NEW YORK — Kentucky Derby winner Orb is set to take on Preakness winner Oxbow in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday after a workout that had trainer Shug McGaughey declaring his colt ready for another race.
“If he has a good week, he’s a go,” McGaughey said Sunday at Belmont Park after Orb worked 4 furlongs in 48.30 seconds with exercise rider Jenn Patterson aboard. “He came off the track playing a little bit. He’s been eating well all week, and if he doesn’t show any ill effects of anything I see no reason why (he won’t run).”
Patterson said she was “very happy” with Orb’s work.
“He did everything very easily,” she said.
Working in company with Hymn Book, Orb covered the ground as effortlessly as he had in previous works leading up to the Derby and the Preakness, galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:00.48.
Discussing Orb’s fourth-place finish in the Preakness, McGaughey said breaking from the inside post at Pimlico, a slow pace and the fact that Orb was unable to get outside and find running room made the race all the more difficult.
A large field is expected for the 1½-mile Belmont, with as many as 14 horses possible.
Oxbow, trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, is expected to arrive at Belmont Park today, along with stablemate Will Take Charge.
Trainer Todd Pletcher could enter as many as five horses. Already set are Revolutionary, Overanalyze and Palace Malice, with the filly Unlimited Budget and maiden winner Midnight Taboo also in the mix.
Other probables include Derby runner-up Golden Soul, Giant Finish, Vyjack, Always in a Tiz and Incognito. Frac Daddy is possible.
The rematch between the Derby and Preakness winners will be the 21st in Belmont history. The Preakness champ has come out on top nine times. The last Derby-Belmont winner was Swale in 1985; the last Preakness-Belmont winner was Afleet Alex in 2005. The most recent rematch was two years ago – long shot Rule on Ice won, with Preakness winner Shackleford fifth and Derby winner Animal Kingdom sixth.