O'Neill hopes Goldencents finishes in money
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Just like last year, Doug O'Neill was the first trainer to bring his Kentucky Derby entrant to Pimlico Race Course for the Preakness.
The similarity ends there.
During the third week of May in 2012, O'Neill was the talk of the horse racing world. He was in charge of I'll Have Another, who stormed to victory in the Kentucky Derby and was perceived to be a legitimate Triple Crown contender.
Upon his arrival at Pimlico, O'Neill and the magnificent colt instantly became the focus of attention - and not just because no one else had showed up.
This year, it's different. The first Preakness entrant to arrive was O'Neill's Goldencents, who finished 17th in the Derby. The buzz wasn't there, and O'Neill understands why: Instead of having the horse to beat, he's one of many in the field shooting for Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
"It was a great feeling last year being the hunted, but a hunter's not bad," O'Neill said. "Just being here is a real honor, and I give great thanks to the horse and the owners. This is just an experience you want to be part of."
Goldencents won the Santa Anita Derby, but was not a factor at Churchill Downs. After it became apparent the horse wasn't game for running in the slop, jockey Kevin Krigger coasted to the finish line.
"I just decided, instead of harassing him and causing him to struggle on the sloppy track, to protect him and wrap up on him," Krigger said.
O'Neill originally planned to give Goldencents a workout at Pimlico, but opted against it.
"I think he trains as hard as a lot of horses work," O'Neill said. "He puts in a good effort every day, so the goal was, if he could gallop comfortably every day, that's what we would do. So far, so good."
I'll Have Another won the Preakness and was prepared to run in the Belmont before an injury ended his career. Goldencents doesn't appear to be as talented a horse, but with $1.2 million in earnings and four wins in seven starts, he's still got a shot at making some noise in the Preakness.
"I think we're going to see a much better result Saturday," O'Neill said.
The horse to beat, though, is Orb, who arrived Monday and immediately settled into stall 40, reserved exclusively for the Kentucky Derby winner. Many of the greatest horses in history have been kept in stall 40, including Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).
"I can't believe how proud I am," trainer Shug McGaughey said.
Orb was shipped by van after an outstanding workout at Belmont Park. With exercise rider Jennifer Patterson aboard, Orb seemed to move effortlessly around the track on a clear, sunny day. He breezed four furlongs in 47.18 seconds and galloped out five furlongs in 59.54.
"The way he worked this morning was nothing short of magnificent," McGaughey said. "I couldn't be any happier where we are, and I'm very excited about Saturday afternoon."
McGaughey figured it was better to have Orb in Baltimore early than late.
"I wanted to just get him down here, get him used to his surroundings," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "I like to school him in the paddock, and I didn't want to do too much at one time. So I thought we'd get him in here today, give him his off day tomorrow and then maybe we'll train a little on Wednesday."
For McGaughey, being the favorite in the Preakness is preferable to coming in as the long shot.
"I want to be the favorite every time I run," he said. "Today, we're standing up here with a little bit of a target on our back. I like that. If it doesn't work on Saturday, that's going to be just the way it is. I've been doing this quite a long time, and I know you win some and you lose some."
McGaughey has never won a Preakness. The last time he tried was in 1989, when Kentucky Derby runner-up Easy Goer lost to Sunday Silence by a nose.
"Obviously, I'm here with the Derby winner so I'm a lot more at ease than when I came in that time," he said.
A win in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on Saturday would set up a Triple Crown try in the Belmont Stakes on June 8.
Orb, owned by the Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney III, takes a five-race winning streak into the Preakness, where he will face what look to be nine challengers. Among them are Derby runners Mylute (fifth), Oxbow (sixth), Will Take Charge (eighth), Itsmyluckyday (15th) and Goldencents. Also set for the race is Departing, winner of the Illinois Derby.