Odds-on favorite all week, Orb, left, moved to a co-favorite with Revolutionary just before Saturday’s 139th Kentucky Derby, but it was Orb who came on late and pulled away from the muddy pack.
CHURCHILL DOWNS, Ky. — Orb, ridden by Joel Rosario, won the 139th Kentucky Derby at a wet and muddy Churchill Downs on Saturday.
After making a cautious start in the sloppy conditions, Orb pinned back his ears and sprinted to the front at the iconic Twin Spires, then kicked clear to win the $2 million, 1-1/4 mile classic.
Golden Soul, a long shot who enjoyed a trouble free journey along the rails, finished second while Revolutionary, who started the race as co-favorite with Orb, was third in the 19-horse field.
Normandy Invasion finished fourth after leading into the straightaway, while Mylude was fifth under the guidance of Rosie Napravnik, marking the best finish in the revered race by a female jockey.
Orb, who was bred and trained in Kentucky, emerged as the horse to beat in the annual Run for the Roses after winning his four previous races, including the Florida Derby, one of the key lead-up events. He was initially installed as the 7-2 favorite despite drawing gate 16 at Wednesday’s post-position draw but began to drift in the betting as the race approached.
Only a late surge of money saw him move to a 5-1 co-favorite with Revolutionary, the Louisiana Derby winner and one of five horses in the trace trained by Todd Pletcher.
Rosario, a 28-year-old jockey born in Dominican Republic, held his mount back in the early stages of the race, which was held on a track drenched by hours of heavy rain.
He worked his way through the field as the early leaders, who set a cracking pace, started to fade before making his decisive move in the final stretch, storming down the center of the track to win America’s most famous horse race.
“It’s awesome, to win the Derby, it’s like a dream,” said Rosario, who had never won the Derby before but won this year’s $10 million Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race, on Animal Kingdom.
“I was so far behind I just let (Orb) be calm and relaxed, then I steered him to the outside because I didn’t want to get blocked. He did the rest.”
It was also a triumphant moment for Orb’s trainer Shug McGaughey, who was born and raised in Kentucky.
The 62-year-old had already won most of America’s top races and been inducted into the Hall of Fame, but the three-year-old classic had eluded him until now.
“I thought we had a big shot at the top of the stretch,” McGaughey said.
“Around the eighth pole I thought we could win. I’ve been dreaming of this all my life. It finally came true.”
Orb paid $12.80 for a $2 bet and now has the chance to win the coveted Triple Crown. The second leg, the Preakness Stakes, will be held at Maryland later this month followed by the Belmont Stakes, in New York in June.
The lone international entrant, Irish galloper Lines of Battle, finished 17th.
Goldencents (7-1), prepared by last year’s winning trainer Doug O’Neill, weakened badly to cross the line 17th under jockey Kevin Krigger, who was bidding to become the first African-American jockey to win the race in more than a century.