Updated on 04/02/2013 9:37AM

Florida Derby: Orb pulls away from Itsmyluckyday

Barbara D. Livingston
Orb and jockey John Velazquez are all alone at the finish of the Florida Derby.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -   Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was concerned when the meet began that the speed-favoring Gulfstream Park surface might not favor a late-running horse like Orb. But the ever-improving Orb put those fears to rest not once, not twice, but three times during the session, culminating a perfect winter in south Florida by rallying to a courageous 2 3/4-length victory over the 8-5 favorite Itsmyluckyday in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby.

Orb also gave jockey John Velazquez his fifth win on the card, four of those victories coming in graded stakes. 

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]                             

Orb, who already had 50 qualifying points by virtue of winning the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth here last month, earned 100 more for his triumph in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and will head to Churchill Downs as one of the favorites in the May 4 Kentucky Derby. Itsmyluckyday, who entered the race with only 10 points, picked up another 40 for finishing second and is also likely on his way to the Derby. Shanghai Bobby, the reigning 2-year-old champion, finished a tiring fifth and with only 24 points is in jeopardy of not qualifying for the Derby.

Velazquez allowed Orb to run away from the gate a little more than usual, placing him within four lengths of the pacesetting Merit Man coming out of the opening turn. Merit Man set reasonable fractions of 24.74 and 48.56 seconds for the opening half-mile while stalked by Narvaez on the outside and followed closely by both Shanghai Bobby near the rail and Itsmyluckyday. 

Orb began to advance four wide on the second turn as Itsmyluckyday moved up to engage Merit Man approaching the stretch. Itsmyluckyday gained a short advantage from a stubborn Merit Man in early stretch, edged clear briefly leaving the furlong grounds,  but proved no match for Orb, who surged on strongly leaving the eighth pole to overtake the leader near midstretch before drawing well clear at the end.                                                                 

Merit Man faded after a mile but held on well enough to easily finish third, another 2 1/4 lengths behind Itsmyluckyday. Narvaez, Shanghai Bobby, Pick of the Litter, Frac Daddy, Are You Kidding Me, Indy’s Illusion,  and Pontiff completed the order of finish.

Orb, who paid $7.80 as the third choice in the field, is a homebred son of Malibu Moon owned by the partnership of Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable. Orb’s final time of 1:50.87 over the fast track was nearly two seconds slower than Dreaming of Julia covered the same 1 1/8-mile distance  winning the Gulfstream Oaks earlier on the card.

Orb has now given the Hall of Famer McGaughey his first-ever wins in Gulfstream’s two most important  races for 3-year-olds, the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby.

“I was pretty excited about today and the first Florida Derby I’ve won,” said McGaughey. “I haven’t run in that many of them, maybe only two or three. I’m just glad to see the horse take another step.”

McGaughey said he wasn’t surprised to see Orb sitting closer to the pace than usual.”

“I knew Johnny was going to try to have him closer just because there wasn’t that much speed in the race except Merit Man,” said McGaughey, who has run just one horse in the Kentucky Derby since 1989. “I thought the way he trained he could probably lay closer too. That’s why I was so pleased with his race last time. Even though we got a fast pace, sometimes you catch a fast pace here and you can’t catch up. And he does have a long run. It surprises me how long it is.”

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said he was happy with the way Itsmyluckyday ran, even in defeat, and by the fact he has now earned enough points to most likely earn him a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.

“My horse ran his race. He got outrun today,” said Plesa. “Orb ran a fantastic race. We finished second and it gets us in the [Kentucky] Derby. That was our goal. Naturally we would have loved to have won but we’ll come back and see what happens next time.”

Todd Pletcher said he thought having post 1 might have compromised Shanghai Bobby’s chances with Rosie Napravnik aboard.

“It got a little crowded going into the first turn. She had to grab him a bit. That’s why you hate drawing that post. She said he never leveled off in that scenario,” said Pletcher.

