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May 10, 2013

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


               The first Saturday in May has come and gone and the 139th Kentucky Derby is in the books. Unfortunately the rain inundated the Churchill Downs racetrack and the condition of the track was sloppy and sealed for the race. A field of 19 went postward as BLACK ONYX was scratched a few days before the race. The favorite in the race was ORB who was sent off at 5-1. There were only six horses that were in single digit odds.

               As the gates opened there were a few horses that were looking for the lead. GOLDENCENTS and PALACE MALICE both were looking for the lead as they headed into the clubhouse turn while being tracked by VERRAZANO, OXBOW and VYJACK. As they moved into the backstretch, PALACE MALICE, adding blinkers for the first time took over the lead with jockey Mike Smith, opened up a three and a half length lead through unreasonable fractions of 22:2, 45:1, 1:09:4. As they moved around the far turn, the leaders began to tire, and NORMANDY INVASION under jockey Javier Castellano made a wide move to take over the lead before the head of the lane as the closers started to move in. NORMANDY INVASION held that lead until midstretch before being overtaken by ORB and jockey Joel Rosario. NORMANDY INVASION couldn’t go with the leader and began to tire just a bit as longshot, GOLDEN SOUL closed in to finish second over REVOLUTIONARY who closed along the rail to finish third under Calvin Borel as the second choice. He was the best finisher from the five Todd Pletcher horses, who finished 3rd, 9th, 11th, 12th and the most disappointing 14th, his undefeated VERRAZANO.

               VERRAZANO, who was 4 for 4 heading into the race was sent off at a surprising 8.70-1. He got away in good order but was up close to a very sharp pace and never really seemed comfortable, when asked he didn’t have any horse and tired to finish 14th. GOLDENCENTS, who was sent off at 7.90-1 while coming off a big win in the Santa Anita Derby chased the pace early and didn’t have any pop checking in a disappointing 17th in his first try over a sloppy track.

               ORB, who blossomed this winter under trainer Shug McGaughey winning the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby as well as an allowance race. He got away near the back of the pack racing in 16th early on, he started to move wide on the far turn to get into contention, collared the leader and edged away late to score under Joel Rosario. This win gave Rosario and McGaughey their first Derby wins. Rosario, who arguably is the best rider in the country has been on some roll of late taking down the Derby as well as the $10 million Dubai World Cup back in March. McGaughey who very rarely brings a horse to the Derby got his first win, 24 years after he lost with favorite EASY GOER. This was also the first win for the Phipps and Janney families, two storied names in racing for many many years. Like many writers said this was a win for the “Old School”.

               Moving forward to the Preakness in one week, there are 12 probables at this time and ORB will be a heavy favorite with the role of second choice probably going to NORMANDY INVASION. NORMANDY INVASION, was initially not going to run but it seems the connections have had a change of plans and are pointing him to the race. GOLDENCENTS and MYLUTE, both of whom ran in the Derby will be returning for the Preakness at this time. DEPARTING and GOVENOR CHARLIE are two new shooters in the race and both are in sharp form but from a class standpoint I don’t think they class up with ORB or NORMANDY INVASION. Hall of famer D. Wayne Lukas has three probables for the race with his two Derby runners, OXBOW and WILL TAKE CHARGE returning as well as TITLETOWN FIVE. OXBOW who ran a respectable sixth in the Derby after chasing the sharp early pace will be returning as well as WILL TAKE CHARGE who ran into some traffic in the Derby and will have a new rider in Mike Smith. ITSMYLUCKYDAY and VYJACK, two Derby also-rans are being pointed for the Preakness as well. ITSMYLUCKYDAY will have a new jockey in John Velazquez and should appreciate a move back to a dry track in the Preakness as he did run second to ORB in the Florida Derby back in late March at Gulfstream.

               Let’s hope for a fast track, a cleanly run race and if ORB does win it will be some party come Belmont Stakes day.



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