Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Sports

No Kentucky Derby repeat for trainer O'Neill

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Trainer Doug O'Neill came up short in his bid to defend his Kentucky Derby title.

O'Neill, who won in 2012 with I'll Have Another, ended up with Goldencents finishing 17th in a 19-horse field Saturday.

The run by Goldencents, co-owned by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, also ended Kevin Krigger's hope of becoming the first black jockey to win the race since 1902.

Goldencents didn't have the kick to keep up with a quick field on a sloppy track, Krigger said. "It just wasn't our race," he said.

Krigger finished one spot behind countryman Victor Lebron aboard Frac Daddy. They were the first two jockeys from the U.S. Virgin Islands to ride in the Derby.

RAINY DAY: After a day of steady rain, the showers stopped just before the call to the post shortly after 5:30 p.m. The reprieve wasn't enough to help the track at Churchill Downs. The course was graded as sloppy. Only eight of the 19 horses had run on a dirt track rated worse than "fast." The National Weather Service in Louisville reported 0.20 inches of rain as of race time.

Downs grads falter: Three graduates of Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar finished in the back of the pack: Java's War was 13th, previously undefeated Verrazano was 14th and Sam F. Davis winner Falling Sky was last. … Verrazano, who edged Normandy Invasion by three-quarters of a length in the Wood Memorial on April 6, did not race as a 2-year-old because of shin problems. Not working in his favor: The last Derby winner who did not race at 2 was Apollo in 1882. … Tampa Bay Downs had an announced attendance of 10,311, and the all-source handle on the track's 11-race program was $6,091,753.

LUKAS AND STEVENS: Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens came out of retirement this year and rode 30-1 Oxbow to a sixth-place finish.

Stevens, 50, is a three-time Derby winner. He is four months into a comeback after being retired for seven years.

"I've got a smile on my face I can't wipe off. It was fun. It was fun because (Oxbow) ran his race," he said. "He got a chance (Saturday), and he fired a big bullet, and that's when it's fun, when you get a good trip in this race and the horse is giving his all. And he did."

Oxbow is trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who at 77 was trying to become the oldest trainer to saddle a winner. The four-time Derby winner had another horse in the race, Will Take Charge, who was eighth.

Orb's future: Assuming the winner comes out of the race in good shape, he'll head to Baltimore for the May 18 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown, which culminates with the Belmont in early June, but none since Affirmed in 1978.

Co-owner Stuart Janney III and Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said after the race they planned to ship Orb to New York today. The horse is not scheduled to go to Baltimore until "a few days before the race," Janney said.

McGaughey said he "couldn't wait" to get the colt to the Preakness, but Janney said he would wait to see how Orb fared today before making a final decision.

PLETCHER'S DAY: Despite being one of the biggest names in racing, Todd Pletcher has struggled at the Derby. He is 1-for-36 with mounts after Saturday's race, in which he saddled a record-tying five horses. They finished between ninth and 13th. He was trying for a rare Derby-Kentucky Oaks double after his filly Princess of Sylmar won Friday's race.

Times correspondent Don Jensen contributed to this report.

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