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By Chuck Harper
Webster’s Dictionary defines destiny as “the hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; fate.”
The 139th running of the Kentucky Derby will have no short supply of destiny.
Didn’t it just seem to you that the Louisville Cardinals were on a mission to cut down the nets in Atlanta? When Kevin Ware (No. 5, remember that number) went down with that devastating leg injury, it just gave them more resolve to win the whole thing.
Kentucky Derby 139 and the 2013 NCAA Tournament have some interesting things in common.
One of this year’s Derby contenders, a horse named Goldencents, has a minority owner. You may have heard of him: Rick Pitino. The newly-minted Hall of Famer owns 5-percent (there’s that number again) interest in the horse.
In one of the top Derby prep races this year, the Santa Anita Derby, Goldencents won the race with a very fast time. His post position was No. 5.
About the same time Tim Henderson’s two dagger-like threes swished through the nets against Wichita State, the horse in the following race at Santa Anita flashed across the finish line first. His name? Points Off the Bench!
Destiny? You tell me.
In most years, I refer to handicapping the Derby as “mission impossible.” This year seems very different to the Geek. There’s a calming dose of clarity, much like the Cardinals’ run, and it can be directly contributed to fate.
I take you back to a very sad day at Belmont Park in 1975. A super filly named Ruffian and that year’s Kentucky Derby champ, Foolish Pleasure, were hooking up in what would be thoroughbred racing’s last match race.
Ruffian was owned by Maryland businessman Stuart Janney.
The champion filly gave the Derby champ all he wanted until Ruffian broke down with a devastating leg injury and had to be euthanized a few days later, despite a valiant effort to save her life.
Much like the Cards used Kevin Ware’s injury as motivation, the Janneys continued to breed and race thoroughbreds.
In 1989, we had what amounted to the east region No. 1 seed, Easy Goer, facing the western regional No. 1, Sunday Silence.
Easy Goer was owned by another prominent businessman, Odgen Mills Phipps.
The Phipps family had hired a Lexington hardboot named Claude “Shug” McGaughey as the exclusive trainer for all their horses.
McGaughey’s Derby record was nothing to write home about, simply because he refused to let Derby fever dictate his participation.
The Phipps family always seemed to have great success with fillies and mares and rolled out champion after champion. So much so that they ultimately placed McGaughey in the Hall of Fame as a trainer.
Easy Goer was no match for Sunday Silence that day or at the Preakness, losing in what jockey Pat Day still calls the worst defeat of his racing career.
Easy Goer did get finally revenge on his nemesis in the Belmont.
That brings us to Kentucky Derby 139.
There’s a horse owned by both the Jannney and Phipps families and trained by McGaughey. His name is Orb, smartly named from his sire, Malibu Moon.
Orb will have the services of the hottest jockey on the planet, Joel Rosario.
Rosario wrapped up the Keeneland meet as the leading jockey and is the top jockey in the U.S. He rode Orb in most of his races as a 2-year-old.
Due to Rosario’s previous commitment to ride Kentucky Derby 137 winner Animal Kingdom, McGaughey had to find a new jockey to ride Orb in his Derby prep races,
So, he called on another world-class jockey, John Velazquez.
Orb won two of the biggest Derby preps in the country, including the Florida Derby.
Oh, by the way, Animal Kingdom won the race in Dubai and Rosario earned a cool $600,000 for his efforts.
A few weeks later, Velazquez was involved in a spill and fractured his wrist.
Velazquez is also the regular jockey for probable Derby favorite Verrazano so he had a decision to make after his wrist healed.
He chose to stay on Verrazano for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Needing a new jockey again, McGaughey called Rosario, who was very eager to jump back on Orb.
Destiny you say? I would agree.
The stars are certainly aligning for Orb, the Janneys, the Phippses, McGaughey and Rosario.
You can throw away your systems, and whatever handicapping method you use to make your picks. They are no match for the hidden power to control what will happen.
It will be destiny that will allow Orb to win Kentucky Derby 139 at Churchill Downs Saturday.
The Geek’s order of finish for Derby 139: Win - Orb; Place - Revolutionary; Show - Will Take Charge.
The views in this column are those of the writer.