LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Joel Rosario maximized the opportunity aboard Orb that John Velazquez passed on in the Kentucky Derby.
Aboard a horse that liked the muck Saturday at Churchill Downs, the jockey rode Orb down the outside to victory, giving himself and trainer Shug McGaughey their first Derby wins.
Rosario showed a bit more joy than the laid-back McGaughey for many reasons, the most obvious being achieving his dream aboard the horse he rode five times with two wins before Velazquez took the reins for back-to-back stakes wins that made Orb a Derby favorite.
Velazquez instead chose to ride Verrazano and ended up 13 spots behind Rosario and Orb, who earned his fifth straight win by 2 1/2 lengths. Not a bad reunion between horse and rider.
"After passing the three-eighths pole, I knew it was time to move and I can see he was catching horses really quick," said Rosario, whose Derby victory follows his March 30 win in the $10 million Dubai World Cup aboard 2011 Derby champion Animal Kingdom.
"I just knew with his speed, he was just keeping going and keeping going and I thought, 'We're looking good.' ... To win the Dubai World Cup and the Kentucky Derby in the same year, you can't believe how good it feels."
McGaughey probably has a good idea after finally winning the Derby in his seventh try and his first attempt since 2002 - especially because he switched from Rosario to Velazquez for the Fountain of Youth Stakes in February and then the Florida Derby.
While Velazquez rode Orb to wins in both races, McGaughey acknowledged Saturday that there was never a doubt who he wanted aboard the horse for the Derby after Velazquez went to ride Verrazano for trainer Todd Pletcher, with whom he has a long working relationship.
McGaughey felt even better about Orb's prospects after several impressive workouts leading up to the Derby and the apparent bond between the horse and Rosario, who started his hot streak with wins at Aqueduct and Gulfstream.