Written by Card Chronicle Thoroughbred Racing Correspondent Carly Kaiser
Well, that was a bit rough, wasn't it? Goldencents looked so good in the mornings, catching the eye of so many people. Trainer Doug O'Neill being a season professional with Derby hooplah after winning it last year. Jockey Kevin Krigger handled his first Derby with ease and poise. Part-owner Rick Pitino, obviously, sparkled in the spot lot.
Wednesday before the race in an interview on the backside, Pitino was getting bombarded with questions about how excited it was and what would it mean to him. What struck me was how he answered these questions. He made it clear that he is not the star of this Derby, that all credit should go to the majority owners and especially to the workers who are with the horses at 4:30 every single morning training and conditioning them. I have been into the sport for most of my life, and seeing someone like him trying to steer the praise from himself and give it to someone else really showed what kind of guy he is. At one point he even said he hoped for Shug McGaughey to finally win his Derby with Orb. Funny how that all turned out, huh?
The race itself however just did not flatter Goldencents in any way. I have heard people blaming the track condition, the pace, the ride by Krigger, and a whole lot of other things. Until the turn for home (mile into the race) he looked great. Positioned very well, handling the slop, moving with ease, he seemed like he was going to run a very good race. In a blink of an eye, he got swallowed up by the field and quickly faded to the far back. Krigger was pushing him until about the 1/8th pole, then stood up in the irons and eased him, finishing 17th out of 19.
The decision to ease him is actually a good one, its not worth pushing a horse so that he will finish in 13th rather than 17th. At the end of the day, there is no extra prize and it just is not worth pushing a horse for no real reason. O'Neill said it best saying "he just didn't fire, its part of the game, they're not machines." Being a mile and a quarter race, none of the horses on Saturday had competed at that distance before. Could have very easily just been too long for Goldencents. They are pointing him to the Preakness on May 18. With a smaller field and a shorter race, this should work out better for him. There is no shame in being a miler or sprinter, there is just less fame outside of racing for that.
Anyone in the sport will tell you how elated they are that Orb won. He is the product of decades of careful breeding and racing from the Phipps and Janney families dating back to the 1940s (at least). Current owners Stuart Janney III and Ogden Phipps are cousins. They are very old-timey in the sport and have had tremendous success in all areas, except for the Derby. Ogden is currently the chairmen of the Jockey Club with Stuart as vice-chairmen.
What many people admire about the Phipps breeding operation is that they keep their mares for breeding, rather than selling them away like the majority of horse owners today. The Phipps horses since the 1980s have been trained by Shug McGaughey. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004 and Orb is his first Derby winner, too. Orb is a very blue-blooded horse owned and trained by some of the best in the sport. Shug is also a breath of fresh air in winning the Derby because he has no drug violations to his name. With racing becoming infamous for doping their horses, Shug winning the Derby is another reason why the racing world is so excited.
Credit must also go to Joel Rosario, who is so hot right now. This jockey is really coming into his own. Five weeks ago he won the $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup on the 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom, and he closed out the 2013 Spring Meet at Keeneland with a record 38 wins out of 106. Second was the Frenchman Julien Leparoux with 17 wins. A 28% win percentage, and 64% in the money are absolutely insane.
Just want to say that yes, it is okay to be sad and heartbroken over Goldencent's dismal performance, but don't be mad someone else won. No one in the race deserved this win more than Shug, Ogden, Stuart, or Joel. On to the Preakness.