LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Patience has been a trait that Claude R. “Shug” McGaughey has shown in his 34-year training career.
Late Saturday afternoon that patience paid big dividends when Orb stormed home to win the Kentucky Derby under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs before 151,616 rain-soaked fans.
In McGaughey’s Hall of Fame speech in 2004, he finished the speech saying the one thing that was missing was that he really wanted to win the Derby for cousins Stuart Janney III and Ogden “Dinny” Phipps. For Janney that statement was music to his ears. “I said that was a good sign because we really didn’t want him laying down on us once he got in the Hall of Fame,” said Janney, the chairman of the family-owned Bessemer Trust Company.
When McGaughey was asked how the win would affect him, he joked, “Well, the way it’s going to change my life is I’m not going to worry about it anymore, because I did worry about it for quite awhile.”
The 62-year-old trainer has been very patient with the Malibu Moon colt that was homebred by Janney and Phipps. He had been saying all week that he’s been taking it one race at a time with the bay colt. Now he has a colt with a very good chance at the elusive Triple Crown. “The race I always wanted to win, always wanted to compete in, only if we had the right horse and today we found we had him,” said McGaughey.
McGaughey and the cousins whose racing stables’ bloodlines include Secretariat’s sire, Bold Ruler and the champion filly Ruffian, believe in the theory that it’s the “horse that takes you to the race, not the other way around,” eloquently said by Phipps after the race. It was a monumental moment for racing’s royalty that almost was side-tracked by an inpatient Phipps.
Phipps tried to persuade Janney to sell Orb’s mare Lady Liberty away, similar to what he did when he sold the mare Supercharger in foal to Maria’s Mon for $160,000. That foal ended up being Super Saver, the 2010 Derby champion. This time, Janney stepped in and blocked his cousin from selling. “She’s by Unbridled who is getting to be a good broodmare sire,” explained Janney.
The Derby win represented another big notch on jockey Joel Rosario’s belt. In March, he won the world’s richest horse race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup on Animal Kingdom, and became the first jockey to win both races in the same year. He’s coming off a monster Keeneland spring meet where he won a record 38 races, six more than the previous mark that stood for 23 years. He had a perfect trip on Orb who had an awkward start but conserved energy early on before making a bold six-wide move at the quarter pole, catching Normandy Invasion in mid-stretch.
The patience exhibited by Rosario and Orb was assisted by the extremely quick pace set by Palace Malice, who was wearing blinkers for the first time. Once again the old adage that pace makes the race was evident in America’s biggest race. Jockey Mike Smith, winner of Friday’s Kentucky Oaks, admitted his colt took off on him.
“I was going too quick, too early,” said Smith, a Hall of Fame jockey. “The blinkers were just a little too aggressive for him.”
While Orb’s patience early paid off, jockey Javier Castellano made a bold move with Normandy Invasion on the far turn perhaps a tad too early. He took the lead at the top of the stretch and tried to draw clear, but his horse had been used up fading to fourth in deep stretch. “I thought I was going to win the race, but he had nothing left,” said Castellano.
Another jockey who took advantage of the fast early pace was Robbie Albarado who rode long shot second-place finisher Golden Soul. The Perfect Soul colt had only secured a starting gate earlier in the week. “It was a very fast pace, but I was comfortable with it. I had to stop and go a couple of times. I had a great inside trip and then he [Golden Soul] came running, man,” said Albarado.
On the track after the race, Albarado talked about where he was going to be in two weeks. “I’m going to win the Preakness for a second time,” the jock exclaimed. Before walking away Albarado high-fived trainer Dallas Stewart, both pleased with their colt’s effort.
When they get to Baltimore, there will be a certain colt last seen wearing a garland of roses on Saturday, patiently waiting for them.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.