The colt was No. 4 last week but has a four-race winning streak and even has the usually reserved Shug McGaughey excited about the Derby on May 4.
“I’m kind of surprised how well he bounced out of his race, to tell you the truth,” McGaughey said the day after Orb beat Itsmyluckyday by 23/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Orb replaces Verrazano at No. 1, but trainer Todd Pletcher’s colt has a chance to reclaim the top spot with a strong effort in the Wood Memorial on Saturday.
Both horses are ridden by John Velazquez, who faces a tough decision on who to ride in the Derby should Verrazano win the Wood.
Revolutionary moved into third place with a narrow win over Mylute in the Louisiana Derby on Saturday. Also trained by Pletcher, Revolutionary heads to Louisville with a three-race winning streak.
Shanghai Bobby, yet another Pletcher trainee, finished fifth in the Florida Derby and dropped off the list. Owner Starlight Racing said Monday that the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion will be given a rest and will miss the Derby.
Vyjack is fourth and Itsmyluckyday fifth despite the defeat.
Lines of Battle did not make the top 10 but is Derby bound for trainer Aidan O’Brien after winning the UAE Derby in Dubai on Saturday.
McGaughey is looking at his second Derby starter in 24 years. And with the Derby distance at 11/4 miles – a quarter-mile longer than the Florida Derby – he seems to like his chances.
“I think he’s the kind of horse that’s probably better the farther they get,” he said.
The Derby field will be determined by qualifying points this year; the 20 horses with the most points gain a spot in the starting gate. Orb leads with 150; Revolutionary is second with 110; Lines of Battle third with 100; and Verrazano ninth with 50.
Two big preps are on tap Saturday, the Wood at Aqueduct and the Santa Anita Derby in Arcadia, Calif.
The 1 1/8-mile Wood not only features Verrazano and Vyjack, but Derby hopefuls Normandy Invasion, Mr Palmer and Einaawi.
The 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita also has a strong field, with San Felipe winner Hear the Ghost, Goldencents, and three horses trained by Bob Baffert: expected favorite Flashback, Power Broker and Super Ninety Nine.
Here’s our Top 10:
1. Orb (Shug McGaughey, trainer; John Velazquez, jockey): Florida Derby win indicates colt may get better as races get longer. ... Has won four in a row ... Could be jockey issue with Johnny V also riding Verrazano. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 4. ... Derby future wager odds: 12-1.
2. Verrazano (Todd Pletcher, Velazquez): Worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.17 Sunday at Palm Meadows with Velazquez aboard. ... Tampa Bay Derby winner is 3-for-3 by combined margin of 27 lengths. ... Next start: Wood Memorial, Saturday. ... Odds: 7-1.
3. Revolutionary (Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Won Louisiana Derby by a neck for third straight victory. ... Not much separating the top 3. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 12-1.
4. Vyjack (Rudy Rodriguez, Joel Rosario): Unbeaten gelding worked 6 furlongs in 1:12.63 Saturday at Aqueduct. ... Gotham winner 4 for 4, all at Big A. ... Next start: Wood Memorial. ... Odds: 10-1.
5. Itsmyluckyday (Eddie Plesa Jr., Elvis Trujillo): Did nothing to diminish his status as a top contender despite runner-up finish in Florida Derby. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 10-1.
6. Will Take Charge (D. Wayne Lukas, Jon Court): One more prep to go for Smarty Jones and Rebel winner. ... Lukas looking for Derby win No. 5. ... Next start: Blue Grass, Keeneland, April 13. ... Odds: 19-1.
7. Oxbow (Lukas, Mike Smith): Edged by stablemate Will Take Charge in Rebel, but may be better of the two. ... Next start: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park, April 13. ... Odds: 21-1.
8. Hear the Ghost (Jerry Hollendorfer, Corey Nakatani): Worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.00 Saturday at Hollywood Park. ... San Felipe winner facing tough field this weekend. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita, April 6. ... Odds: 15-1.
9. Flashback (Bob Baffert, Garrett Gomez): Worked 4 furlongs in 48.00 Monday at Santa Anita. ... San Felipe runner-up one of three Baffert horses set for Santa Anita Derby (Power Broker and Super Ninety Nine are the others). ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby. ... Odds: 15-1.
10. Normandy Invasion (Chad Brown, Castellano): Worked 4 furlongs in 48.47.95 Sunday at Palm Meadows. ... Needs big effort to land spot in Derby. ... Next start: Wood Memorial. ... Odds: 18-1.
Keep an eye on: Black Onyx, Goldencents, Govenor Charlie, Mylute, War Academy.