Golden Soul was a long shot second. Revolutionary was third and Normandy Invasion was fourth. Joel Rosario, who won the $10 million Dubai World Cup March 30, had the winning ride. Veteran trainer Shug McGaughey picked up his first Kentucky Derby win in his sixth try.
Orb finished the 1 1/4 miles under Churchill Downs' legendary twin spires in 2 :02.89 after tracking a very fast early pace over a track that had been soaked by heavy rains.
The race went to the post virtually wide open, with Orb among the favorites but still returning $12.80 for a $2 win ticket.
Orb, a son of Malibu Moon, took four tries to win his first race but has not lost in five tries since. Along the way, he won the Grade II Fountain of Youth and Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Saturday, Rosario let Orb settled near the rear of the 19-horse field. He advanced along the outside around the turn, came very wide into the stretch and was well in charge by the sixteenth pole.
"I was so far behind and I just let him be calm and relaxed," Rosario said. "That's exactly what I wanted ... . It was a perfect trip."
McGaughey, a native of Lexington, Ky., has watched the Kentucky Derby since he was a young boy but always said he would participate only if he had a horse that could be competitive.
"I always dreamed of this day," he said. "It finally came."
He said he was happy for the owners and the breeders of Orb. "And I'm happy for me," he added in his typical deadpan.
Asked when he thought he had a legitimate contender, McGaughey replied, "Florida Derby. I never thought it until then."
In the race before the Derby, an expected showdown between the reigning U.S. Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, and top rival Point of Entry fizzled when the latter was a late scratch from the $500,000, Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. That left Wise Dan without meaningful competition and he showed why he is Horse of the Year.
With Jose Lezcano up, the 6-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding parked in third and out of trouble until the leaders hit the stretch turn. Then, he swept by, surged to the lead and basically coasted home, finishing 4 3/4 lengths ahead of the runner-up, Optimizer. Middie rallied from last to finish third.
Wise Dan ran 9 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:51.84, picking up his sixth straight win. He has won nine of his last 10 starts -- a string broken only by a second-place finish behind Ron the Green in the Grade I Stephen Foster 11 months ago at Churchill Downs. That was the last time trainer Charles LoPresti put Wise Dan on the main track.