(Reuters) - The connections of Kentucky Derby winner Orb have already set their sights on trying to complete the Triple Crown after their colt pulled up well from his victory in the first leg.
Shug McGaughey, the Kentucky-based trainer of Orb, wasted no time declaring his intentions to run the three-year-old in the remaining two legs.
Speaking to reporters outside the winner’s barn at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning, McGaughey said he was already thinking about the next two races, the Preakness Stakes on May 18 and the Belmont Stakes on June 8.
“I’m looking forward to getting the process going again and seeing what happens and go from there,” McGaughey said.
“I said last week that I wished it had happened to me earlier so I didn’t have to worry about it anymore, but I’m not sure I believe that now.
“Yesterday was quite a day and today’s been quite a day so far. It’s been quite, quite a thrill.”
McGaughey said Orb was being flown to New York on Sunday and would remain there before being moved to Baltimore next week to finish off his preparations for the Preakness.
It has been 35 years since a horse last completed the Triple Crown. That was Affirmed in 1978 and the wait for another horse to win the three races has been agonizing.
Last year, I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness to renew hopes, but was scratched on the eve of the Belmont and never raced again.
What makes the Triple Crown so difficult to win is the makeup and timing of the three races.
They are each held in different states, over different distances, during a span of five weeks. And the winner invariably faces different opposition each time.
It is not uncommon for the horses which finish close behind the winner in the Preakness (1 3/16 mile) to save themselves for the 1 1/2 mile Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the three races. The Kentucky Derby is 1 1/4 miles.
The field for the Preakness will not be decided until just a few days before the race but only a handful of the 19 horses who contested the Derby are expected to back up.
Trainer Dallas Stewart, who prepared the Derby runner-up Golden Soul, said his horse was unlikely to race in the Preakness.
“At this point, I think we will pass on the Preakness and look at the Belmont,” Stewart said. “That would give us five weeks and hopefully we can get one of the three (races in the Triple Crown series).”
Revolutionary, which finished third for trainer Todd Pletcher, was also skipping the Preakness to save himself for the Belmont, as was his stablemate Overanalyze.
Normandy Invasion, which led the field turning for home and finished fourth, will not race in the Preakness either and was being aimed at the $1 million Travers at Saratoga.
Mylute, which finished fifth under jockey Rosie Napravnik, was a strong possibility to take on Orb in the Preakness as long as the horse was not fatigued.
“We need a couple more days to think about it,” said Todd Quast, the general manager of the farm which owns Mylute.
“When he came out of the Louisiana Derby he was so high that we worked him back eight days later. If he comes back with that kind of energy we have to seriously look at it.”
Doug O’Neill, who won last year’s Preakness with I’ll Have Another, said he would saddle up Goldencents in the Preakness even though the colt was well beaten in the Kentucky Derby.
Goldencents, which won the Santa Anita Derby, was among the favorites to win the Run For the Roses, but struggled in the wet and muddy conditions and finished 17th.
“We’re a go for the Preakness,” O’Neill declared.
(This story was corrected to fix race in 16th paragraph)
Reporting by Julian Linden in New York, Editing by Gene Cherry