By Steve Ginsburg
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Orb trainer Shug McGaughey said on his colt emerged from the Preakness Stakes in excellent shape and remained at a loss to explain the colt's puzzling performance.
The Kentucky Derby champion was a prohibitive 3-5 favorite in Saturday's $1 million race at Pimlico Race Course but ran out of gas in the stretch and finished fourth.
Oxbow, a 15-1 longshot ridden by Gary Stevens and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, scored an unlikely wire-to-wire victory before more than 117,000 at Pimlico.
Orb and Oxbow could meet again in three weeks during the final stop of the Triple Crown series, the $1 million Belmont Stakes in New York.
Lukas said on Sunday he wanted Oxbow to run in the June 8 Belmont, while McGaughey was being a little more cautious, saying he needs to analyze Orb's condition over the next few days.
"I want to see him bounce back and see his soundness level and his energy level," he told reporters. "I think there are a lot of good wins down the road for him."
McGaughey had no answers after the race for the way Orb ran and found nothing after Orb's Sunday exam to change his tune.
"He came out of it fine. He's sound. Physically, everything is fine," McGaughey said before boarding Orb into a van bound for his home base at Belmont Park.
"We'll get him up the road and evaluate the situation to see where we'll go."
McGaughey said a lot of dirt was being kicked around on Saturday at Pimlico but that he could not explain why Orb failed to find another gear in the final furlong.
The bay son of Malibu Moon had a five-race win streak snapped.
"The racetrack was probably deep down the inside there. There was a lot of throwback," McGaughey said. "We couldn't get to the outside. I thought he was in good position and he took him to the right position, and all of a sudden he had no horse.
"Why that was, I don't know. "I think it wasn't our day and it was Oxbow's day."
The loss made McGaughey's Derby triumph two weeks earlier even more special.
"Winning the Derby was my lifelong dream," said McGaughey, a Hall of Famer still looking for his first trip to the Preakness winner's circle.
"I would have loved to win (Saturday) to take it to the next level, so I do appreciate how tough it is. If I have the opportunity again (to compete in the Derby), I may cherish it even more, because I've seen how tough it is to get it done.
"As brilliant as we were two weeks ago, we weren't as brilliant yesterday."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)