LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Way back in the pack heading into the final turn, Orb was calm even if his jockey wasn’t.
Then trainer Shug McGaughey’s bay colt picked up speed, churning through a sloppy track that resembled creamy peanut butter, and blew past rivals one-by-one.
By that time, jockey Joel Rosario knew he was aboard the Kentucky Derby winner.
Orb powered to a 2 1/2-length victory Saturday at Churchill Downs, giving McGaughey and Rosario their first Derby wins.
“I was so far behind,” Rosario said. “He was very relaxed, it’s exactly what I wanted.”
Rosario had Orb in the clear on the outside and they forged to the lead in deep stretch, with enough momentum to hold off 34-1 shot Golden Soul.
It was a popular victory before a crowd of 151,616, which poured enough late money on Orb to make him the 5-1 favourite, a position Revolutionary had owned most of the day. McGaughey, a 62-year-old native of Lexington, finally got the Derby win he had long sought. Orb was just his second starter since 1989, when he settled for second after Sunday Silence beat Easy Goer on a muddy track.
“It means everything to me,” the Hall of Famer said. ’I’ve always dreamed of this day and it finally came.“
The rain that pelted the track earlier in the day had stopped by the time 19 horses paraded to the post for the 139th Derby. But it created a gloppy surface, although didn’t seem to bother Orb who had never previously run on a wet track.
His triumph was a victory for the old school of racing, where a private trainer like McGaughey works exclusively for wealthy owners, in this case Stuart Janney and Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps.
The first cousins, among the sport’s blue bloods that include the old-money Whitney and Vanderbilt families, also got their first gold Derby trophy.
Golden Soul, owned by Edmonton native Charles Fipke, was second. Revolutionary, one of trainer Todd Pletcher’s five starters, was third. Normandy Invasion finished fourth. Orb paid $12.80, $7.40 and $5.40. Golden Soul returned $38.60 and $19.40, while Revolutionary paid $5.40 to show.