LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mine That Bird spent the week tucked away in the
The 2009 Derby winner seems to enjoy when fans stop in for a visit. A gelding who retired from racing in 2010, he appears at ease. And even as rail birds and once-a-year track goers alike fall for impressive looking favorites, Mine That Bird reminds them that their hunch is actually a guess.
"I don't mind talking about the race, hoping that people will read the stories and get interested in the sport," said
Mine That Bird was a 50-1 choice on the morning line and the deepest of long shots in his Derby. He dropped eight lengths back at the start, destined to be forgotten before he'd even completed the two-minute trip.
But then jockey
As of Friday, the
"I've been saying the same thing all along," said Itsmyluckyday trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. "I just want everybody to have a fair chance to win."
A Daily Racing Form metric that examines the performance of a horse's sire and broodmare sire while running on wet tracks identified these five, in order, as having the most promising mud-running pedigree: D. Wayne Lukas'
Orb has probably the hottest jockey in the country, as
Velazquez did not ride for most of April after suffering a rib fracture and chipping a bone in his wrist during a spill the day after the Wood. The winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby aboard
Gary Stevens, who will ride Oxbow, last appeared on the national stage as an actor — in HBO's short-lived racing drama Luck and the movie Seabiscuit — and racing analyst. Late last year, a few months before turning 50, he moved away from his family for two months of training, dropped 20 pounds and strengthened the aching knees that pushed him away eight years ago, intent on winning his fourth Kentucky Derby.
He'll ride for Lukas, whose large stable once allowed him to win six Triple Crown races in a row. Lukas lingers now, 14 years after winning his last Derby, hoping for another.
Pletcher is Lukas' former assistant and heir — at least when it comes to keeping a large stable. He's refined the concept but eschewed Lukas' quirks. He's a CEO in a barn, and this week he worked to prepare five unique horses for five different demanding ownership groups.
Early bettors showed faith in O'Neill and Borel, as both Goldencents and Revolutionary had 5-1 live odds by Friday evening, while Orb had slipped to 6-1.
Orb's connections appear to the be the sentimental choice of many fans at Churchill Downs, where McGaughey raced Derby favorite Easy Goer to second place in 1989. He's been back only once since.
"Never would have convinced me back then it would go that way," he said. "I was young. Thought it'd just happen."
Orb was bred and is owned by
McGuaghey and Janney have never teamed for a Derby mount; Phipps had one in 1989. They've said their philosophy on raising race horses dictates patience early and that they rarely aim to even nudge their horses toward the Triple Crown trail.
Orb was just too good.
"It all went how it had to go," McGaughey said. "It doesn't go that way too often, obviously."
The same can be — and has been — said about what happens when the gates open for the Kentucky Derby. Each year, one set of connections walks toward the infield to lift the gold trophy. The others trudge back to the barns.
Sometimes through mud.
"It's a difficult race, a mess of a race in a lot of ways," Janney, a Butler native, said early in the week, even before the rain forecast. "It doesn't stay very true. You're just hoping your horse gets to run and you can feel OK about it at the end."