Updated on 05/04/2012 4:13PM

Fair Grounds: Hero of Order wins a shocker at 109-1 in Louisiana Derby

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Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.
Hero of Order (right) holds off Mark Valeski to score a 109-1 upset in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

NEW ORLEANS – Russian-immigrant trainer Gennadi Dorochenko goes about his business in an unconventional manner. Morning workouts? Those, Dorochenko – a former jockey – shuns, calling them the province of trainers who want merely to impress owners. What Dorochenko does is race. His horses run far more frequently than those of most American trainers. They run a lot, and they lose a lot. At Fair Grounds this meet, Dorochenko had started 136 horses before Sunday. Six had won.

A 3-year-old colt named Hero of Order was making his ninth start of the Fair Grounds season Sunday. It came in the $1 million Louisiana Derby. And Hero of Order, a 109-1 shot, won it by a half-length, giving Dorochenko one of the most unlikely successes of recent racing history. Hero of Order’s $220.80 win mutuel was the highest in Louisiana Derby history.

“It’s a dream,” Dorochenko said.

Dorochenko, 53, is the operator of Raut LLC, Hero of Order’s owner. Every year at the Keeneland September sale, Dorochenko buys a large quantity of bargain-basement yearlings. Hero of Order cost $3,000. He earned $600,000 for Sunday’s win, the second stakes victory of Dorochenko’s career.

Also in on the shock factor was 46-year-old jockey Eddie Martin, who rode Hero of Order for the first time in a half-mile workout last week. Martin, a New Orleans native, rode at Delta Downs this winter, but used to ply his trade at Fair Grounds. Until Sunday, He’d won every race of import at this track save one – the Louisiana Derby.

:: Who is Gennadi Dorochenko?

“That was pretty cool, man,” Martin said a few minutes after his stunning victory.

Hero of Order won, despite running slow. Final time for the 1 1/8-mile derby was 1:50.13, while just two races earlier, Nates Mineshaft won the New Orleans Handicap in 1:47.64. Pressing the pace of Comisky’s Humor, who set fractions of 23.39 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.27 for the first half, Hero of Order took over from the tiring leader midway around the far turn.

“I was able to give him a little breather from the three-eighths to the quarter-pole,” Martin said.

At the top of the stretch, Mark Valeski, the race favorite, closed in on Hero of Order after stalking the pacesetters, and he appeared poised to push past for much of the straightaway. But Hero of Order pushed on resolutely, holding on for a hard-fought victory.

“That other horse wouldn’t quit,” said Mark Valeski’s trainer, Larry Jones. “I thought he was supposed to stop.”

After Mark Valeski returned to the barn, it was discovered he had lost his left front shoe during the race.

“He was limping afterward, but when we got him back to the barn and jogged him on the pavement, we found it was because he’d lost the shoe,” Jones said.

Rousing Sermon, running late, rallied for third, just edging Cigar Street, who attended the pace but couldn’t finish with the top two. Behind Cigar Street came Shared Property, Windsurfer, Afford, Z Dager, Fire Alarm, Finnegans Wake, Flashy Sunrise, Mr. Bowling, and Comisky’s Humor.

Dorochenko, who cuts an unusual profile, with long arms and legs attached to a jockey-size torso, would have made a Kentucky Derby stir, but Hero of Order is unlikely to be able to start in the race. He is not an original Triple Crown nominee and would only get into the Derby field if 20 nominees don’t desire a spot in the Derby starting gate.

Still, the win in Sunday’s race marked an epic high point in the career of Dorochenko, who is from Krasnodar, Russia, and rode horses there and in Poland before coming to California in 1993. Dorochenko rode races in California and Washington, and briefly in Delaware, during a largely unsuccessful career as a jockey. In the mid-1990s, he turned to training, and suddenly, late in 2010, his stable swelled to more than 100 horses thanks to an influx of young stock purchased at sales by Raut and Vladimir Kazakov.

As for Hero of Order, he won a maiden sprint here in January and had acquitted himself decently in three previous stakes, finishing fifth in the Lecomte, fourth in the Risen Star, and second March 10 in the Black Gold, a turf race.

“I don’t know why he was 99-1,” Dorochenko said. “I was surprised. The horse was ready.”

The horse might have been ready – but almost no one was ready for Gennadi Dorochenko to win the Louisiana Derby.