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Orb trainer excited and nervous hours before Preakness

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The Canadian Press
5/18/2013 1:29:03 PM
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BALTIMORE -- Early Saturday morning, Shug McGaughey was walking back and forth in front of the stakes barn at Pimlico.

The trainer of Orb said he had experienced a variety of emotions during the week, and those mixed feelings remained as the race drew near.

"I'm thrilled and excited to be in this position," he said. "I am also a bit nervous."

As well he should be. With Orb, McGaughey became a Kentucky Derby winner for the first time. With his first career victory in the Preakness, the 62-year-old would keep alive his bid to win the Triple Crown -- a feat that hasn't been accomplished since Affirmed in 1978.

Asked whether he's allowed himself to think about the enormity of his situation, McGaughey said, "I try not to, but I wouldn't be telling you the truth if I told you I hadn't. I've been reminded about it quite a bit. I'd like to get by today and get back to Belmont and give it a whirl."

Regardless of how Orb fared Saturday, McGaughey would always have the memory of keeping his horse in Stall 40, reserved annually for the Kentucky Derby winner.

"It's a thrill to have the Derby winner and to be able to come into that stall," McGaughey said. "It's got a lot of significance. The last time I was here was in 1989. I had the favourite (Easy Goer) but there was another horse in that stall. I wanted to be in that stall."

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BAFFERT HOPEFUL: Five-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert revealed the secret to his success Saturday.

"I've brought some really good horses," he said. "If you bring the best horse, you usually win."

Standing outside the stakes barn nearly 10 hours before the Preakness, Baffert acknowledged that his entrant, Govenor Charlie, didn't have the credentials of the competition in the nine-horse field.

"He's never run against this calibre of horses before, so it's going to be a big step up for him," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "But he looks like he's up for it. He's working well and looks happy."

Govenor Charlie came in with only three career races on his ledger. He won twice, including the Grade 3 Sunland Derby on March 24. Whether that prepared the dark brown colt for the Preakness remained to be seen.

"We're going to learn more about the horse today," Baffert said. "He's a lightly raced horse but he's doing well. It's going to be a class check. He's bred for it; we'll see what the pace is."

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RETURN TO BALTIMORE: With three horses in the field, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas didn't get much time to enjoy Baltimore, one of his favourite cities in the country.

"I was talking to my girlfriend and said that it's really unfair that I'm not able to run you down to the (Inner) Harbor and let you see some of the sights and do some of the stuff that Baltimore has to offer," he said Saturday. "I said maybe when we don't have so much going on, or if I have only one (horse) in and we don't have to be so tied to the barn, if you'll come back we'll try to do a little more."

Standing in front of the corner stall that has become his usual spot at Pimlico for the Preakness, the 77-year-old Lukas hoped the work he put in this week would translate to success in the Preakness.

"When you get to the last day like this, some years you say, 'Man, I wish I had another week.' And other times you say, 'I wish we ran him last Saturday. I felt great about them a week ago,"' he said. "You hope everything has just fallen in place, but you also have to think about what could go wrong. You analyze that a little bit. It's so unpredictable. But if you're real comfortable as a trainer that you've done almost everything you can, then all you have to do is worry about if the rider is in the same zone with you."

Toward that end, Lukas switched two jockeys for the Preakness.

Mike Smith was to ride Will Take Charge, who finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby, and Julien Leparoux took over on long shot Titletown Five, who came in fourth in the Derby Trial Stakes. Gary Stevens will remain aboard Oxbow, who finished sixth in the Derby.

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HISTORY LESSON? : In his bid to win the Preakness for the second year in a row, trainer Doug O'Neill planned to review old tapes of the race with jockey Kevin Krigger.

"I think it's good for Kevin," said O'Neill, who entered Goldencents this year after winning with I'll Have Another in 2012. "Probably he needs my input like a hole in the head, but I think it's something where these tracks are all a little bit different. Here the turns are tighter; the stretch is a little bit shorter. Watching the past runnings of the Preakness can only be beneficial."

Krigger was seeking to become the first African-American jockey to win the race since 1898.

"You can never look at these old Preaknesses too many times," Krigger said. "We put our ideas together and end up on the same page, as we usually are."

Orb (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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