Kentucky Derby winner Orb looks to redeem himself against rivals Palace Malace and Verrazano today and become only the fourth horse in the past 20 years to capture both the Derby and Travers Stakes since Street Sense did it in 2007. The other double winners were Sea Hero in 1993 and Thunder Gulch in 1995.
“I don’t think fitness will be a problem,” noted trainer Shug McGaughey. “I think he is mentally very sharp and he has gotten a lot stronger and more mature. I also think our little experiment sending him to the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Maryland this summer worked to his advantage. We’ve got a much better horse now than we had earlier this year,” he added.
Of course Todd Pletcher’s powerhouse pair of Belmont Stakes and Jim Dandy winner Palace Malace, as well as Haskell winner Verrazano will prove a tough challenge as always, and even their trainer is beginning to wonder whether his colts’ “preps” for the 1-1/4 mile “Midsummer Derby” might have been too good.
“We’re concerned we are trying to match life-time performances in four weeks,” he commented. “It has always been a balancing act. However, everything we’ve seen in their training indicates they are still in peak form.”
Still, there is always the chance for a major upset in every race,and despite the top three, race goers there is always a chance that any of the other horses in the field including Romansh, Golden Soul, Will Take Charge, Moreno, War Dancer and Transparent could hit the wire first. After all, last year's Travers ended in a dead heat for first with Alpha and Golden Ticket, and both their trainers (Kiaran McLaughlin with Transparent, and Ken McPeek rainer of War Dancer) are back in it to win it again this year.
Readers will be able to see the Travers this afternoon on NBC beginning at 4:30 p,. Post time at 5:46 p.m.