Kentucky Derby winner Orb is already
on his way back to New York back in New York, where he may breeze once at Belmont Park before shipping to Pimlico early Preakness week. The colt was given a Beyer speed figure of 104 for his 2 1/2 length win over the sloppy Churchill Downs track — a nice jump forward off his matching winning figures in the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth. “He hasn’t been overcooked,” trainer Shug McGaughey told Jay Privman, saying he expected Orb to run as well in two weeks as he did on Saturday.
For the third year in a row, the Thomas Herding team tipped the winner, calling out Orb as their “top rated horse” in this year’s Derby, for a slew of reasons that included grit, versatility, and what you might call will:
Orb always runs his own race. He doesn’t react to the other horses in his environment. They react to him.
That’s what it looked like when he geared up in the stretch to pass the five still in front. According to Trakus, “Orb’s final quarter mile winning the Kentucky Derby was :25.88,” the only sub :26 final quarter in the field. DRF has him at :25.97 for the quarter, which is still faster than next best Revolutionary, who closed in :26.02 DRF time (:26.09 Trakus time) to finish third.
Orb was the post-time favorite at 5-1, and is the first Derby favorite to win since Big Brown in 2008. (He’s also the first since Barbaro in 2006 to have more than two preps.) After a few years in which longshots seemed to rule, it’s refreshing to have the horse pretty much everyone agreed was the best going into the Derby emerge as the best horse out of it. Orb didn’t break any rules winning (not that there are many left), but he didn’t have to — he’s a Kentucky Derby winner in a classic mold (as are his connections).
Courtesy Churchill Downs: Kentucky Derby trainer records 1898-2012 (PDF).
Among the stats included in the file linked above are most starts and most wins by trainer. Considering just currently active trainers, both lists are topped by D. Wayne Lukas, who’s had 45 starters and four wins in 31 years. Bob Baffert is second in wins, with three from 23 starters in 16 years. Those two are also the leaders with Derby starters finishing in the money — 35% of Baffert starters have hit the board, 22% of Lukas’ starters. Todd Pletcher is second to Lukas in total number of starters, with 31 in 12 years, but fourth, with 13%, when it comes to finishing in the money.
Pletcher will likely be first when it comes to number of starters in the 2013 — he has six possible contenders among the top 24 on the latest Derby points list (PDF). Baffert has three Derby points leaders, Lukas two.
I remember being so overcome with the experience of that 1988 Breeders’ Cup, so moved and dazzled by the proximity of greatness that I collapsed into a chair when it was all over and sat there for several moments before I could even begin to think of writing.
Less great: “… about 38 percent fewer horses are on the track than 24 years ago, but they have 114 percent more Breeders’ Cup races to run in.” (See also.)
Photos from the first half of Breeders’ Cup 2011 week at Churchill Downs …
Gio Ponti takes in the early morning track activity.
Midday (center) and company return from galloping.
Turallure pauses at the top of the chute.
Goldikova heads to the track.
Goldikova kicks up her feet a little. Harmonious is at right.
Trainer Freddy Heads talks to the press after Goldikova comes off the track. He confirmed that the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile would be her final race. Asked what he hoped for on Saturday, he replied, “I want her to get a good run.”
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, outside his barn with retired Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day, reminisces about Breeders’ Cup races past.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender Creative Cause plays around during his bath.
Flat Out in his stall. He looks sweet, doesn’t he? As though he’d like you to come over and give him a pat. I would have, but was warned off — apparently he’s a biter. Even trainer Scooter Dickey gets nipped by the big horse.
“Go Scooter! Go Scooter!” Well wishes for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Havre de Grace gets a mint from owner Rick Porter.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile favorite Union Rags, out to graze.
Game on Dude exits the track after galloping.
Outside Bob Baffert’s Churchill Downs barn.
And for a little fun! The Breeders’ Cup Classic contender cartoons.
The latest example of why the rules don’t matter: Animal Kingdom. Although Team Valor’s Kentucky Derby winning colt did run as a 2-year-old, he was only the second to win with four or fewer career starts, and he was the first since Needles in 1956 to win off a six-week layoff. He’s the fifth straight Derby winner to prep with only two starts as a 3-year-old, neither a Grade 1, and his Beyer speed figure of 103 is the lowest since Giacomo was given 100 in 2005. Animal Kingdom was also making his first start on dirt in the Kentucky Derby, coming off a win in the Spiral Stakes over the Polytrack at Turfway. I’ve argued here before, sometimes with stats, that synthetic surface-prepped horses are viable Derby contenders. Next year, such horses shouldn’t be throw-outs for anyone on the basis of surface.
Some photos from Saturday at Churchill …
Mucho Macho Man leaving the barn for the Derby.
Cheering for the Derby starters as they exit the gap.
Midnight Interlude and Shackleford waiting to begin the walk over.
The clubhouse crowd.
Animal Kingdom in the post parade.
Dialed In, the 5-1 favorite, after finishing eighth in the Derby.
Steve Asmussen and Corey Nakatani discussing Nehro’s second-place finish.
Animal Kingdom heading to the winner’s circle.
Kentucky Derby hats
The big training board
Sway-backed Sway Away
Nick Zito talks, Dialed In walks
Out and about at Churchill Downs this morning …
Watch Me Go
Pants on Fire
Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty, working in company
Joyful Victory, with trainer Larry Jones
A few photos from this morning at Churchill Downs …
Kentucky Oaks contender Daisy Devine and Derby contender Uncle Mo waiting for the track to re-open for training at 8:30 this morning.
Jaycito returned to the track this morning for the first time since his runner-up effort in the San Felipe last Saturday. He’ll be getting blinkers on again in the Santa Anita Derby, reports Steve Haskin, “after losing his focus a bit while apparently bored being at the back of the pack …” The San Felipe was the first career start the colt, my PDI
#2 #4, made without blinkers. “I love the way he took dirt and settled well off the pace,” said trainer Bob Baffert replying to an emailed inquiry about Jaycito. “He will improve more next time.”
Dick Jerardi defuses angst about Uncle Mo’s so-so Timely Writer speed figure (DRF+): “It only went down that way because of the way the race was run, something that does happen in Beyer World, but not all that often.” [TT reports a Ragozin number of 4 for Uncle Mo, adjusted for the slow pace.]
A potential rivalry? “Whether Premier Pegasus will be the one to push Uncle Mo and give us an incredible rivalry is open to debate,” writes Bob Ehalt. “Maybe he’s another Sunday Silence, or maybe he’s another Buzzards Bay.”
Churchill Downs could install the Trakus system in time for the spring meet, putting an end to the occasional Kentucky Derby chart error.