By Steve Ginsburg
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Orb's disappointing fourth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes meant it just wasn't his day, trainer Shug McGaughey said on Saturday.
Orb had won five successive races, including a dominant performance in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, but the 3-5 favorite in the field of nine ran out of gas in the Preakness stretch and never mounted a challenge.
McGaughey denied the short layoff from Churchill Downs had anything to do with the colt's failure to fire.
"I don't think two weeks had anything to do with it," said McGaughey, back at the Preakness for the first time since Easy Goer lost to Sunday Silence by a nose in 1989.
"Oxbow ran back in two weeks. Itsmyluckyday ran back in two weeks. Mylute ran back in two weeks. I just think he got himself in a position where he wasn't comfortable.
"They really weren't spread out a little bit more than maybe I'd hoped. That probably affected him more than anything else."
Oxbow ran sixth at the Derby but cruised to a wire-to-wire victory on Saturday, with Mylute second and Itsmyluckyday third.
Orb, with Joel Rosario in the silks, opened from the rail and immediately fell back to sixth in the mile-and-three-16th race (1900m) and despite the urging from the 117,203 at Pimlico Race Course, never found another gear.
"He was in a good spot early in the race," said Rosario.
"They were going slow up front and he was fine. When I got to the half-mile pole, he had a hard time keeping up.
"I used my stick to try to get him going. He usually takes you there. He always runs hard. But today he never took off. He just steadied."
McGaughey suggested the slow pace may have hurt the colt's chances.
"The pace was slower than I anticipated," he said.
"I thought maybe they would speed it up a little bit but they didn't. I still thought we would close into it but it just wasn't his day.
"I'm disappointed. I'll probably be way more disappointed tomorrow but I know the game. It's highs and lows, probably more lows than highs."
McGaughey, a Hall of Fame trainer, has never won the Preakness. Meanwhile, Oxbow's trainer, 77-year-old D. Wayne Lukas, made his sixth trip to the winner's circle.
"We had a great run two weeks ago," offered McGaughey.
"My hat's off to Wayne to win his sixth Preakness. That's pretty remarkable."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)