Published By: 
Phil Janack
May 14, 2013

Twenty-five years after he last ran a horse in the Preakness, trainer Shug McGaughey is back on Old Hilltop. Just like 1989, he’s here with the horse everyone thinks will win.

The 62-year-old McGaughey filled one of the few gaps on his Hall of Fame resume when Orb sailed through the slop to win the Kentucky Derby 10 days ago. Winning the Preakness would fill another.

It will be only the third Preakness for McGaughey, who is based primarily at Belmont Park on Long Island, spending the summers in Saratoga and the winters in Florida. He was fifth with Pine Circle in 1984 and second by a nose to Sunday Silence with Easy Goer in 1989, an epic battle that continues to be talked about as one of the best races ever on Old Hilltop.

Being away for so long didn’t dull the memories for McGaughey, who spent his first morning on the backstretch here today. And he was active, carrying buckets of water, walking and hosing the feet of the Derby winner himself.

“It was easy for me to go to Louisville, because I’m so familiar with there, and I was glad to get back to Belmont, because that’s where I am all the time,” he said. “But, as soon as I got back here, it all came back to me, where I needed to be, where I was going. I feel like I’m back on familiar ground, and I’m tickled to death to be here.”

While winning the Derby was thrilling in itself for McGaughey, it was made even more special coming for owners Stuart Janney III and Ogden Phipps, who have been among the biggest backers in the trainer’s career. Janney himself is a native of Butler, Md. whose family has deep roots in the state’s racing history.

“Stuart Janney and the Phippses have given me most of my adult racetrack life, so my feelings for them are through the roof,” McGaughey said. “Anything I can do to make something special for them, and him, is very special to me.

“They’re very special people. Stuart’s born and raised in Baltimore, and works in New York. Never left here. Never wanted to. I think this is going to be a big thrill for him, and it’s going to be a big thrill for me to see him have some fun here at home.”

As he was yesterday after a strong workout in a New York and a five-hour van ride to Baltimore, Orb was feeling plenty good this morning. He walked under tack before having another long and active graze near the stakes barn and heading back into Stall 40, reserved for the Derby winner.

“He had plenty of energy. I walked him a few turns, and I had to give him up,” McGaughey said. “So far, so good. I worried a little bit yesterday coming down here, if I was coming too early. But, I’m glad we got here while it’s good and quiet and let him get settled in. He had a good night, and he’s had a nice morning. Everything’s good.”

McGaughey and assistant trainer Jenn Patterson, who doubles as Orb’s exercise rider, walked out to Pimlico’s main track early this morning to survey the scene. In a few short days, the scene will be quite different.

“I was looking at him in the stall this morning, Jenn and I were, and I was amazed with what I saw,” McGaughey said. “It just shows the development that he’s going through. He’s showing us in his daily routine since the Derby that he’s still moving forward. Now, what he’s going to show in the afternoon, who knows. But, right now, I’m really, really pleased with what I see.”


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