The 139th Kentucky Derby once again lived up to its label as the most exciting two minutes in sports, as odds-on favorite Orb rallied from near the back of the pack to win the 2013 Run for the Roses.
That gave Lexington, Kentucky native and Hall of Fame trainer Shugh McGaughey his first win in the first leg of the Triple Crown, and continued an incredibly hot season for jockey Joel Rosario. It marked Rosario's maiden triumph at this marquee horse racing showcase as well.
Let's take a deeper dive into the race, focusing on the biggest storylines throughout and what was most notable in this pulse-pounding spectacle at Churchill Downs.
Note: All information and statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of KentuckyDerby.com.
|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|
Orb Bucks Trend
After Orb was made the morning-line favorite at 7-to-2, he found his stock dipping a bit throughout the rest of the week. However, once the final odds were set, he dropped back to 5-to-1, making him the No. 1 favorite once again.
ESPN Stats & Info highlights how rare it has been in the past quarter-century for the horse with the highest expectations to make it to the winners circle:
Orb is the 5th favorite to win the Kentucky Derby in the last 25 years.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2013
Rosario summarize the day nicely after his massive breakthrough (h/t Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated):
Jockey Joel Rosario on Orb: "He showed today he's the Man."— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) May 4, 2013
Around the midway point of the one-and-a-quarter-mile track, Orb was in 15th place until Rosario urged him to turn it on. From there, no other horse stood a chance, as Orb bolted to the front and won by two-and-a-half lengths.
This was the 130th winner that Rosario mounted in 2013 alone, and he'll continue to be busy on May 18 when he tries to capture the second jewel of the Triple Crown at the Preakness Stakes.
Affirmed was the last horse to pull off the Triple Crown in 1978, but Orb's dominant performance on Saturday as the alpha at least inspires some optimism that it can be done.
Normandy Invasion Fades Late
Similar to what he did in a second-place showing at the Wood Memorial Stakes in nearly beating pre-Derby favorite Verrazano, Normandy Invasion flashed a significant burst.
Unfortunately, jockey Javier Castellano turned him loose a little too soon. Ex-pro baseball star Jose Canseco agreed with that assessment:
normandy invasion went to soon— Jose Canseco (@JoseCanseco) May 4, 2013
The slimmer frame of Normandy Invasion did not quite hold up, as his combination of strength and stamina to make it all 10 furlongs and finish on top weren't up to par with his counterparts.
Pace was an issue early for many who figured to do well, as Mike Smith rode Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher's Palace Malice to a blistering pace before sinking all the way to 12th in the end.
Normandy Invasion's emergence to the front rounding the final turn still provided the most exciting development in the race before Orb's charge, though.
Chad Brown is one of horse racing's premier younger trainers, so don't be surprised if he captures a Triple Crown victory sooner rather than later.
A Trio of Favorites Disappoint
As mentioned before, Verrazano (8-1 odds) was initially regarded as the horse to beat at Churchill Downs. The quick pace and sloppy track wound up hurting him to the tune of a 14th-place finish.
Speaking of pain, the tandem of Verrazano and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez were marred by injuries in their own ways. The day after Verrazano's victory at the Wood Memorial, Velazquez fell off during a mount, hurting his first rib on the right side and chipping his right radius bone.
The tough jockey bounced back to saddle up for Saturday, but it may have been a factor as to why Verrazano underperformed.
LGS Racing revealed the gash Verrazano sustained, but be warned, it is a slightly graphic image:
Here's the pic of Verrazano's gash - he'll be back! twitter.com/LGSRacing/stat…— LGS Racing (@LGSRacing) May 5, 2013
ESPN's Lane Gold pointed out an irony in Velazquez's choice of horse—which might have changed the complexion of the entire Derby:
Ironic for John Velazquez - he picked up mount on Animal Kingdom and won #KyDerby. Chose to ride Verrazano instead of Orb.— Lane Gold (@lanegold) May 4, 2013
The biggest disappointment, though, was Goldencents (7-1 odds). Doug O'Neill was hoping to be the seventh back-to-back-winning trainer in Derby history, and Kevin Krigger would have been the first black jockey since 1902 to triumph at this race.
Additionally, he is partially owned by Louisville Cardinals basketball coach Rick Pitino.
It wasn't meant to be, as Goldencents finished a whopping 49-and-a-half lengths off the lead in 17th position.
Itsmyluckyday (9-1 odds) did not live up to his name and was never a factor in winding up in 15th, despite a strong run in the Florida Derby—his final race before Churchill Downs—in which he finished runner-up to Orb.