Kentucky Derby 2013 Winner: Strong Finish Makes Orb Major Triple Crown Contender

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2013

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 04:  Joel Rosario atop Orb reacts after winning the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

After the masterful way in which Joel Rosario rode Orb to the win at the 2013 Kentucky Derby, there's no reason not to believe the Triple Crown hype.

Going into the race, Orb was the betting favorite. While that indicates the horse's strength, it's almost been a kiss of death looking at the recent history (h/t ESPN Stats & Info):

Plus, look at the finishes for other top contenders like Verrazano and Goldencents, who finished in the second half of all horses.

Here's the rest of the Derby results.

Place Horse Jockey Trainer Post
1 Orb Joel Rosario Claude R. McGaughey III 16
2 Golden Soul Robby Albarado Dallas Stewart 4
3 Revolutionary Calvin Borel  Todd Pletcher 3
4 Normandy Invasion Javier Castellano Chad Brown 5
5 Mylute Rosie Napravnik Tom Amoss 6
6 Oxbow Gary Stevens D. Wayne Lukas 2
7 Lines of Battle Ryan Moore Aidan O'Brien 11
8 Will Take Charge Jon Court D. Wayne Lukas 17
9 Charming Kitten Edgar Prado Todd Pletcher 15
10 Giant Finish Jose L. Espinoza  Anthony W. Dutrow 7
11 Overanalyze  Rafael Bejarano Todd Pletcher  9
12 Palace Malice Mike Smith Todd Pletcher  10
13 Java's War  Julien Leparoux Kenny McPeek 19
14 Verrazano John R. Velazquez Todd Pletcher 14
15 Itsmyluckyday Elvis Trujillo Eddie Plesa, Jr.  12
16 Frac Daddy Victor Lebron  Kenny McPeek 18
17 Goldencents Kevin Krigger  Doug O'Neill  8
18 Vyjack Garrett Gomez Rudy Rodriguez 20
19 Falling Sky  Luis Saez  John Terranova II  13

The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978. It's so hard for a horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year. Fans are so hungry to see a Triple Crown winner that as soon as the Derby winner crosses the finish line, they immediately look down the road to the rest of the Triple Crown races.

Considering the way Orb ran, you have to figure he has enough to be the first winner in 30-plus years. The hype behind his chances is more than just hot air.

Orb more than lived up to the billing at the Kentucky Derby, and the way he closed was phenomenal.

There's so much to like about this horse going forward.

It's not as if this was the case of a good horse running a great race. Orb is one of the best horses in the field of any race in which he takes part. His final push at the end demonstrates how skilled a closer he is.

Orb had a great buildup to the Derby, and there was a reason he was considered the favorite. Starting in the 16th position allowed him to get on the outside early, which let Rosario best figure out his plan of attack.

Running on a muddy track like that is a tough proposition for even the most skilled of jockeys. Yet Rosario was unaffected, and Orb looked like he was having no problem getting plenty of traction.

Rosario is one of the best young jockeys around. He didn't have a wealth of experience at Churchill Downs, but you never would have guessed that considering the final results. He has enough skill to win at both Pimlico and Belmont Park.

In addition, Shug McGaughey is one of the best trainers around. The biggest thing that was missing on his resume was a win at the Kentucky Derby, which he now has.

When you put all three variables together, you get the best team in horse racing right now and a legitimate threat to become the 12th Triple Crown winner.