Splattered with mud, Orb rallied down the stretch to give Shug McGaughey, a native Kentuckian, Hall of Fame trainer and sentimental favorite in his home state, his first victory in the Kentucky Derby Saturday in the rain-soaked 139th running of the Triple Crown opener in "sloppy" conditions at Churchill Downs.
McGaughey, 62, had been 0-6 in Derby starts. But Orb, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred bay colt whose name was inspired by his father, Malibu Moon, earned the blanket of roses when he bested runner-up Golden Soul.
Orb won by 2 1/2 lengths in a time of 2:02.89. Revolutionary was third, followed by Normandy Invasion and Mylute. Orb returned $12.80, $7.40 and $5.40, with longshot Golden Soul returning $38.60 and $19.40 and Revolutionary paying $5.40 for show.
Mylute was ridden by Rosie Napravnik, bidding to become the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Her fifth place finish was the best in the Derby by a female jockey, surpassing the previous high mark of ninth place she set in 2011 aboard Pants On Fire.
McGaughey was overwhelmed by his victory in his first appearance in the Run for the Roses since 2002, before a crowd of 151,616 at rain-soaked Churchill Downs, the ninth largest crowd in history, but down from last year's record 165,307.
"It means everything to me. I've always dreamed of this day and it finally came," McGaughey said. "I'm thrilled for the people who put in so much time on this horse, and of course I'm thrilled for me."
It was the fifth consecutive win for Orb, who opened as the morning line favorite earlier this week and went off as the 6-1 co-favorite with Revolutionary, who finished third. The victory was worth $1,414,800 and improved Orb's career earnings to $2,335,850 with a record of five wins in eight races. Orb is owned by the Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney.
Joel Rosario, the hottest jockey in North America in recent months, was the winning rider.
"It's awesome," said Rosario, whose silks were covered with mud. "I won the $10 million Dubai World Cup, and to win the Derby now it's like a dream. I'm so happy for Shug McGaughey.''
For the early part of the race, it didn't appear that Orb could deliver on the promise he offered. Shuffled back from the start, Orb was just about last as the 3-year-olds headed down the backstretch, with Palace Malice, then Normandy Invasion leading the field.
"I was so far behind. I just let him be calm and relaxed, and he was able to do it," said Rosario. "He was very relaxed and did exactly what I wanted. It was a perfect trip.
"He showed today he's the man."
McGaughey, who narrowly lost the Derby in 1989 with Easy Goer, said Orb's development this past winter surprised him.
"We took him to Florida this winter, and we didn't think we'd be here," McGaughey said. "But he kept coming, kept coming. We couldn't believe what we were seeing."
McGaughey's victory kept Todd Pletcher, who had a record-tying five horses entered in the Derby, from the winner's circle. One of his horses was Revolutionary, ridden by Calvin Borel. "I thought he ran super. He got shuffled back farther than we thought and he had to keep waiting to try to make up ground," Pletcher said. "But when he could start running, he did really well. He closed strongly and just ran out of ground."
The race was run 40 years after the historic 1973 win by Secretariat in a record winning time of 1:59 2/5. Secretariat, of course, went on to win the Triple Crown.
The Triple Crown series now moves on to the May 18 Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, followed by the June 9 Belmont Stakes in New York. No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
The Derby had a maximum 20-horse field, but it was reduced to 19 Friday morning when Black Onyx, 50-1 on the morning line, was scratched due to a chipped bone in his front left ankle. Black Onyx had been in the No.1 position in the starting gate, which was left open for the Derby.
Rain fell steadily Saturday afternoon during the undercard. The downpour had many women scrambling to cover their fancy Kentucky Derby hats with plastic. But some younger fans body-surfed on the muddy infield.
Among the many celebrities in attendance were quarterback Robert Griffin III of the NFL's Washington Redskins, former NBA stars Scottie Pippen and Julius "Dr. J." Irving, former major league baseball player Ken Griffey Jr., former NFL quarterback Warren Moon, entertainer Joey Fatone (N Sync) and actress Jane Seymour.
Fans, employees and media entering Churchill Downs were subject to increased security in the aftermath of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. New measures included bans on coolers and large purses.