- additional reporting by David Grening



commenting More than 1 year ago
See, I knew Bobby wouldn't get the distance. He was an early peaking 2 year old and the points system is weeding horses like him out, as it should. He shouldn't be taking up a spot in the Derby gate because he won an over-priced 2 year old race. What I am irked about with the points system is that Dreaming of Julia can't run in the Derby. With as wide open as the Derby appears to be at this point (aside from Orb, who may bounce in a month), and as tough as she was on Saturday, she'd be really live in the Derby. No trainer in his right mind would run a 3 year old filly against the colts until the Derby because he/she won't truly know how good his filly is until about a month before. The fillies should be allowed to earn points in some of the bigger filly races. Doesn't have to be as many as the boys get, maybe 1/2 a dozen of their races could be worth 30-40 points or something...
Sam Shelby More than 1 year ago
I`m confused now. I was ready to absolutely bomb IMLD in the Derby and now he finished second but dominated by Orb. Don`t know if it was the 2 month layoff or if Orb is almost 3 lengths better. Oh well, I`m convinced one or the other will win. Take my word for it. I`m only wrong 85% of the time!!!!!!
anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wonder why they didn't rake the track like they do at Oaklawn, it was all hoofed up in the stretch. It could be a bit harder to run on a used track.
Craig More than 1 year ago
Going to be a very short price in 5 weeks,and rightfully so.The Janney and Phipps racing dynasty will finally be complete.
Brandon Layer More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't give up on me Itsmyluckyday yet. You don't have to win your prep to win the Derby. He had 2 months off before this race. From a conditioning standpoint Orb had the advantage. Anybody know what the attendance was?
Martin More than 1 year ago
I think it said 20,000
Mike More than 1 year ago
There are times when trainer do things that leave you scratching your hear. Such was the case with Plesa and Itsmyluckyday's schedule. Heres a horse who had clearly shown a need to have less time in between races and Plesa gives him two months in between the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby. I believe that Itsmylucky day will run a tighter race at Churchill Downs on Derby day. Well see what happens.
Thomas Pierson More than 1 year ago
once out front, i saw a horse practically freak out when orb pulled up next to him
Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
the races are over.let us now weep for what may happen to todd pletcher in the next 2 weeks.let us assume that normandy appeal qualifies for the derby after running in the wood.to get this mount.castellano made a commitment to ride him in the derby.let us say verrazano is not as impressive as everyone hopes or thinks he will be.let us say J.R. picks Orb over him in the derby.what will poor todd now do.he will have 2 derby contenders in verrazano and revolutionary without mounts.search away todd,search away
You Feel Lucky More than 1 year ago
I don't think he has to look to hard......his phone is probably already ringing!
Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
but who.all top jocks basically taken.maybe you should check your calender,you may be as good as the ones left
Mike More than 1 year ago
JR will pick Orb over Verazano any day. If he picks the Pletcher horse ita simply out of greed in terms of how much Pletcher can do for him down the road. 'Bobby was never a factor. In fact I never thought much of S.B. as he was spent after the 1 1/16 miles in the BC last year.
Joe Trezza More than 1 year ago
Orb ran over 10 lengths slower than Julia.no chance to win derby
Mark More than 1 year ago
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
It was glorious day yesterday, and the Florida Derby definitely added to the bounty of the day. Orb looked magnificent roaring out of the clouds to power past everyone in the field to win the Besilu Stables Florida Derby. I am just in love Orb's running style, I always have been! He is so much fun to watch run! Orb is professional, he's all business once he is out on the track. He goes out there and does what is asked of him, and when he hits that third gear of his in the stretch, watch out! He looked sleek & powerful as he passed the field. It was an impressive win. And his final odds at 5/2? A gift, everybody. A gift! I still can't believe he went off that high. - LOL. Congratulations to Orb who ran an incredible race, and to Orb's connections: To Shug McGaughey for a fine training job, I'm so excited he is getting his chance at the Derby with an incredible horse, and to Stuart Janney and Phipps Stable, who are also getting another chance at grabbing the brass ring in Louisville. As for John Velazquez: In the zone yesterday! He put on a riding clinic all day at Gulfstream Park Saturday. Amazing to watch! I am always impressed by this man's riding ability. As usual - great, incredible ride you gave to Orb, Mr. Velazquez. Very impressive. Bravo! I absolutely love Lucky, too! There is some wonderful, fabulous essence about Lucky that makes me smile and pull for him extra hard! He ran a powerful race. I'm proud of him! Itsmyluckyday and his connections have nothing to hang their heads about - Lucky ran an incredible race. And they may be the only people more excited about Lucky gaining a birth in the gate at the Kentucky Derby than I am! - LOL. When I saw Lucky hanging at the stretch and it appeared he had lost his concentration for a second, I kept yelling at the television for him to get his mind back on business and give it his ALL. Orb was just getting ready to go by him and I emplored Lucky to get the place - my body English was physically pulling him across the finish line ahead of a very game, very stubborn Merit Man, who ran an impressive race on the lead of his own. Nice riding by Kent Desormeaux, by the way! I'm so happy both Orb and Lucky are going to be in the starting gate in Louisville in the Kentucky Derby together. So happy! I love them both. A huge congratulations to Eddie Plesa, Jr., and Elvis Trujillo on a fine job done by both of them on Lucky. Lucky is improving by leaps and bounds each time out, he always impresses me with his talent and effort, he tries mighty hard which I definitely appreciate, and I'm looking forward to his being even better by the time the Kentucky Derby rolls around in May. Shanghai Bobby - Bobby was valiant in defeat. Rosie was able to get Bobby to hang in there with Orb and Lucky for 3/4 race, and my heart sank for him when I saw Rosie swing Bobby to the outside and asked him to "go" and give her his all, and Bobby just couldn't answer the call against the all of the power blasting forth from Orb & Lucky. He finished fifth. Bobby is a fine horse and I look forward to many more stakes wins from in the future. He made a very game effort in the Florida Derby, as did his jockey, the fabulous Rosie Napravnik. He just had the misfortune to be stuck on the rail behind Merit Man most of the race, was blocked in for awhile, and had nothing left in the tank by the time Rosie had worked him off of the rail. We will see if the points he has already accumulated will get him into the field of the Derby. They might not, though. Congratulations once again to Orb, who looked incredible out there yesterday. I am so impressed by him, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what he can do at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May!
Joe Trezza More than 1 year ago
orb looked like a slow poke to me. running 10 lengths slower than dreaming of Julia.same day same track same distance.
You Feel Lucky More than 1 year ago
To all the newby's........comparing time's of race's, will only get you to the poor house.....and that is if you even place a bet. I suspect most of you don't.
Ramon Savinon More than 1 year ago
Hey guy nether horses in the race made his race that was plan, probably merit man made his race, because he was who change everything. no hot pace in the race 48.3/5, Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai bobby in a duel since the start. Orb made a move early. Rosie try to move outside in the turn the kind of move is dangerous. For me It was not a good race. look like a Maiden claimend 10k race.
race888 More than 1 year ago
Shanghai bobbyyour horse is no good.just suck it up