Orb, trained by Shug McGaughey, took care of business in winning the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths over Golden Soul.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Orb became the first favorite to win the Run for the Roses since Big Brown did the trick in 2008. The son of Malibu Moon took all the late money after Revolutionary, the third-place finisher, was favored for most of the day.
There were two key reasons for Orb's victory. First, he is a classy colt, one that could be on his way to a Triple Crown season. Second, he benefited from an insane pace set by Palace Malice.
One of five colts trained by Todd Pletcher (who is now 1-for-36 in the Derby), Palace Malice ran the first quarter in 22 2/5, the half in 45 1/5 and three- quarters in 1:09 4/5. Did jockey Mike Smith think he was riding Bodemeister like he did a year ago?
Bodemeister dictated similar fractions - 22 1/5, 45 1/5 and 1:09 4/5 - last year, but that came over a rock-hard Churchill Downs surface. This year's event was run over a sloppy track.
Orb had just three horses beat after the first half-mile, and only two when six furlongs were completed. However, he exploded around the final turn, making up close to 10 lengths on the leaders in just a quarter-mile.
At the head of the stretch, Normandy Invasion took the lead from Palace Malice, but Orb was ready to pounce as Rosario, the hottest jockey in the land, hit him three times left-handed so the duo could stay clear of a tiring Normandy Invasion. From there, it was no looking back for the colt and rider.
The win gave McGaughey and owners Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable their first Kentucky Derby victory, one that was a long time coming, especially after Easy Goer's second-place finish -- ironically, in the slop -- to Sunday Silence back in 1989.
OTHER DERBY NOTES
For a horse that a week ago was not even expected to make the field, Golden Soul ran an incredible race to finish second. The initial Derby column yours truly wrote back in January had the Dallas Stewart-trained 3-year-old atop the first "Dirty Dozen" list. If one had used Golden Soul with Orb, second behind the disappointing Verrazano (who finished 14th) in the final "Dirty Dozen," the $981.60 was there for the taking.
Jockey Calvin Borel stayed true to his "Bo-rail" moniker with Revolutionary, but the colt was no match for the winner (or Golden Soul, for that matter).
Trainer Chad Brown wanted more early speed from Normandy Invasion, as he worked the Tapit colt with that in mind the previous week. The May foal made a winning move around the far turn, but could not sustain the run due to the hot pace. Still, his fourth-place finish was very impressive.
Props also go out to Mylute (and jockey Rosie Napravnik) for finishing fifth, earning $60,000 in the process.
The rest of the field was badly outrun, as sixth-place finisher Oxbow was close to 10 lengths back of Orb.
ON TO BALTIMORE
I'll Have Another gave everyone a glimpse of what a Triple Crown might look like after he won the Preakness in 2012. Unfortunately, the son of Flower Alley was scratched the day before the Belmont Stakes and the drought continued for another year.
Can Orb duplicate I'll Have Another's success in the second leg of the Triple Crown? Considering he has won five consecutive races and three straight graded stakes, the answer might be yes.
Orb can win from well off the pace, as he proved in both the Kentucky Derby and the Fountain of Youth, and from only a few lengths off the lead as he did in the Florida Derby.
In addition, this 3-year-old crop is not anywhere near the quality of years past. The only challenges Orb might face will be from Normandy Invasion, who has won just one of six career starts; Revolutionary, who has the same running style as Orb but is not effective; and Departing, who defeated an extremely weak field in the Illinois Derby.
Orb will be favored once again at Pimlico, and a win there will set the stage for a date with destiny.