NEW YORK — Trainer Shug McGaughey likes what he sees as Kentucky Derby winner Orb prepares for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.
“I think he’s carrying his weight good, his coat’s good, he’s eating good and I think he’s training good,” he said Thursday morning. “Hopefully, all that relates to Saturday and when the time comes, we’ll be in position to make a move.
“In the Preakness, I don’t think we were in a good position. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was just the circumstances of the race.”
Orb ran fourth in the Preakness after spending much of the race pinned down on the fence. It was a disappointing effort, following the powerful move in the Derby where he looped the field in the slop at Churchill Downs.
Orb is the 3-1 favorite to take the final jewel of the Triple Crown, and avenge his loss to Oxbow in the Preakness. Oxbow is 5-1 on the morning line.
While Orb and Oxbow garner most of the attention, McGaughey was asked which of the other rivals could be major factors in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.
He pointed to Revolutionary, the third-place finisher in the Derby who is the 9-2 second choice. And he mentioned Freedom Child, 8-1, the dominant winner in the slop of the Peter Pan Stakes, the traditional Belmont prep.
Then McGaughey pulled out a surprise: Will Take Charge, 20-1.
Will Take Charge joins stablemate Oxbow and Orb as the only horses to contest all three races in this year’s Triple Crown. He is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who also sends out Oxbow.
If anyone knows how to win a Triple Crown race, it’s Lukas. The Preakness victory by Oxbow gave him a record 14 wins in the series, including four Belmonts.
“You’ve always got to respect Wayne,” McGaughey said. “He’s thrown dirt up against the wall a lot of times, and it’s stuck. I wouldn’t be surprised if the chestnut horse (Will Take Charge) didn’t run good. He looks like a horse that can maybe get that distance. He will be overlooked, in comparison to Oxbow.”
The Rebel Stakes winner at Oaklawn Park, Will Take Charge was eighth in the Derby and seventh in the Preakness.
SECURITY WATCH: The New York Racing Association loosened some of the security requirements for horses racing in the Belmont while tightening the measures governing fans attending the race.
On the equine front, horses can remain in their own stalls, a major change from last year when all Belmont runners were placed in one barn under tight security 72 hours before the race.
That rule was implemented after I’ll Have Another captured the Derby and Preakness. Doug O’Neill, his trainer, was facing scrutiny over medication violations.
This time, the horses can stay home. They will still be subject to security surveillance and enhanced blood testing.
Fans will notice changes as well.
Everyone entering the track will be subject to an electronic wand search. The list of prohibited items now includes back packs, cameras with detachable lenses, coolers and purses larger than 12 inches in diameter.
Even though rain is forecast for Saturday, NYRA will ban umbrellas.
RAINY DAY: The forecast brightened for Belmont Day.
The worst of the weather is expected on Friday with several inches of rain pelting the area. That kind of downpour would ensure a moist track at race time.
There is a silver lining. Earlier projections had the storm continuing into Saturday. The updated forecast now calls for only a chance of showers before noon, and then again after 2 p.m., on Saturday with the chance of precipitation lowered to 30 percent.
The best news of all: there could be breaks of sunshine.