Orb galloped at Belmont on Thursday, and trainer Shug McGaughey was "pleased." We did not hear anything about 'breathtaking' or 'chills' and I think Shug now has a bit of a credibility problem in that respect anyway.
"If everything's right, he's doing right, puts his weight back on, his energy level's good, we would like to run in the Belmont," [DRF]The debate over his Preakness performance - whether it was merely a disappointing effort explained by his journey on what many people feel was the worst part of the track, or as proof that Orb's Derby win was, in large part....I haven't heard anyone call it a fluke......but let's say, attributable to a significant degree to the feverish pace. Personally, I feel he had a legitimate excuse. Pull the Pocket made an interesting case that he wasn't that farther towards the rail than the winner. Even so....and, in fact, even if there was nothing wrong with the inside, I think it's a legitimate excuse that he was boxed in there after always having a clear running lane on the outside in his prior races. "Uncomfortable" is the way I've heard his trip described; might add awkward as well. And, as I've mentioned, Oxbow was setting a steady jackhammer pace which discouraged the field behind him. Stevens mentioned how he tried to open up lengths turning for home to do exactly that, and successful he was.
Now, having said all that however, I'd be lying if I said the bloom wasn't at least a little off the rose for me. I mean, he was never really in it, just that minor spurt on the backstretch that fizzled out faster than the push for strengthened gun laws. The Belmont is shaping up as a full field with a fair amount of depth; and should Orb be the betting favorite, I can see myself taking an aggressive stand against.
(And by the way, taking another look at Orb's past performance lines.....would you speculate that his advancement at three traces back to his stretching out to two turns? Or to the administering of Lasix?)
Palace Malice is apparently in. Dogwood president Cot Campbell:
"The blinkers that jazzed him up in the Kentucky Derby come off and we anticipate no problem with pace or distance. He always rated kindly in previous races, and he will be in good hands with Mike Smith." [Miami Herald]I kinda wish he wasn't running because I'm committed to betting on him after his excuses when I bet him in the Louisiana Derby and, as a saver, in the Derby. I know, he's Curlin out of a Royal Anthem mare, but I'm not excited by the prospects of him going a mile and a half. But, then again, I'm not particularly thrilled in general by the ability of the modern North American-bred thoroughbred to go that distance. And if last year's winner (quick, can you name him?) can win this race, it just proves that I don't have a clue as to how to handicap it.
Weather is lousy around here; it feels more like Thanksgiving weekend than Memorial Day! Track at Belmont is muddy and they're off the turf except for the stakes (as of this writing), so let's try a race elsewhere.
In the 10th at Arlington, the G3 Arlington Classic for 3yo's on the grass, Procurement (4-1) ships in from California for trainer Tom Proctor. This barn doesn't have a winner from five starters at the meet, but they've certainly been live, with two 2nds, a third, and two 4ths. Son of Milwaukee Brew (whose half-brother No Inflation ran second in this race in 2009) seems to have blossomed here in the spring since finding his niche going two turns, coming off two very sharp such efforts at Santa Anita. He may have had an ideal trip positionally in his last, sitting in third behind two dueling leaders as he did; but that was a quick and steady pace that he tracked closely, and, when given his cue by Garrett Gomez, he circled them on the turn with authority and edged away for a clear win. (Gomez was scheduled to fly in for the ride, but took the rest of the day off after getting dropped in the first at Hollywood yesterday, so keep an eye on that.) My speed figures show him with a distinct edge on morning line favorite Admiral Kitten (3-1), who also ran well in closing for second in his last, a stakes at Churchill, and who comes in for the Maker-Ramsey juggernaut. And here we also have General Election (5-1), who I picked here prior to his second, at 34-1, in the Lexington on the synth at Keeneland, and whose trainer Kellyn Gorder continues to be sharp. Don't know that he'll get the pace setup he needs in this field as he tries grass for the first time, so I'll use him underneath and curse my fate should he win. Best of luck and have a great day.