The obvious next question is: Can Kentucky Derby winner Orb go on to sweep the Triple Crown races?
The feat has been accomplished only 11 times and not since Affirmed took the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1978. Winning the Triple Crown is regarded as one of the toughest accomplishments in any sport.
"I think there's still something there," winning trainer Shug McGaughey said after Orb came charging through the Churchill Downs mud from near the back of the 19-horse field to win Saturday's Derby by 2 1/2 lengths over Golden Soul.
"I think there's more there. I don't think we've bottomed out," said the veteran conditioner who won his first Kentucky Derby after just six earlier tries. "I think he's still learning how to run a little bit."
Orb had not raced since winning the Florida Derby March 30 -- a five-week layoff. To wear the Triple Crown, he now will have to win three times in six weeks. The 1 3/16-mile Preakness, at Pimlico in Baltimore, is May 18. Then it's on to Belmont Park for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes three weeks later.
"To tell you the truth, I can't wait," McGaughey said. "We're set up better than anybody and, if everything is right, I can't wait to get to the Preakness and do it again."
Despite the sloppy track, the Derby worked out to be a relatively formful race. Orb was the post-time favorite. Golden Soul was a long shot second but the third- and fourth-place finishers, Revolutionary and Normandy Invasion, were both well-backed.
The biggest flop in the race was previously undefeated Verrazano, who finished 14th after racing near the quick early pace. Jockey John Velazquez, who rode Orb to victory in the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, then picked Verrazano for his Derby ride, said his mount did not handle the muddy track.
Joel Rosario, the jockey who benefited from Velazquez's mistake, already has a memorable year going even with two-thirds of the Triple Crown still in front of him. Rosario rode Animal Kingdom to victory March 30 in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, then returned to be the leading riding at Keeneland's spring meeting.
It was Rosario's first Kentucky Derby win and also the first for owners Stuart Janney III and Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps.
The field for the Preakness will be a lot different than the Derby lineup.
Trainer Dallas Stewart said Golden Soul is unlikely to be in Baltimore. "At this point, I think we will pass on the Preakness and look at the Belmont," Stewart said Sunday morning. "That would give us five weeks and hopefully we can get one of the three" Triple Crown wins.
Todd Pletcher, who saddled five starters Saturday, said his initial consultation with the owners left him feeling both Revolutionary and Overanalyze, who finished 11th in the Derby, also will skip the Preakness and target the Belmont. As for Verrazano, he added, "We'll step back with him, too, and make a plan at some point."
Chad Brown said he was already thinking about the Grade I Travers at Saratoga, the "Mid-summer Derby," for Normandy Invasion. "I don't know what I'll do between now and then," he added.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said his two Derby starters, Oxbow (sixth in the Derby) and Will Take Charge (eighth), are both Preakness candidates.
One of the more interesting contenders at "Old Hilltop" in Baltimore may be Lines of Battle, the Irish-trained horse who won the UAE Derby on World Cup night over the Meydan all-weather course and finished a sharp-closing seventh Saturday for trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore.
O'Brien assistant T.J. Comerford noted Lines of Battle is bred for dirt racing but was making his first start on the surface in the Run for the Roses. "He was a little bit like a 2-year-old with his first start," Comerford said. "There was no time after Dubai to run on dirt and you hate to use the Kentucky Derby as a prep." He said O'Brien may consider the Preakness but the Belmont "may be more of a consideration."
Other Derby starters likely for the Preakness as of Sunday morning are Itsmyluckyday (15th) and Goldencents (17th).
There was a nice Epsom Derby prep for Godolphin Racing, which undoubtedly welcomed good news. Milers were on display in Hong Kong and in Japan. A roughly run Kentucky Oaks produced an upset winner. And the reigning U.S. Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, was an easy winner on the Churchill Downs Derby Day undercard when his chief rival, Point of Entry, was a late scratch.
Here they come, spinning out of the turn:
Dawn Approach provided a ray of light to the embattled Godolphin Racing empire with a dramatic, 5-length win in Saturday's Group 1 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. The Irish-bred son of New Approach, under the personal gaze of Godolphin master Sheik Mohammed bin Rasheed al-Maktoum, surged to the lead with a furlong to run and powered home without further opposition. Glory Awaits was the best of the rest, followed by Van Der Neer and Toronado. Dawn Approach now is undefeated in seven starts and advances to a possible start in the Epsom Derby. "Sheik Mohammed agreed we would sleep on it and talk about it in a few days," trainer Jim Bolger said about a potential Derby start for the budding star. "But we wouldn't be ruling anything in or anything out. I would be very happy to go but we have to see how he comes out of this. He's hardy and I'm sure he'll come out of it well." The victory was a welcome one, indeed, for Sheik Mohammed and Godolphin after a doping scandal that resulted in trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni picking up an eight-year ban and several Godolphin horses ordered sidelined temporarily.
