Orb rallies to win Kentucky Derby in the mud
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Way back in the pack heading into the final turn, Orb was calm even if his jockey wasn't.
Then trainer Shug McGaughey's bay colt picked up speed, churning through a sloppy track that resembled creamy peanut butter, and blew past rivals one-by-one.
By that time, jockey Joel Rosario knew he was aboard the Kentucky Derby winner.
Orb powered to a 2½-length victory Saturday at Churchill Downs, giving McGaughey and Rosario their first Derby wins.
“I was so far behind,” Rosario said. “He was very relaxed; it's exactly what I wanted.”
Rosario had Orb in the clear on the outside and they surged to the lead in the deep stretch, with enough momentum to hold off 34-1 shot Golden Soul.
It was a popular victory before a crowd of 151,616, which poured enough late money on Orb to make him the 5-1 favorite, a position Revolutionary had owned most of the day.
McGaughey, a 62-year-old native of Lexington, finally got the Derby win he had long sought. Orb was just his second starter since 1989, when he settled for second after Sunday Silence beat Easy Goer on a muddy track.
“It means everything to me,” the Hall of Famer said. ‘I've always dreamed of this day and it finally came.”
The rain that pelted the track earlier in the day had stopped by the time 19 horses paraded to the post for the 139th Derby. But it created a gloppy surface, although didn't seem to bother Orb who had never previously run on a wet track.
His triumph was a victory for the old school of racing, where a private trainer like McGaughey works exclusively for wealthy owners, in this case Stuart Janney and Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps.
The first cousins, among the sport's blue bloods that include the old-money Whitney and Vanderbilt families, also got their first gold Derby trophy.
Golden Soul was second. Revolutionary, one of trainer Todd Pletcher's five starters, was third. Normandy Invasion finished fourth.
Orb paid $12.80, $7.40 and $5.40. Golden Soul returned $38.60 and $19.40, while Revolutionary paid $5.40 to show.
History was denied on several fronts:
• Pletcher sent out a record-tying five horses for the second time in his career. Besides Revolutionary, Charming Kitten was ninth; Overanalyze was 11th; early pacesetter Palace Malice was 12th; and previously unbeaten Verrazano was 14th.
• Rosie Napravnik's bid to become the first woman jockey to win ended with a fifth-place finish aboard Mylute.
• Kevin Krigger failed in his attempt to be the first black jockey to win since 1902. He rode Goldencents to a 17th-place finish for trainer Doug O'Neill, who won last year with I'll Have Another.
Rosario, meanwhile, maximized the opportunity aboard Orb that John Velazquez passed on in the Kentucky Derby. Velazquez instead chose to ride Verrazano and ended up 13 spots behind Rosario and Orb. Rosario had ridden Orb five times with two wins before Velazquez took the reins for back-to-back stakes wins that made Orb a Derby favorite.
“After passing the three-eighths pole, I knew it was time to move and I can see he was catching horses really quick,” said Rosario, whose Derby victory follows his March 30 win in the $10 million Dubai World Cup aboard 2011 Derby champion Animal Kingdom.
Being from Lexington, the heart of Kentucky's horse country, McGaughey figured to be a regular Derby participant. But Orb was just his second starter since 1989, when McGaughey watched Easy Goer lose to Sunday Silence.
Orb also was the second Derby starter for both Janney and Phipps, whose previous entries were in 1988 and '89. Their family wealth allows them to race the horses they breed, unlike the majority of current owners who are involved through partnerships that split up the exorbitant costs of the sport.
The cousins' grandfather, Henry Phipps, founded wealth management firm Bessemer Trust in 1907. Janney serves as chairman, while Dinny Phipps is its director. He also chairs The Jockey Club, the sport's governing body that registers thoroughbreds, while Janney is vice chairman.