Moments after Orb
to victory in the Kentucky Derby
(gr. I), providing his classic connections –
owners Stuart S. Janney, III and Phipps Stable and trainer Shug McGaughey – and
jockey Joel Rosario with their first Derby triumph, nineteen Thoroughbreds were
led back to the barns across the track from the grandstand. Each of them was
camouflaged in mud, but only one of them had had the honor of standing within
the Kentucky Derby winner’s enclosure with a luxurious blanket of red roses
draped over his shoulders. Months of preparation had gone into this race and
within a matter of two minutes, it was over and the victor was crowned.
After the Derby, most of the attention was focused on Orb, and rightfully so.
The immensely talented colt had captured the race in authoritative manner,
immediately generating Triple Crown talk. But a number of other contenders ran
noteworthy races, although it is clear that the best horse won.
Take a look at eight honorable finishers of the Kentucky Derby:
1st - Orb: The winner exited
the gate well, though he came into contact with Will Take Charge to his outside
briefly. Orb was not bothered by this and Rosario then maneuvered the colt
closer to the inside, allowing the bay colt to find a position near the front
as the field galloped under the wire for the first time. Unexpectedly, Palace
Malice became the leader in a forceful manner, recording an initial quarter
of a mile in a blazing 22.57 seconds. Meanwhile, Orb galloped comfortably in
sixteenth, with about ten lengths separating him and Palace Malice as he raced
wide into the first turn.
Orb continued to appear content as he raced among the trailers down the
backstretch, racing almost eighteen lengths off of Palace Malice as that rival
completed the first four furlongs in a rapid 45.3. The favorite raced alongside
second-choice Revolutionary down the backstretch, galloping in seventeenth.
Approaching the far turn, Rosario piloted Orb to a position farther outside, setting
Orb up for his run. With breathtakingly powerful strides, the mud-caked bay passed
rivals as if they were standing still, rallying quickly towards the front.
At the top of the stretch, Orb had a clear path ahead of him and Rosario asked
Orb to continue his mighty rally. Orb appeared slightly green, veering in and
out marginally as he seized the lead at the sixteenth pole. Maintaining his commanding
strides, Orb coasted to an easy 2 ½ length victory.
2nd – Golden Soul: The
chestnut colt came away from the gate well but was soon squeezed slightly by
rivals. Breaking from an inside post, the longshot found a position near the
rail, racing comfortably in fifteenth – just ahead of Orb – as the horses
crossed under the wire for the first time. Just four horses raced behind him as
the field entered the backstretch.
Golden Soul remained comfortable in his position far back along the rail,
benefiting from the rail-skimming trip jockey Robby Albarado was providing him
with. As he made his rally along the rail around the far turn, Orb made the
same rally – but in a much more impressive manner, going much wider while
passing more rivals in a smaller amount of time.
Nonetheless, Golden Soul ran on well, gaining ground on the horses before him.
Albarado was forced to guide him around horses at the top of the lane and
Golden Soul chased after Orb – who had reached the front by the time Golden Soul
arrived on the scene. Although it was clearly Orb’s race, Golden Soul steadily
raced onward to cross the wire a surprising second as the fourth-longest shot
on the board.
3rd – Revolutionary: Sent
off as the second choice, Revolutionary – as expected – was quickly moved to
the rail by three-time Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel. Joining the trailers,
only two horses were behind Revolutionary as the nineteen Thoroughbreds
galloped into the first bend.
Maintaining the next-to-last position down the backstretch, Revolutionary raced
nearly twenty lengths behind the pacesetter down the backstretch. Borel kept
the colt along the rail around the far turn, waiting for room to run when the
pair became boxed in. But, once a small space opened at the top of lane, the jockey pursued it in typical Borel fashion. Revolutionary responded to
Borel’s command, closing along the rail as he surpassed tiring rivals. In
typical Revolutionary fashion, the colt changed leads before correcting it
outside the sixteenth pole. He made a remarkable rally, but did not have the
kick Orb had, finishing third.
4th – Normandy Invasion: After
breaking from the gate rather cleanly, Normandy Invasion settled mid-pack in
the horses’ first run down the stretch. A horse that is usually far back in the
early stages of the race, Normandy Invasion was only about 6 ½ lengths off the
leader at the end of the first quarter.
Javier Castellano kept the colt along the rail and as the field began to move
into the far turn, Normandy Invasion inched closer to the front. Swinging to
the outside, Normandy Invasion stole the lead from Palace Malice before the
quarter pole, leading the field into the homestretch. The Chad Brown trainee
still had the lead throughout upper stretch, but Orb wore him down, leaving
Normandy Invasion to finish fourth, outfinished by Revolutionary by just a
head. Castellano seemed to have pushed the button too soon.
5th – Mylute: In 2011, Rosie Napravnik achieved the best finish
of all-time in the Kentucky Derby for a female jockey, crossing the wire ninth
aboard Pants on Fire. She set the mark even higher this year, piloting Mylute
to a fifth-place finish. The colt broke very cleanly, but then was forced to
steady when rivals entered his desired path of travel.
Mylute was second-to-last in the field’s first trip past the grandstand and
remained near the rear throughout the majority of the race. He began to rally
shortly after the horses entered the far turn, traveling wide as he tracked Orb
around the final bend. Racing wide, Mylute carried a coat of mud into the lane,
making a rather impressive rally down the center of the stretch. But he could
not sustain Orb’s late kick and despite his strong closing finish, Mylute had
to settle for fifth.
7th – Lines of Battle: The only Europe-based horse in the race,
Lines of Battle’s first start on the dirt was a traffic-filled battle in the
mud. He exited the gate in a clean manner, being guided into the middle of the
pack before allowing several rivals to pass him as he galloped three paths off
the rail into the clubhouse turn. A half-mile into the race, Lines of Battle
was nearly seventeen lengths behind Palace Malice. He began his rally around
the far turn, weaving through traffic around the curve. He did not have the
closing kick of Orb – no one did – but he galloped onward steadily to finish
8th – Will Take Charge: The
D. Wayne Lukas trainee got away well from the gate and Jon Court allowed Will
Take Charge to maintain a mid-field position into the initial bend. Racing wide
around the turn, Will Take Charge appeared comfortable entering the
backstretch. He began to gain ground on the leaders around the far turn,
although Orb’s rally to his outside overshadowed his. With Orb directly to his
outside, Will Take Charge was forced onto the heels of Verrazano, causing Court
to check his mount. Will Take Charge thus lost momentum but was able to finish
at a solid pace to end up eighth.
10th – Giant Finish: The second-longest shot in the field, Giant
Finish was fortunate enough to have a clean beginning to the race. Settling in
behind the front half of the field, Giant Finish was about ten lengths behind
Palace Malice as the horses entered the backstretch. The distance between the
longshot and the leader increased down the backside and around the far turn,
Giant Finish appeared to be traveling backward. But suddenly, he picked up the
pace and was able to close steadily for a tenth-place effort that was far
beyond his odds.
In the end, the horse that was supposed to win was the one that graced headlines across the nation for capturing one of the world's most revered races. A lot can happen in the next five weeks, but if Orb stays on the path of
improvement he is flourishing on, he could rewrite racing history. It is early
and the future is unpredictable, but if anyone were to end the Triple Crown
drought, it seems fitting that it would be a horse trained by Shug McGaughey
and owned by the Janney and Phipps families.