Hall of Fame trainer Claude "Shug" McGaughey, III won his first Kentucky Derby when jockey Joel Rosario guided Orb, a son of Malibu Moon, across a sloppy track to victory in the Grade 1 $2,000,000 Kentucky Derby before a soggy crowd of 151,616. As the gates opened, Orb was the betting favorite at odds just under 6-1.
"It's awesome," said Rosario who got the mount when regular rider John Velazquez chose to ride the previously undefeated Verrazano in the Derby. "I won the $10 million Dubai World Cup (with Animal Kingdom) and to win the Derby now it's like a dream. I am so happy for Shug McGaughey. I feel awesome. I was so far behind, I just let him be calm and relaxed and he was available to do it."
McGaughey has sent out six Kentucky Derby starters, most recently in 2002, with his best finish coming in a second place finish by Easer Goer in 1989. In the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby when asked about his absence in recent years, McGaughey said that he didn't want to go to the Derby unless he felt he had a horse good enough to win it. Orb proved he was good enough when overtaking Itsmyluckyday to win the Grade 1 Florida Derby and when he took victory from runner-up Violence in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.
"He had a great workout here on Monday and he was terrific in the paddock today and post parade and going in the gate," said McGaughey. "So when they swung the latch, I thought to myself, just enjoy the race. If it works, it works, if it doesn't, it doesn't. Luckily, it did work today."
Orb gave owners Stuart Janney, III and Dinny Phipps of the Phipps Stables in New York their first Kentucky Derby win, as well.
"I think it's terrific, absolutely wonderful," said Phipps. "It's really the culmination of horse racing, and I am thrilled to be here today."
The Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore, Md. in two weeks is the next leg in the Triple Crown series.
"We're set up better than anybody, and if everything is right, I can't wait to get to Preakness and do it again," said McGaughey.
At the start of the race, Palace Malice got the lead and set a fast pace, taking the first quarter-mile in :22.57. Oxbow and Verrazano were closest behind him, but as the field turned for home, this set fell back and Normandy Invasion took the lead. Going into the stretch, Orb and Golden Soul began closing from out in the center of the track. Revolutionary, under rail-rider Calvin Borel, closed from the rail as Mylute was directly opposite him on the outside. Orb won out, taking victory by 2 1/2 lengths in front of Golden Soul. A length back, Revolutionary got up by a head over Normandy Invasion for third, who got a head in front of fifth-place finisher Mylute.
Robby Albarado, who didn't ride in the Kentucky Derby last year and was replaced by John Velazquez aboard Animal Kingdom in 2011, said, "I'm just thankful for the opportunity. It's amazing to get the opportunity."
Trainer of runner-up Golden Soul, Dallas Stewart said of the effort, "We got beat by a great horse. He ran terrific. I'm so proud of Robby (Albarado). He vindicated himself. He's just a great rider and gave this horse a great rider. And (owner) Chuck Fipke, what can I say? One of the best ever."
Calvin Borel, who won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver in the slop reunited with those same connections--trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Winstar Farm--was in 18th position after the second call, closed strongly and quickly moved up the track along the rail, but could not get to the winner in time and had to settle for third.
"The only thing I wish I could have done on the far turn was creep up closer on him," said Borel. "Turning for home, I still thought we had a shot to win, but he gave me a good turn of foot."
Orb returned $12.80, $7.40, and $5.40. Golden Soul paid $38.60 and $19.40 and completed the $2 exacta for $981.60. Revolutionary paid $5.40 and completed the $0.50 trifecta for $1,731.40. Mylute completed the $1 superfecta for $57,084. The final time for the 1 1/4 race over the sloppy track was 2:02.89.
The complete order of finish in the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby was Orb, Golden Soul, Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, Mylute, Oxbow, Lines of Battle, Will Take Charge, Charming Kitten, Giant Finish, Overanalyze, Palace Malice, Java's War, Verrazano, Itsmyluckyday, Frac Daddy, Goldencents, Vyjack, and Falling Sky.
Photo: J. Oswald, Homepage Photo: M. Sharp