Louisville, Ky. Tim Wilkin Albany, N.Y. Times Union
All week long, Shug McGaughey, the quiet horse trainer, sounded bold. He told anyone who came by his barn on the Churchill Downs backstretch that he was more excited for the 139th Kentucky Derby than he had been for a race in a long, long, time.
That's because he had a 3-year-old colt named Orb in his barn.
Orb made sure his trainer didn't sound like a fool as he gobbled up the sloppy track at Churchill Downs and turned America's most famous horse race into a mini-rout. Orb and jockey Joel Rosario won the 11/4-mile race by 21/2 lengths in front of 151,616, the ninth-largest crowd in Derby history.
In the process, Orb stamped himself as the top 3-year-old in the country and he'll take his five-race winning streak to Baltimore in two weeks for stop No. 2 in the elusive Triple Crown.
"I said to myself that I was going to go over there and have fun," McGaughey said. "I did think I had the right horse. 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." (Wise words for all trainers, coaches and parents)
Orb rallied through the stretch, passing Normandy Invasion inside the eighth pole and then holding off the late charge of 34-1 shot Golden Soul, who rallied in the stretch to get second, a length ahead of Revolutionary. The final time was 2:02.89.
This field was considered one of the more wide open in recent years and, besides the Pletcher five, featured Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents, who was the 7-1 third choice. He was ridden by Kevin Krigger, who was attempting to become the first African-American jockey to win the race since 1902.
Goldencents was never a factor and finished 17th.
"I thought the winner ran an unbelievable race," Doug O'Neill, Goldencents' trainer, said. "I'm just still trying to figure out what happened to our colt. It's hard to believe it could have been the track. He just didn't fire. It's part of the game. They aren't machines. Sometimes, like humans, they just aren't hitting their jump shots. It's not their day, and things happen." (Hmmm…more wise words)