Last minute money made Orb the 11/2 favorite in the Kentucky Derby. He powered past his rivals late on to win the Run for the Roses, beating Dallas Stewart’s Golden Soul by two and a half lengths in a time of 2 minutes 2.89 seconds on a rain-soaked, sloppy track.
It was a popular victory and a first Kentucky Derby win for Orb’s 62 year-old trainer, Shug McGaughey. A native of Lexington, Kentucky, he said that he had always dreamed of winning this race and that it meant everything to him.
It was also a first Kentucky Derby win for his 28 year-old jockey, Joel Rosario and Orb’s owners and breeders, Stuart Janney and Ogden Mills ‘Dinny’ Phipps.
McGaughey is known for being patient with his horses, saying that he will wait for them to tell him when they are ready to run.
Rosario demonstrated that he had plenty of patience too. He did not try to keep up with the suicidal pace set by Mike Smith (pictured), who had learned nothing and repeated the insane tactics he had employed on Bodemeister a year earlier, on Todd Pletcher’s Palace Malice. Rosario allowed Orb to relax at the back of the pack as a totally unsustainable pace was being set by the front runners. He, unlike many of his rivals, had the sense to abandon his original race plan of gaining a mid pack position.
It was a wise head on relatively young shoulders that beat the more experienced, 47 year-old Mike Smith and all those foolish enough to try to keep pace with him. Two years running Smith’s stupidity had determined the shape of the race – if this had happened in Europe his transgressions would never have been forgiven and his mounts in big races would have dried up totally.
When you take a look at the fractions, it was no surprise that the first three horses were all closers. The second placed Golden Soul, a 35/1 outsider in the Kentucky Derby betting ridden by Robby Albarado, was kept well off the pace.
The Kentucky Derby specialist, Calvin Borel, was not tempted to follow Mike Smith either. He held up Todd Pletcher’s Revolutionary (32/5) in the last three on the rail. He finished three and a half lengths behind Orb in third.
Chad Brown’s Normandy Invasion (93/10) finished a head behind Revolutionary in fourth. He was kept in the midfield by Javier Castellano and took the lead two furlongs from home only to lose it when it mattered most.
The talented Rosie Napravnik achieved the best position so far for a female jockey in the Kentucky Derby. She rode Thomas Amoss’ Mylute, a 153/10 outsider, and finished a head behind Normandy Invasion in fifth.
She did everything right to gain the best possible final position, steadying Mylute and keeping him at the back of the pack. She asked him to quicken three furlongs from home and rode a faultless race.
Todd Pletcher’s Verrazano, the second favorite before the day of the race, was disappointing. He started at 87/10 and could only finish 14th. Jockey Joel Velazquez made the fatal mistake of tracking Palace Malice in the early stages. He still looked to have a strong chance before the final turn but faded dramatically in the final stages.
Velazquez had been given the choice of riding Orb or Verrazano. If he had kept up with the pace on Orb he almost certainly would not have won.
Shug McGaughey must have been thanking his lucky stars that Velazquez picked Verrazano rather than Orb after the race.
Doug O’Neill, trainer of the 2012 Kentucky Derby winner, I’ll Have Another, sent out Goldencents. He was the third favorite before the day of the race. He started at 79/10 but could only finish 17th of the 19 runners. His jockey Kevin Krigger had also made the error of keeping pace with Palace Malice in the early stages and threw away his chances of featuring at the finish.
Edward Plesa Jnr’s Itsmyluckyday was another runner that attracted support, starting at 19/2. He had finished second to Orb in the Florida Derby in his most recent run. Jockey Elvis Trujillo had him in a prominent position in the middle of the pack and finished with just four horses behind him in fifteenth.
There was one runner from the UK in the 139th Kentucky Derby. Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien sent out Lines of Battle, the winner of the United Arab Emirates Derby in Meydan. It was his colt’s first run on dirt. He finished in a respectable seventh place under Ryan Moore who had kept him towards the back of the pack.
A Kentucky Derby tip for the future
Based on his last two runs, Mike Smith has become a jockey to avoid in the Kentucky Derby. He got the favorite in the 2012 Kentucky Derby betting, Bob Baffert’s Bodemeister, beaten by deciding to outpace the sprinter, Trinniberg. Bodemeister was some horse to get second after the ride Smith gave him.
This year he wrecked any chance of the less popular Palace Malice and those of anyone who had also left their ability to judge pace at the gates and tried to follow him. Perhaps he was told to lead the pack and gain maximum advantage from Palace Malice’s first run in blinkers? Has anyone told him that you can try steadying the pace from the front?
He may have won many big races but Smith seems to make massive mistakes when it matters. Many people will never forgive him for getting Zenyatta beaten at Churchill Downs on her final run in the Breeders’ Cup. It was yet another massive error of judgment.
If you want to make money in the Kentucky Derby betting, think carefully before supporting anything ridden by Mike Smith.