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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Preakness Stakes: Goldencents getting a feel for track at Pimlico

After I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby last year, he was sent from Churchill Downs to Pimlico less than 48 hours later to prepare for the Preakness Stakes, a race he also won.

Doug O’Neill, who trained I’ll Have Another, is following the same pattern this year with Goldencents, with one major difference – he’s heading into the Preakness attempting to stop a Triple Crown bid, not keep one alive.

Goldencents, who won the Santa Anita Derby, was one of the bigger disappointments in the Kentucky Derby last Saturday, finishing 17th, beaten nearly 50 lengths by Orb, easily the worst performance of his seven-race career.

On Thursday, Goldencents went back to the track to train, jogging around the Pimlico main track with regular jockey Kevin Krigger aboard. O’Neill believes Krigger, who has been aboard Goldencents for all of his races, including four victories, was instrumental in allowing Goldencents to run in the second leg of the Triple Crown because he didn’t unnecessarily punish Goldencents when all was lost.

“I really think it was the footing,” O’Neill said Thursday of the reason Goldencents ran so poorly in the Derby. “I know that’s a lame excuse, but the last half-mile was in 53 seconds, so it wasn’t ideal footing. Fortunately, he came out of the race well. Thank God, Kevin did a smart job taking care of our guy. It shows the horsemanship of Kevin, and the love he has for Goldencents, that once he realized it wasn’t his day, he took care of him.”

Goldencents was second early in the Derby as Palace Malice set blistering fractions and was still in the hunt in fourth after six furlongs. But he started to fade on the final turn, and in the homestretch, Goldencents was practically eased by Krigger, yet he still beat two others.

O’Neill, who is based in California, doesn’t regularly keep horses at Churchill Downs, so heading to Pimlico was the ideal option.

“It just made sense to get him to the track he’s going to run on,” O’Neill said. “Not just for the horse but for the people with him. Everybody can settle in.”

O’Neill was at Santa Anita on Thursday but spoke with assistant Jack Sisterson, who is handling chores at Pimlico and told O’Neill that Goldencents jogged well and appeared to have come out of the Preakness in good shape.

O’Neill was scheduled to travel to Baltimore over the weekend and said he was contemplating working Goldencents at Pimlico on Monday.

“Maybe we’ll breeze him Monday, or we might just give him some nice, comfortable gallops,” O’Neill said. “The next few days will tell us what we need to do.”

At Belmont Park, Orb galloped 1 1/8 miles Thursday over a sealed, muddy, hard main track.

Trainer Shug McGaughey led Orb and exercise rider Jennifer Patterson onto the track at 6 a.m., and Orb stood with his stable pony while McGaughey drove over to the apron to watch the colt gallop.

Orb jogged alongside the pony for three-eighths of a mile before leaving him at the seven-eighths pole. Orb jumped right into his gallop, which was done in the middle of the track.

“I don’t mind [the track] when it’s like that,” McGaughey said. “It’s when it’s muddy and deep and is pulling on them. Drying out is what I worry about more than anything.”

McGaughey said that on a hard track, “they go over the top of it.”

McGaughey liked the energy Orb displayed in his training session.

“He was bucking, playing, feeling good, jumping mud puddles, doing everything the right way,” McGaughey said. “I was pleased with what I saw.”

McGaughey said Orb is on schedule to work Monday at Belmont and van to Pimlico later that day.

Four hours later Thursday, Normandy Invasion jogged once around a muddy Belmont training track. Normandy Invasion, fourth in the Derby, was scheduled to begin galloping Friday. Trainer Chad Brown said he would watch Normandy Invasion train through the weekend before deciding whether to run in the Preakness.

At Aqueduct, Vyjack went back to the track to train for the first time since his 18th-place finish in the Derby. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said he did not know yet if he would work Vyjack prior to the Preakness.

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