BALTIMORE, May 6 (UPI) -- The short but difficult march to the Triple Crown is under way for Kentucky Derby winner Orb, with fresh rivals waiting at the next stop.
Trainer Shug McGaughey took Orb back to his New York base Sunday morning, reporting his Malibu Moon colt is "as bright as can be" in his Belmont Park stall.
Several of the horses he beat at Churchill Downs are gearing up for another try in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18. But much of the attention will be on what traditionally are known as the "new shooters" in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Chief among them is Departing, a War Front gelding who won his first three races, ran third in the Louisiana Derby and then was taken off the Kentucky Derby trail by trainer Al Stall. Instead, Departing was an easy winner in the April 20 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course -- a race omitted from the official Churchill Downs list of Kentucky Derby preps.
"The timing was perfect," Stall said Monday. "He's not that big of a horse. The race was a prep for the Preakness. That's what Hawthorne designed it as and we're going to follow it that way."
Stall admitted Orb is "strictly the horse to beat. I have no idea whether we can beat him or not. We're happy with our horse and are going to take a chance."
Other potential "new shooters," Pimlico officials say, include the Bob Baffert-trained Governor Charlie, the winner of the Grade III Sunland Park Derby, and Bellarmine, one of three winners on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard for trainer Ken McPeek.
The picture usually clarifies significantly before the third Triple Crown race -- the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 8. This year, however, several of the Kentucky Derby also-rans are skipping the Preakness specifically to rest up for the Belmont.
The Triple Crown has been swept only 11 times and not since Affirmed won all three races in 1978.