In Sunday's Group 1 1,000 Guineas for 3-year-old fillies, Sky Lantern was along just in time to snatch victory from Just the Judge. Moth, who got going late after traffic issues, also was flying late but settled for third. Sky Lantern, with Richard Hughes up for trainer Richard Hannon, more than made up for her second-place finish behind Hot Snap last time out in the Nell Gwynn. Hot Snap threw in a dull one Sunday, finishing ninth. Sky Lantern, an Irish-bred daughter of Red Clubs, was eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last fall after a troubled trip.
Dan Excel came after pacesetting Helene Spirit in the final 400 meters of Sunday's Group 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin and just got there, winning by a short head. Dan Excel, a two-time Group 3 winner in Ireland before relocating, had been knocking on the door, with second-place finishes in two earlier local group races. He was second to Glorious Days in the Stewards' Cup in January, then second behind Packing Whiz in the Chairman's Trophy last month. "Drawing gate 1 won the race for us," said winning trainer John Moore, who won the Champions Mile for the fourth straight year and also lifted Sunday's Queen Mother Memorial Cup with Dominant. "He kicked really well and we know he's a fighter. He doesn't give up." Moore already plans to send Audemars Piguet QE II Cup winner Military Attack to Singapore for the Group 1 Singapore Airlines Cup in two weeks' time and now is considering Dan Excel's chances in the Group 1 Kris Flyer Sprint on the same card at Kranji. "The owner's very keen and so we'll make the trip if invited," the trainer said. Packing Whiz and Glorious Days finished third and fourth Sunday. New Zealand-based King Mufhasa raced prominently before fading on the turn. He was found after the race to have bled and showed lameness in his left front leg. Xtension, who provided Moore his last two Champions Mile wins, finished sixth.
Miner Ho O raced near the back of the large field in Sunday's Group 1 NHK Mile for 3-year-olds, joined two others in overtaking the leaders after the grueling the climb up the straight and prevailed by a neck over Impulse Hero in the final strides. Flamme de Glorie was another neck back in third. Miner Ho O, a Suzuka Phoenix colt, finished the left-handed mile over firm turf in 1:32.7 with Daichi Shibata in the irons. He went to the post at odds of 34-1 after a seventh-place finish in the New Zealand Trophy in his last previous outing.
Derby Day stakes
The 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 Dows. That was the last time trainer Charles LoPresti put Wise Dan on the main track.
Belino de Tiger pressed the pace in the $125,000, Grade III Twin Spires Turf Sprint, got the lead late and was all out to hold on and win by a nose over Chamberlain Bridge. Southern Dude finished third and Regally Ready was fourth. With Leandro Goncalves in the irons, the Brazilian-bred Belino de Tiger covered 5 furlongs on good turf in 57.01 seconds. It was his first win in three tries in North America.
Aubby K sat just behind the early leader in the $300,000, Grade I Humana Distaff, worked her way to the lead entering the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Burban. Holiday Soiree was along for third and the early leader, Jamaican Smoke, salvaged fourth. Aubby K, a Street Sense filly out of the Capote mare Lilly Capote, ran 7 furlongs on the sloppy, sealed track in 1:22.93 with Edgar Prado riding. "She's such a good horse. She just keeps overcoming everything," winning trainer Ralph Nicks said. "She's such a stalker and has the turn of foot. She can press if she needs to or set off. It works well for her."
Stephanie's Kitten and Hungry Island rallied together down the stretch in the $250,000, Grade II Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, with Stephanie's Kitten hitting the wire in front. Daisy Divine held the lead early in the stretch run and settled for third. Stephanie's Kitten, a 4-year-old Kitten's Joy filly, finished in 1:37.94 with Julien Leparoux up. She now has six wins from 11 starts, including victories in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and last summer's Grade II Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga.
Delaunay surged by the pacesetter turning for home in the $400,000, Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes, opened a big lead and won off by 4 lengths. Pass the Dice was second and Laurie's Rocket finished third. Delaunay, a 6-year-old Smoke Glacken gelding, ran 7 furlongs on the sloppy track in 1:22.35 with Rosie Napravnik up. It was his sixth straight win, dating back to last September but his first in a graded stakes. Trainer Tom Amoss, who claimed the horse a year ago at Churchill Downs, said, "The best claim I ever made. I saw a horse that I thought that was worth $40,000, which is what I paid. What's different? I really don't know. He's just come around and he looks great. He doesn't look like a $40,000 horse, that's for darn sure." He has lost only once in eight starts since the claim.
