Reflections on the 2013 Kentucky Derby

Moments after Orb dashed 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.

2ndGolden 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.

3rdRevolutionary: 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.

4thNormandy 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.

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.

7thLines 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 seventh.

8thWill 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.

10thGiant 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.


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Older Comments about Reflections on the 2013 Kentucky Derby...

I also think, given the fast pace, and the fact that the rail was not the best part of the track, that Oxbow ran a very good race.
I think the 2nd and 3rd place finishers point to the rail being fine. Oxbow has mud chops, ask Laurie.
the rail was fine, likin sparks, think you might just have been seeing golden soul starting his drive. It wasn't the rail that was the problem, it was everything between the rail and the 7 path.
lol amino good one!
Your explanation is as clear as mud, likin sparks.
You can clearly see when Golden Soul left the rail to trail behind Orb he was able to find better footing and accelerated, makes me think if Revolutionary wasn't riding the trashed rail for almost the entire race how many lengths he would have won by. I'm happy that Shug finally got one and that fate was really good to them.
True Sysonby because of the drainage.
In the NBC coverage before the race, they said the rail and from 7 path out were good, but 2 to 6 path were going to be mucky and tiring.

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