Despite 139 consecutive years of tradition, it seems each year’s edition of the Kentucky Derby brings something different to the table. For 2013, Churchill Downs introduced a new points system to determine the field, replacing the use of graded stakes earnings. Many trainers were concerned about the lack of emphasis on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and long-time prep races such as the Illinois Derby. Still, this year’s Run for the Roses™ had one of the deepest and most talented fields in recent memory.

Derby dreams reached a fever pitch the week of the race with many talented horses looking to claim the role of favorite. Two horses from the East Coast were receiving great amounts of attention: Orb, winner of the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Florida Derby and Verrazano, the undefeated winner of the Wood Memorial. From the West Coast came Goldencents, winner of the Santa Anita Derby. His team consisted of 2012 Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O’ Neill, partial owner and University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and jockey Kevin Krigger, riding for history as the first African-American to win the Kentucky Derby since Jimmy Winkfield in 1902. Revolutionary, winner of the Louisiana Derby, also received quite a bit of attention. Trained by Todd Pletcher with recently announced Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel in the saddle, Revolutionary went from 10-1 on the morning line to just over 6-1 at post time.

For the race deemed impossible to handicap, one great truth of the Kentucky Derby is that pace makes the race. And, the 139th Derby saw a blistering one. Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice led heading into the clubhouse turn, followed interchangeably around the backstretch by Goldencents, Vyjack, Oxbow and Verrazano. Orb settled in the back of the pack as did Revolutionary. When Mark Johnson announced a ½ mile of 45 and change, spectators knew they were in for an unpredictable finish.

As the field hit the top of the stretch, Normandy Invasion took the lead. Goldencents and Verrazano fell victim to the fast pace and began to fade. Revolutionary closed quickly from far back, as did longshot Golden Soul. However, none could match the closing kick of Orb, charging down the middle of the track and drawing away to win by 2 ½ lengths under Joel Rosario.

History and Tradition made a great mark on the 2013 Derby. Despite this being the first win for the connections, all have enjoyed great success in the industry. Orb is bred and owned by cousins Stuart S. Janney III and Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, both of whom have a long history of champion Thoroughbreds. Trainer Claude R. “Shug” McGaughey is private trainer for the Phipps family having great success with horses such as Easy Goer and champion filly Personal Ensign. Jockey Joel Rosario is only 28 but adds this Derby victory to his 2013 Dubai World Cup win aboard 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

By Chris Goodlett