerned, all systems are go."
Orb is the even-money favorite against eight rivals for the 1 3-16 miles in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The only glitch this week came at Wednesday's post-position draw, where Orb drew the rail. Only two horses, Bally Ache in 1960 and Tabasco Cat in 1994, have won the Preakness from the No. 1 post since 1950.
Landing the inside slot did not cause McGaughey a sleepless night.
"It didn't bother me," he said. "I wouldn't have slept good if I got it at Churchill Downs. It's a straight shot here. We'll be fine."
Orb had post No. 15 in the Derby where he rallied in the slop for a 2½ length victory.
CHECK THE FORECAST: Trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. is locked in tight, constantly monitoring the weather forecast for the Preakness.
Plesa is rooting hard for a fast track, especially after encountering slop in the Derby where his Itsmyluckyday ran poorly.
"I'm watching the forecast about four times a day," Plesa said. "I can tell you it's changed."
Indeed it has. Earlier predictions of a dry Preakness are now far less certain.
The latest from the National Weather Service as of Thursday morning called for a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 3 p.m. on Saturday; Preakness post time is 6:20 p.m.
A wet track would be an issue for Itsmyluckyday, 10-1 on the morning line.
Plesa draws a line through the Derby, writing the race off as a weather-related misadventure.
"Because of the racetrack," he said. "He had trained too good going into that race to run that poorly. He's continued to train excellently."
Itsmyluckyday never found his footing on the slick track, finishing 15th. He was 5-2-1 in 10 races coming in, including a second-place finish to Orb in the Florida Derby.
Plesa is making a rider change for the Preakness. Hall of Famer John Velazquez replaces Elvis Trujillo.
Beyond that, there's not much Plesa can do, other than check the forecast.
A local TV reporter stopped by to ask about his horse, and the possibility of rain on the weekend.
"Does your station have a good forecaster," Plesa asked. "I could use one with a good track record."
TRAVELER: Pimlico is the latest stop for the well-traveled Departing, the 6-1 third choice on the Preakness morning line, who has taken a meandering route to his first Triple Crown race.
The gelding debuted three days before Christmas in New Orleans, scoring the first of two straight wins at the Fair Grounds. He then detoured to Sam Houston Park to capture a minor stakes, the Texas Heritage.
Then it was back to New Orleans for a rallying third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby.
Deciding Departing lacked the seasoning to tackle the Kentucky Derby, trainer Al Stall and the ownership team of Claiborne Farms and Adele Dilschneider shipped him to Chicago, where he uncorked a powerful late run to take the Illinois Derby.
And now on to Baltimore.
"He has raced and returned with no problems," Stall said. "That tells me two things. His temperament can handle it and, more importantly, he doesn't need a special racetrack. That's all good for him."
Some observers believe Departing, lightly raced with an impressive mark of 4-0-1 in five starts, has the best shot at derailing Orb in the Preakness. It would be an interesting twist in that Orb and Departing were both born at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky. and hung out together as youngsters. This will be their first meeting on the racetrack.
Departing took his first tour of Pimlico on Thursday morning in a gallop around the track.
"He looked like himself," Stall said. "He started out comfortable, checking things out. He dropped his head a little bit and trained right along. I thought he looked great."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index