The Deputy, the horse with seemingly the best chance of collaring Fusaichi Pegasus, threw in a clunker yesterday in the Kentucky Derby and finished 14th. He was the bettors' second choice at 9-2.
His jockey Chris McCarron and trainer Jenine Sahadi, who could have become the first female to train a Derby winner, were mystified.
"He never was in the race," McCarron said. "He broke OK, but he never did run a jump. I can't say it was the track because he has trained well over it all week. He usually is pulling me the whole race. He never took hold of the bridle."
Added Sahadi: "He did his best. He just didn't fire. ... We don't know why just yet."
Showing his mettle
After racing early near the back of the pack, the Bobby Frankel-trained Aptitude charged late for second. Frankel said he would race next in the Belmont, not the Preakness.
Aptitude's jockey, Alex Solis, said: "I couldn't ask for a better trip. Unfortunately, the horse that won was super today."
On his own
Todd Pletcher, a former assistant trainer to D. Wayne Lukas, saddled four horses in his first Derby on his own.
Impeachment rallied from last to finish third, and More Than Ready, the tough little colt, held on gamely for fourth. Trippi battled Hal's Hope for the early lead but faded to 11th. Graeme Hall, the Arkansas Derby winner, finished last, barely making it across the finish line.
"I'm proud of all these horse," Pletcher said. "Of course we came to win, but hats off to the winner."
Craig Perret, rider of Impeachment, said they had a clean trip.
"Everywhere I wanted to go, we made it," Perret said. "This horse has no speed, so I knew we'd be last early. We just ran out of ground."
Blue day in bluegrass
Lukas, another trainer with a multiple entry, fared worse than his former assistant. Lukas's trio finished 12th (Exchange Rate), 15th (High Yield) and 17th (Commendable).
"They ran flat today for whatever reason," Lukas said. "I was disappointed in all three of them because they all trained so well for the race. But you know, it's a horse race, and sometimes it's unexplainable."
Pat Day, the rider of High Yield, Lukas's most highly regarded entrant, said: "I had a good trip. I just didn't have any horse."
Richard Migliore, Wheelaway's jockey, didn't explain why his colt veered in sharply in the homestretch and bumped Captain Steve. But he said he was happy with his horse's effort.
"At the quarter-pole I thought I was on the winner of the Kentucky Derby, and I got the biggest rush I've ever had in racing,"Migliore said. "The winner might be a great horse, but for a horse like Wheelaway who lacks some seasoning, he's certainly no slouch."
John Kimmel, Wheelaway's trainer, said he'd probably skip the Preakness and prepare for the Belmont.
Too much, too soon
Harold J. Rose, the 88-year-old trainer of Hal's Hope, who shot to the lead but faded to 16th, said he felt nervous when he saw the fast early fractions.
"I did think he would run a little better, but you just can't go that fast," Rose said. "I guess we go back home [to Florida] with him. I don't know what's next right now."
The colt's jockey, Roger Velez, evaluated the race from a different perspective.
"He stumbled badly coming out of the gate and just about took his quarter off," Velez said. "He ripped it badly, the right front. He showed me a lot of courage running the way he did for as far as he did."
Betting on the Derby set records for on-track and off-track totals.
At Churchill Downs, $9,726,912 was wagered. Off track, $55,606,088 was bet. The Derby crowd of 153,204 was the second largest behind the 163,628 who attended in 1974. Cannonade won that one.
Fusaichi Pegasus's win payoff of $6.60 was the smallest since Spectacular Bid's $3.20 in 1979. Fusaichi Pegasus started from the No. 15 post, the first in the auxiliary gate. Four of the last six winners started from that gate.
The clocking for three quarters of a mile (1 minute 09.99 seconds) was the second fastest three quarters in Derby history.
The temperature yesterday at post time was 82 degrees. That's the warmest Derby since the 87 degrees in 1969.