05/05/2013 11:53AM

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/.