Tough Week For The Derby 139 Home Team

Photo by AMBER CHALFIN | Contributing Photographer John Velazquez won the 63rd running of the Besilu Stables Florida Derby on Orb for trainer Shug McGaughey, owner Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable.

Photo by AMBER CHALFIN | Contributing Photographer
John Velazquez won the 63rd running of the Besilu Stables Florida Derby on Orb for trainer Shug McGaughey, owner Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable.

For months it has appeared that the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby, set for May 4 at Churchill Downs, could turn out to be a celebration of hometown dreams.

As many as four horses with strong local connections seemed to have strong chances to compete in the 1 ¼ classic at Churchill Downs and become the first Louisville-owned horse to win the Run for the Roses since Sir Huon.

He won the Derby in 1906 for Bashford Manor Stable. He was the last of three Derby winners produced on the farm’s soil, which is now covered mostly by concrete, a home improvement store and a location of a sprawling discount chain started by a guy named Sam.

But the chance to cheer those local hopes took a significant beating over the past couple of weeks, though one hope remains.

That home team banner continues to be carried by Goldencents, who faces a test in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby that will likely identify him as a serious contender or marginal player in the Derby 139 picture.

The winner of the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita and the Delta Jackpot has this much going for him: he is owned, in part, by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.

It’s pretty difficult to bet against that guy right now.

He’s favored to coach his Cardinals to an NCAA championship this weekend, and if he is not among the inductees to basketball’s Hall of Fame announced during Final Four weekend in Atlanta, count it as an absolute theft.

A big run by Goldencents would complete a nice trifecta for the coach and set up one of the most unbelievable years enjoyed by a resident of planet Earth if he could add a Kentucky Derby trophy to his overfilled case.

But let’s take one step at a time here and simply wish Coach P the best of luck on all three fronts.

The news is more disappointing on the other local fronts.

Reigning 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby is out of consideration for the Derby and Triple Crown races following a listless fifth-place finish in last weekend’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. He struggled to a fifth-place finish, failing to catch a 109-1 shot for fourth behind the victorious Orb and runner-up Itsmyluckyday.

On Monday, the colt owned by the Starlight Stables partnership headed by Louisville native Jack Wolf that counts Louisvillians Ed and Clinton Glasscock among its members, was taken off the Triple Crown trail in favor of some time on the farm.

“Shanghai Bobby has been at the track for 13 months and his energy level and level of performance has never suggested he needed any time off until now,” Wolf said. “It’s time to freshen him up and, if all goes well, point for a late summer, early fall campaign.”

There seems to be little hope that pro football legend and Louisville native Paul Hornung can make the Derby with Titletown Five following the colt’s ninth-place finish behind Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby.

It was a big step in the colt’s hurry-up campaign for Derby following his return from the sidelines after undergoing surgery to remove a bone chip last fall. While it would be unwise to count Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas out of anything, Hornung’s Kentucky Derby dream seems a true longshot this year as his son of Tiznow has yet to collect a point on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points system that will determine eligibility for this year’s race.

Mac the Man was another local hero, but trainer Jeff Greenhill’s Derby hopes ended when his star was eased in the run through the stretch in the Spiral Stakes won by Black Onyx.

It’s been a tough run for the locals, to be sure. But just as sure is the fact that all will keep dreaming and working toward the goal of chasing the roses on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.

If you’re looking for a local connection to follow in Kentucky Derby 139, see Lexington native Shug McGaughey. He could have the Derby favorite in his barn in Orb, the winner of last week’s Florida Derby.

Shug’s best shot at Derby success came in 1989, when his Easy Goer finished second to California-based rival Sunday Silence on Derby Day. He was based on the Kentucky circuit early in his career before he was lured to New York to train for the Phipps Family, one of the most coveted jobs in the sport.

Orb was bred and raised at legendary Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky. Another big winner over the weekend, UAE Derby winner Lines of Battle, was also bred and raised at Claiborne.

There’s a change at the top of my personal Top 10 in the Kentucky Derby 139 Power Ranking at Heading into this weekend’s “Road to the Kentucky Derby” Championship Series races that offer 100 points to the winner of the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial, here’s the list:


1. Verrazano

2. Flashback

3. Orb

4. Revolutionary

5. Itsmyluckyday

6. Oxbow

7. Vyjack

8. Will Take Charge

9. Normandy Invasion

10. Hear the Ghost