Princess of Sylmar, a 38-1 long shot, ran by 2-year-old champion Beholder in the final sixteenth to win Friday's $1 million, Grade I Longines Kentucky Oaks. Beholder held onto second, a half-length back and 2 lengths ahead of Unlimited Budget. The favorite, Dreaming of Julia, was slammed sidewise and shuffled back at the start, raced well off the pace and then closed belatedly and wide to finish fourth. Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Majestic Warrior, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.17 with Mike Smith up. Princess of Sylmar, despite her long odds on Friday, now has won five of her last six races, with only a second-place showing behind Close Hatches in the Grade II Gazelle marring that streak. Close Hatches finished seventh on Saturday. Todd Pletcher trains Princess of Sylmar and Dreaming of Julia among the four he saddled for the Oaks. "When she was able to drop back and make a run," Pletcher said of the winner, "she was able to fire her best shot. We thought she might have a chance if they gave her some pace and they did." Of Dreaming of Julia, the trainer said, "She had to deal with that incident at the start, then she had to take up on the turn and it was just too much. She might have been able to overcome one of those things, but the two of them virtually eliminated her. I thought she was gutsy to run as well as she did." He said he has no immediate plans for any of his four Oaks starters.
Noble Tune found running room inside rivals in the stretch run of the $200,000, Grade II American Turf Stakes for 3-year-olds, shot through and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Admiral Kitten. War Dancer finished third. Noble Tune, an Unbridled's Song colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.63 with Javier Castellano up. It was his fourth win from five starts with the only loss a second-place finish behind George Vancouver in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last fall at Santa Anita.
Take Charge Indy attended the pace in the $300,000, Grade II Alysheba Stakes, took complete charge in the lane and won by 6 lengths. Cyber Secret finished second but was set down to eighth for coming over on rivals shortly after the start, causing a serious traffic jam. That left Hymn Book and Bourbon Courage to pick up place and show money, respectively. Take Charge Indy, a 4-year-old A.P. Indy colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:41.41 with Rosie Napravnik at the controls. It was only the third win of his career but came after a second in the Grade III Skip Away and a third in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream. He also was second in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs last fall.
So Many Ways raced well off the lead in the $150,000, Grade III Eight Belles Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, swung six-wide into the stretch and was up in time to win by a half length over Fusaichiwonderful. Irish Lute was third and the favorite, Calistoga, finished fourth. So Many Ways, a Sightseeing filly, ran 7 furlongs on the main track in 1:22.84 with Garrett Gomez riding.
Kitten's Dumplings came from last to win the $150,000 Edgewood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3 3/4 lengths over Praia. Broken Spell finished third and the favorite, Tokyo Time, settled for fourth. Kitten's Dumplings, a Kitten's Joy filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the grass in 1:41.24 with Joel Rosario up. It was her third career win.
Authenticity and On Fire Baby hooked up in a duel through most of the $300,000, Grade II La Troienne Stakes for fillies and mares with Authenticity finally prevailing by a head. It was another 4 3/4 lengths back to the favorite, Believe You Can, in third. Authenticity, a 6-year-old Quiet American mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.09 for jockey John Velazquez. She picked up her third win from seven starts.
Dayatthespa attended the early pace in Sunday's $90,000 You Go West Girl Stakes for state-bred distaffers, took over when asked by jockey Javier Castellano and won by a widening 4 lengths. Kibosh finished second and Elusive Rumor was third. Dayatthespa, a 4-year-old City Zip filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.52.
The $100,000 filly division of Sunday's New York Stallion Stakes went to Lovely Syn, who went quickly to the lead and never looked back, winning by 9 1/2 lengths. Bit Bustin was the best of the rest, a length better than Sharon Spagetti. Lovely Syn, a daughter of Freud, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.33 with Mike Luzzi up.
The $100,000 colt and gelding division was a little more competitive with Belief System holding off Chapman in the final yards to win by a half-length. In Harm's Way led early and finished third. Belief System, a Read the Footnotes gelding, got 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track in 1:17.35 for jockey Junior Alvarado.
