BALTIMORE — Early Saturday morning, Shug McGaughey was walking back and forth in front of the stakes barn at Pimlico.
The trainer of Orb said he had experienced a variety of emotions during the week, and those mixed feelings remained as the race drew near.
“I’m thrilled and excited to be in this position,” he said. “I am also a bit nervous.”
As well he should be. With Orb, McGaughey became a Kentucky Derby winner for the first time. With his first career victory in the Preakness, the 62-year-old would keep alive his bid to win the Triple Crown — a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Affirmed in 1978.
Asked whether he’s allowed himself to think about the enormity of his situation, McGaughey said, “I try not to, but I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I told you I hadn’t. I’ve been reminded about it quite a bit. I’d like to get by today and get back to Belmont and give it a whirl.”
Regardless of how Orb fared Saturday, McGaughey would always have the memory of keeping his horse in Stall 40, reserved annually for the Kentucky Derby winner.
“It’s a thrill to have the Derby winner and to be able to come into that stall,” McGaughey said. “It’s got a lot of significance. The last time I was here was in 1989. I had the favorite (Easy Goer) but there was another horse in that stall. I wanted to be in that stall.”
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