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Features - RACING

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

LOUISVILLE – Trainer Shug McGaughey was the picture of contentment after Orb drew post 16 and was established as the 7-2 morning-line favorite for the 139th Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

“As we stand here right now, I have a good post, a horse that’s done well and I have the morning-line favorite. What more could I ask for on a Wednesday afternoon?” McGaughey said.

Animal Kingdom used the same post to great advantage just two years ago when he became the first horse to win the Derby in his dirt debut with the help of a textbook ride from John Velazquez. In all, that slot has produced four winners from among 41 starters (9.8%) since the starting gate was first used at Churchill Downs in 1930. Twenty-two percent of the starters from that position finished in the money.

McGaughey, a Hall of Famer from Lexington, Ky., yearns to win it all and anything less would be a blow. He believes Orb, who brings in a four-race winning streak that includes an impressive 2 3/4-length score in the Florida Derby on March 30, finally has him in position to accomplish that with white-hot jockey Joel Rosario aboard. McGaughey’s six previous starters came away empty.

“I’m happy. I’m happy with everything,” said McGaughey, who has won countless prestigious races but not the one he covets most.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who will saddle a record-tying five starters, also was pleased. “I thought we did as good as we could have hoped for,” he said. “It couldn’t have worked out much better.”

Pletcher’s quintet drew as follows: Revolutionary (post 3, 10-1), Overanalyze (post 9, 15-1), Palace Malice (post 10, 20-1), Verrazano (post 14, 4-1) and Charming Kitten (post 15, 20-1). Verrazano will pegged as the second choice at 4-1 with Goldencents just behind him in the early odds at 5-1 from the eighth post position for trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Kevin Krigger. Krigger and fellow St. Croix, Virgin Islands native Victor Lebron will become just the second and third African-American jockey to compete in the “Run for the Roses” since 1921.

O’Neill, who swept the opening two legs of the Triple Crown with I’ll Have Another last year, likes his starting point toward a repeat.

“It should be perfect for him,” he said, adding, “Goldencents has such good speed leaving the gate, I wasn’t going to be too concerned with where we drew.”

He was pleased to avoid the three inside positions. They went to Black Onyx (50-1), Oxbow (30-1) and the aforementioned Revolutionary. Of the last 42 starters combined to occupy any of the three inside spots, none has overcome that seeming disadvantage. Revolutionary’s situation might come with a footnote, however. He will be handled by Calvin Borel, who is so well-known for his ground-saving trips that he is known at Churchill as Bo-Rail.

Falling Sky, whose past performances suggest he could emerge as the early leader, will charge out of post 13 for jockey Luis Saez in a race that appears to lack significant early speed. But McGaughey has been around long enough to know that what exists on paper rarely plays out when 20 high-strung Thoroughbreds vie for the roses before more than 100,000 roaring fans.

“Every time I think there is no pace, there winds up being big pace. Every time I think there is plenty of pace, there winds up being no pace,” McGaughey said. “I think there will be more pace than we’re thinking about. [Jockey Joel Rosario will] be able to judge that from where he is.”

2013 Kentucky Derby

Saturday, Churchill Downs, Race 11, 6:24 ET

3-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles

PP Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 Black Onyx Kelly Breen Joe Bravo 50-1
2 Oxbow D. Wayne Lukas Gary Stevens 30-1
3 Revolutionary Todd Pletcher Calvin Borel 10-1
4 Golden Soul Dallas Stewart Robby Albarado 50-1
5 Normandy Invasion Chad Brown Javier Castellano 12-1
6 Mylute Tom Amoss Rosie Napravnik 15-1
7 Giant Finish Tony Dutrow Jose Espinoza 50-1
8 Goldencents Doug O'Neill Kevin Krigger 5-1
9 Overanalyze Todd Pletcher Rafael Bejarano 15-1
10 Palace Malice Todd Pletcher Mike Smith 20-1
11 Lines of Battle Aidan O'Brien Ryan Moore 30-1
12 Itsmyluckyday Eddie Plesa Jr. Elvis Trujillo 15-1
13 Falling Sky John Terranova II Luis Saez 50-1
14 Verrazano Todd Pletcher John Velazquez 4-1
15 Charming Kitten Todd Pletcher Edgar Prado 20-1
16 Orb Shug McGaughey Joel Rosario 7-2
17 Will Take Charge D. Wayne Lukas Jon Court 20-1
18 Frac Daddy Kenny McPeek Victor Lebron 50-1
19 Java’s War Kenny McPeek Julien Leparoux 15-1
20 Vyjack Rudy Rodriguez Garrett Gomez 15-1
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