Seven minutes after three this afternoon, a green and white Sallee horse van carrying Kentucky Derby winner Orb pulled into the backstretch of Pimlico Race Course.
Four minutes later, led by assistant trainer and exercise rider Jennifer Patterson, Orb was the first horse led out and up the makeshift horse path to the Pimlico stakes barn, where he took two laps around the shedrow before being led into stall 40, reserved for the Derby winner.
By 3:15, Orb was taken out for an energetic 40-minute graze in the grassy area adjacent to the stakes barn, pulling Patterson with him along with a crowd of photographers and cameramen documenting his arrival.
“He’s a neat horse,” Patterson said. “He’s got an attitude, but it’s the right attitude.”
Despite blazing through a half-mile work this morning at Belmont Park, one which trainer Shug McGaughey called “nothing short of magnificent,” and standing for the five-hour drive from Long Island to Baltimore, Orb was anything but lethargic.
In fact, he was feeling so good that when a car alarm went off in an adjacent parking lot blocked by a tall row of hedges, the Derby winner bucked once stood at attention, one of the few times he pulled his head away from the thick grass.
“He had to show off a little,” Patterson said.
Orb isn’t scheduled to go to the track on Tuesday, but will have an early morning walk under tack. Patterson said he has enjoyed the attention.
“He’s getting used to this now,” she said. “He’s got a real presence about him.”
Patterson has been around Orb since last summer, when he was an unknown 2-year-old in Hall of Famer McGaughey’s barn at Saratoga Race Course.
“He was nice, but he didn’t catch my eye as a superstar,” she said. “He’s really grown up.
“Once he broke his maiden at Aqueduct, everything has fallen into place. He’s just gotten better.”
A relatively tranquil Pimlico backstretch will see a dramatic change starting tomorrow, now that Orb is in the house. Among the fellow Derby winners who have shared his stall are Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, racing’s last three Triple Crown winners.
“He’s a pretty cool horse to be around,” Patterson said. “It’s exciting.”