Lubash came widest of three down the stretch in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Fort Marcy stakes and edged ahead late to win by a half-length. Bombaguia was second and King Kreesa finished third. Lubash, a 6-year-old son of Freud, got the 1 1/16 miles over firm turf in 1:38.89, missing the course record by 0.36 second. Alvarado had the winning ride. "Very nice horse. Really honest. Always tries," winning trainer Christophe Clement said.
Hessonite outfinished Peace Preserver in the late running in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Beaugay Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 3/4 of a length. The favorite, Dream Peace, got to the lead early in the stretch run but only managed to hold on for third. Hessonite, a 5-year-old Freud mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.82 with Alvarado in the irons.
Bob Baffert didn't have a runner in the Kentucky Derby but consoled himself with winning Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Mervyn LeRoy Handicap with Liaison. With Martin Garcia aboard, the 4-year-old Indian Charlie colt stalked the pace, took over when asked and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Kettle Corn rallied from last to finish second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Guilt Trip. Liaison ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.79. Liaison, who finished sixth in last year's Kentucky Derby, is owned by long-time Baffert supporter Arnold Zetcher. Baffert also campaigned Indian Charlie, who finished third in the 1998 Run for the Roses behind stablemate Real Quiet and Victory Gallop. Baffert assistant Mike Marlow said Liaison "moved up a lot" from his last start in the March 31 Santana Mile, "which was a good race coming off a layoff. But today he was right up there on the break and I think Martin really rode him smart today."
Comma to the Top put an exclamation point on Saturday's $70,000 Cool Frenchy Stakes, leading from the early jumps and winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Italian Rules. Ain't No Other finished third. Comma to the Top, a 5-year-old Bwana Charlie gelding, ran 5 furlongs on the all-weather track in 56.90 seconds. "I knew five-eighths was going to be a piece of cake for him," winning rider Edwin Maldonado said. "He can go 6 or 6 1/2 without a problem and today it was just a matter of breaking cleanly. He just has too much class for these."
Teddy's Promise kicked into high gear in the lane in Sunday's $90,000 Time to Leave Stakes for fillies and mares and got home first by 4 1/4 lengths. Shumoos was second and Magical Band finished third. Teddy's Promise, a 5-year-old Salt Lake mare, ran 5 furlongs on the all-weather track in 56.80 seconds with Victor Espinoza up.
Pyrite Mountain started last of four in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Wando Stakes for 3-year-olds, got going on the turn and ran by his rivals late, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over odds-on favorite Uncaptured. Midnight Aria and Tesseron completed the order of finish. Pyrite Mountain, an Ontario-bred Silent Name colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.24 with Luis Contreras up. Pyrite Mountain won the Kingarvie Stakes Dec. 2 at Woodbine, then was winless in two stops at Gulfstream Park and Keeneland this winter. Uncaptured won the Grade III Iroquois and the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last fall, then finished second in the Grade III Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park before being drubbed in the Grade I Blue Grass at Keeneland.
Spring in the Air rallied to the lead in the final furlong in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Fury Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and held off Smartfly at the end to win by a half-length Nadurra finished third. Spring in the Air, an Ontario-bred miss by Spring At Last, got 7 furlongs on the all-weather surface in 1:23.51 with Patrick Husbands aboard. In was the first win for Spring in the Air since the Darley Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland last fall.
Candy Bites drew off in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Babst/Palacios Memorial Handicap for Ohio-breds and won by 3 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Klassy Korbin. Raise the Reward completed the trifecta. Candy Bites, a 3-year-old Candy Ride colt, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.40 with Yuri Yaranga in the irons.
Will Rogers Downs
Du Da Dandy was all of that in Saturday's $50,000 colts and geldings division of the Oklahoma Stallion Stakes, kicking clear early and driving to win by 8 3/4 lengths. Chuck was second, 20 1/4 lengths to the good of Okie Can Do as the placing judges put their feet up. Du Da Dandy, a Tactical Cat gelding, ran a mile on a sloppy track in 1:39.27 under Bryan McNeil.
In the $50,000 fillies division, Hard Cider sat off the early pace, then kicked into gear and went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths over pacesetter Mari's Big Rock. The favorite, Rah Rah Rachel, took show money. Hard Cider, a daughter of Liquor Cabinet, finished in 1:41.40 with Garrett Steinberg in the irons.
Startin' Something let her rivals do the starting in Friday's $50,000 Dr. T.F. Classen Memorial Stakes for Ohio-breds but did all the finishing herself, winning by 2 1/2 lengths under mild urging by jockey Deshawn Parker. The pacesetter, Isadella finished second and I'm Kiddin was third. Startin' Something, a 5-year-old Musical Dreamer mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.02.