05/05/2013 12:53PM

Kentucky Derby: Which horses ran better than their finish indicated?

Justin Lane
The 18 horses who finished behind Orb in the Kentucky Derby encountered varying degrees of trouble.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – There are times that the best horse does not win a given race. The horse might encounter trouble, either of his own doing or caused by another horse impeding him. Still other times he might lose because another runner capitalizes with a perfect trip.

The Kentucky Oaks was one of these bad-luck races for the best horse, with favored Dreaming of Julia being sideswiped at the start and taken out of her preferred up-close running style, which contributed to her fourth-place finish, and seemingly victory.

But Saturday’s Kentucky Derby? Sorry, but that race simply didn’t fall into the bad-luck category for the best horse.

Orb, the favorite, certainly caught a fast pace that flattered his running style, but the hot splits also benefited the runner-up and third-place finishers, and none could come close to Orb late. Orb simply swooped past the field, losing ground to his ground-saving counterparts, and when taking that into account, he was even more dominant than his final 2 ½-length win margin.

As for those that trailed him, those horses had differing degrees of luck and misfortune. Here’s a look at the most notable ones, by order of finish.

Golden Soul, second: Robby Albarado, aboard this horse, did his best Calvin Borel impression for much of the race, riding the fence before angling out for running room in the stretch. He kicked on well, but for a horse rallying from 15th in a 19-horse field, his trip could not have been any better.

Revolutionary, third: Although jostled a bit early, this slow starter actually broke better than usual. As expected, Borel let him fall back to the rear of the pack early, taking his customary position on the rail. There he stayed virtually from start to finish, rallying inside horses except to pass a tiring Oxbow in midstretch. Borel did his part, giving him a ride similar to the winning ones he gave closers Street Sense and Mine that Bird in the Derby. This time he simply had less horse.

Normandy Invasion, fourth: For a colt who had been a deep closer for his career, a change in tactics to be more forwardly placed in the Derby likely cost him second. Headstrong in his pre-Derby training and ridden aggressively by jockey Javier Castellano during the race, he was moved prematurely to take command a mile into the Derby, an ill timed move that left him fatigued over the demanding final quarter-mile. He also lost more ground than both the runner-up and third-place finisher.

Mylute, fifth: A one-run horse, he followed Orb on the outside, ultimately losing out in a three-horse photo for the show when flattening out slightly late. His race will earn a good figure on the Ragozin Sheets and Thorograph, which take into account ground loss, but bear in mind that wide trips are the norm for this horse, just as they are for Orb. He is not a nimble horse who can save ground with a stop-and-go trip.

As for the others not among the money-paying top-five positions in the Derby, Oxbow (sixth), Will Take Charge (eighth), and Palace Malice (12th) ran races in the Derby that were better than their finishes.

Oxbow, virtually by necessity from his inside post, ended up racing close to one of the fastest paces in Derby history, and after being second at the six-furlong mile marks, understandably tired in the lane, losing by 9 ¾ lengths.

Will Take Charge, a closer, lost valuable momentum when steadied sharply behind a tiring Verrazano at the top of the lane when trying to keep up with a rallying Orb on his outside. Sixth, five lengths back after a mile at the time of the incident, he ended up losing by 12 ¼ lengths.


And as for Palace Malice, his own equipment, blinkers, seemed to beat him. Added for the first time for the Derby, he ran off under jockey Mike Smith, resulting in him setting a half-mile fraction in 45.33 seconds, the second fastest in Derby history, and six furlongs in 1:09.80, tying for the fourth fastest.

Expect those blinkers to come off, or be trimmed back in length, for his next race.

The furious Derby pace took a toll on those chasing Palace Malice, with the horses sitting second, third, and fourth after a half-mile – Verrazano, Vyjack, and Goldencents – running 14th, 18th, and 17th, respectively.

Several video replays of the Kentucky Derby, including an overhead shot that captures the momentum loss of Will Take Charge when stuck behind a tiring Verrazano, can be viewed online at http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/51776422/ns/sports-horse_racing/.





Daniel155 More than 1 year ago
Goldencents might have finished better if Palace Malace had not set such a ridiculously fast pace.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
Oxbow is due for a big race, after all he is trained by Hall of Famer DWL! : )
gatodelsol More than 1 year ago
I think King is wrong about Revolutionary. If Stevens doesn't slam him at the start, he would of been sitting 10th or 11th and would of got the jump on Golden Soul who ultimately was in his way when Calvin was looking for room onthe rail.
gatodelsol More than 1 year ago
I think King is wrong about Revolutionary. If Stevens Doesn't slam him at he start, Rev would of been sitting 10th or 11th early and would of had the jump on Golden soul who ultimately got in his way later when Calvin was waiting for room on the rail.
John Nicoletti More than 1 year ago
Lot of speculation about the Derby. One thing to keep in mind. The track was off. To really assess the horses, we need to be running on a dry track. Orb, ran a great race, but was he truly the best horse.? Really don't know. If the Preakness is dry, we will see a totally different outcome.We will have some newcomers, to challenge Orb, and I think we will see a different winner. Looking for,WTC, and Oxbow, to run a big race.
Dave More than 1 year ago
Five-week layoff (Fla Derby, LA Derby) can do a world of good. Where were any of the horses coming off 3 weeks from Bluegrass or Arkansas? Oxbow was the only who was even remotely doing any running. Even the 4-week preps, Wood and Santa Anita, only NI ran on. Will Take Charge was off since the Rebel and was making a big move, unfortunately got totally blocked. Truly believe Itsmyluckyday would have been right there on a fast track.
Holdouts More than 1 year ago
I agree. People made too much of only a 97 Beyer in the Florida Derby for Orb. Going into the race they were not going to go all out cause it was a prep for Kentucky. Yet he still reeled in Itsmyluckyday like he was jogging. Itsmyluckyday had to do a double take as I don't think any horse had ever passed him in the stretch.
mrm More than 1 year ago
Will Take Charge's half brother blew away the field in the Alysheba. By far the best performance of the weekend. Also, If Dreaming Of Julia was the super filly every one thought she was she would have overcome that bumping incident.
Kenneth More than 1 year ago
Dreaming of Julia, wins the Black Eyed Susan, then accepts the challenge, Belmont, with a great showing maybe even beating the Boys.
Nicholas Carraway More than 1 year ago
Someone may have mentioned this, but the second-, third-, and fifth-place finishers came out of the Louisiana Derby. That's a pretty astounding outcome from perhaps the least-regarded final prep. This result may help in getting the La. Derby Grade 1 status.
Ed Felsen More than 1 year ago
I didn't realize that until you mentioned it. It's impressive but not unprecedented. In recent history, you can find that the 2004 Arkansas Derby produced the second, fourth, fifth, AND sixth finishers in the Ky Derby. Last year, the Santa Anita Derby produced the winner and the fifth and sixth-place finishers; in 2005, the SA Derby had the same results (1st, 5th, 6th).
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Circled the field. What more can be said?