Shug McGaughey isn’t one to be afflicted with Derby Fever, but the
Hall of Fame trainer admits that he’s excited about the prospect of
running Fountain of Youth (G2) victor Orb in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on
“Like I said after the Fountain of Youth, I wake up every morning
thinking of winning the Kentucky Derby. I wish I’d won it a long time
ago so I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore,” McGaughey said
Thursday morning. “The reason I don’t get Derby Fever is that I want to
take the right horse. Maybe I made a mistake or two not taking them, but
I really can’t look back and say that I did. I’m looking forward to the
experience. I’m looking forward to two Saturdays from now.”
Orb, who earned enough qualifying points (50) in the Fountain of
Youth to make it into the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, is training for
a start in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby at Gulfstream
Park on March 30. The son of Malibu Moon, who breezed a half-mile on
Monday at Payson Park in 48 2/5 seconds (second fastest of 16 recorded
at the distance), will seek his fourth straight victory (third at
Gulfstream) in the Florida Derby.
“Not that I didn’t think that he had a chance to be a decent horse,
but it’s just how quick he’s become a decent horse,” McGaughey said.
“After he broke his maiden, he just put it all together. Winning and
growing up and getting his gate experience behind him, it just sort of
mentally came together.”
After breaking his maiden at Aqueduct on Nov. 24 in his fourth
start, Orb captured a 1 1/8-mile allowance, followed by his half-length
upset over heavily favored Violence in the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 23.
McGaughey had a similar experience of a 3-year-old suddenly coming into its own at Gulfstream Park in 1997.
“I had a filly one time who had finished second and third in stakes as a
2-year-old and when I put blinkers on her and brought her down here,
she won everything she ran in,” McGaughey said.
Glitter Woman captured the Forward Gal (G3), Davona Dale (G3) and
the Bonnie Miss (G2) at Gulfstream before capturing the Ashland (G1) at
McGaughey has saddled only six horses for starts in the Derby since
1984 and none since 2002, when Saarland finished 10th. Easy Goer
finished second behind Sunday Silence in both the Derby and Preakness
before winning the Belmont in 1989.