Orb: Florida Derby winner rallied from the rear to claim Kentucky DerbyPICTURE: EquiSport Photos/Jessie Holmes
Well-fancied Orb makes Kentucky his home
Report: USA, Saturday
Churchill Downs: Kentucky Derby (Grade 1) 1m2f, dirt, 3yo
THE heavily fancied Orb (Shug McGaughey/Joel Rosario), a sentimental favourite in his trainer's home state, landed a hugely popular victory at a mud-splattered Churchill Downs with a come-from-behind success in the Kentucky Derby.
With late money ensuring he was sent off the 5.4-1 favourite, the Florida Derby winner was kept well out of a ridiculous pace in the early stages by his Dubai World Cup-winning jockey before circling the field to hit the front a furlong out.
He went on to claim America's greatest race by two and a half lengths in a time of 2m02.89s on a surface officially described as sloppy. The crowd figure was a massive 151,616, despite filthy conditions.
Rank outsider Golden Soul finished to good effect to take second in the $2.2 million event, just ahead of Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion and Mylute.
All the principals came from well off the pace in a race where Irish contender Lines Of Battle ran respectably enough under Ryan Moore to come seventh on his dirt debut.
Orb, a son of Malibu Moon, scored just once in four starts as a juvenile before really blossoming as a three-year-old with a hat-trick at Gulfstream Park for much respected trainer McGaughey, a Kentucky native renowned for his patience and horsemanship.
Although he was admitted to the US Hall of Fame nine years ago, McGaughey (pronounced 'Moo-Gay-He') hasn't had a Derby runner since 2002 and had had only six previous runners altogether, doing best with the great Easy Goer, second to his arch-rival Sunday Silence in 1989.
"Means everything to me," said an emotional McGaughey, whose formal name is Claude R McGaughey III. "I've always dreamed of this day and it finally came. Thrilled for the people who put in so much time on this horse, and of course I'm thrilled for me."
McGaughey trains Orb for longstanding patrons Stuart Janney and Ogden Mills 'Dinny' Phipps, old-school scions of the American turf. The pair, prominent members of the Phipps racing empire, are cousins; six generations of their family have been involved in the sport, without ever winning the Kentucky Derby.
Winning jockey Rosario, who is in the form of his life, regained the ride on Orb only when the colt's Florida Derby partner John Velazquez plumped for Verrazano, thought to be the most highly rated of trainer Todd Pletcher's quintet, although his stablemate Revolutionary was sent off nearly favourite under Calvin Borel.
"It's like living a dream," said Rosario, who comes from the Dominican Republic. "I was so far behind and I just let him be calm and let him be relaxed and he was available to do it all."
Third-placed Revolutionary fared much better than his Pletcher-trained stable companions, the remainder of whom were all trounced with Charming Kitten (ninth), Overanalyze (11th), Palace Malice (12th) and Verrazano (14th).
Ridden by Mike Smith, Palace Malice was responsible for the insanely fast early fractions that proved the undoing of all those close to the pace, leaving the race open for those, like Orb, who came with a late rally.