BALTIMORE – Another year, another Triple Crown hopeful unable to come through.
After Oxbow upset Kentucky Derby winner Orb in Saturday’s Preakness to extend racing’s Triple Crown drought to 36 years, the next best alternative for the Belmont Stakes is a rematch.
And, it appears one is in the making. Both trainers are giving every indication their classic-winning colts will run in the Belmont on June 8.
“You know me,” Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said after Oxbow’s 1 3/4-length victory over Itsmyluckyday, with 3-5 favorite Orb finishing fourth. “I like to rack them up in the big events. So, I’ll probably go.”
Trainer Shug McGaughey said he’d like to run Orb in the Belmont as long as the colt is doing well.
“The Belmont Stakes is on our radar screen,” McGaughey said Sunday after arriving back at Belmont Park and checking on his Derby winner, who was vanned back earlier in the day.
After a talk with Orb’s owners, Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps and Stuart Janney III, McGaughey said, “We just all came to the conclusion that we should just watch Orb and see. I think everything is in good shape. We’d like to run.”
A year ago, there was great anticipation for a Triple try after I’ll Have Another won the Derby and Preakness, but the colt was scratched the day before the Belmont because of a tendon injury.
The most recent of 20 rematches between classic winners in the Belmont was two years ago, with Derby winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness winner Shackleford hooking up – but 24-1 long shot Ruler On Ice pulled the upset.
Hours after Oxbow’s win at 15-1 odds gave Lukas his record 14th Triple Crown race win – and sixth Preakness – the trainer and his colt were on the road back to Churchill Downs.
McGaughey was disappointed he couldn’t follow up his first Derby win with his first Preakness win, but said, “Winning the Derby was my lifetime dream and we won it.”
Lukas, meanwhile, won his first Triple Crown race since 2000, when Commendable won the Belmont. Since that win, Lukas was 0-for-31 in 22 Triple Crown races before Saturday.
“I still enjoy doing this so much,” he said. “I don’t wake up every day anymore trying to prove I can train a racehorse. When you’re younger, you keep trying to prove yourself. I’m very comfortable with where I’m at.”
The win was a big one for Calumet Farm, too, the iconic stable being revitalized by new owner Brad Kelley. The stable that produced Triple Crown champions Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948 won its first classic since Forward Pass took the Preakness in the 1968.
“They’re all special because they were with a different client,” Lukas said when asked to compare his Preakness wins. “The key is to get one every once in a while for the new guy.”