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The eighth month of 2013 is past its midway point and affixing the term "leader" to any colt in the 3-year-old division can still generate more debate than one of Rush Limbaugh's radio shows.If you read Mike Watchmaker's "Watchmaker's Watch" in the Daily Racing Form, you'll find Kentucky Derby/Florida Derby/Fountain of Youth winner Orb on top, followed by Verrazano and Palace Malice. In a July 28 blog post, The Form's national handicapper went as far as to declare the notion that Palace Malice might be the leader or even the co-leader with Orb was "ridiculous."
Of the three leading 3-year-olds, Orb is clearly the one lacking in the "what have you done for me lately" category.
""He left us a horse, he came back a man-horse. There's a different look to him," McGaughey said during an NTRA teleconference Tuesday, one day after Orb put in a 47.68 seconds drill at the Saratoga training track that was the fastest of 31 works at the distance. "Fitness will not be a problem. He's very sharp. All systems are go. I think our experiment at Fair Hill worked out to our advantage. I think we have a much better horse now than earlier in the year. "We have the best horse." Considering the colt, owned by Ogden Mills Phipps and Stuart S. Janney III, was good enough to win the Run for the Roses earlier in the year, that's a powerful statement and one that sets the stage for a lively duel with formidable rivals who have also blossomed since spring. On Derby Day, Palace Malice set a ridiculously fast pace and faded to 12th. Since then, his wins in the Jim Dandy at the Spa and the Belmont Stakes have elevated him to the upper echelon in the division. Verrazano had an even worse day, chasing those fractions and folding up to 14th in a surprisingly weak effort. In his seven career starts, that was Verrazano's lone defeat. Since then, dominant wins in the $1 Million Haskell and the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes indicate the mud, not the 10-furlong distance, may have been the colt's anchor. The Travers should provide some resolution to the questions about his distance capabilities and paint a picture as to who's truly the leader of the 3-year-old pack. McGaughey, for his part, knows which poll he supports. "I haven't seen the [NTRA poll] but they're the now horses and we've been gone," McGaughey said. "I don't think it's right, but that's their assessment [to put Verrazano and Palace Malice ahead of Orb]. I hope we can turn it around." If he does, it should put an end to the debate. It would be ridiculous to think otherwise.
He left us a horse, he came back a man-horse. There's a different look to him." -- Shug McGaughey, Orb's trainer