The rematch is on.
Kentucky Derby winner Orb is all set to take on Preakness winner Oxbow in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday following a workout that had trainer Shug McGaughey declaring his colt ready for another race.
"If he has a good week, he's a go," McGaughey said Sunday morning at Belmont Park after Orb worked 4 furlongs in 48.30 seconds with exercise rider Jenn Patterson aboard. "He came off the track playing a little bit. He's been eating well all week and if he doesn't show any ill effects of anything I see no reason why (he won't run)."
Patterson guided Orb back into his barn saying she was "very happy" with the work.
"He did everything very easily," she said. "I didn't have to encourage him at all. He was very happy doing it."
Working in company with Hymn Book, Orb covered the ground as effortlessly as he had in previous works leading up to the Derby and the Preakness, galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:00.48.
McGaughey said racing circumstances may have played a role in Orb's fourth-place finish in the Preakness. He said breaking from the inside post at Pimlico, a slow pace, and the fact Orb was unable to get outside and find running room made it all the more difficult.
"And I'm sure when the other riders had him down on the inside they weren't going to let him out, especially as slow as they we going," McGaughey said. "It just wasn't our day."
A large field is expected for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, with as many as 14 horses possible.
Oxbow, trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, is expected to arrive at Belmont Park on Monday, along with stablemate Will Take Charge.
Trainer Todd Pletcher could enter as many as five horses. Already set are Revolutionary, Overanalyze and Palace Malice, with the filly Unlimited Budget and maiden winner Midnight Taboo also in the mix.
Other probables include Derby runner-up Golden Soul, Giant Finish, Vyjack, Always in a Tiz and Incognito. Frac Daddy is possible.
The rematch will be the 21st in Belmont history. The Derby winner has come out on top five times, the Preakness champ nine times. The last Derby-Belmont winner was Swale in 1985; the last Preakness-Belmont winner was Afleet Alex in 2005. The most recent rematch was two years ago — long shot Rule on Ice won, with Preakness winner Shackleford fifth and Derby winner Animal Kingdom sixth.