LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The California horse got the glory. Three New York horses had to settle for respect.
Wicked Strong and the New York-bred Samraat, who finished 1-2 last month at Aqueduct in the Wood Memorial, ran fourth and fifth, respectively, separated by only a nose, in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. They were 5¾ lengths behind California Chrome, who chased pacesetter Uncle Sigh until that New York-bred faded to 14th.
Rajiv Marah, on deep closer Wicked Strong, was hindered when the anticipated fast pace never materialized. Despite breaking from post 19, the 6-1 second favorite had a trouble-free trip, but with California Chrome stalking rather slow fractions, Wicked Strong had no chance to catch him.
"Going into the last turn," Maragh said, "I felt like I was in a position where if he picked it up like he did in the Wood, he would be able to get a big piece of it. He came on at the end. He was just fourth best."
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens regretted that Wicked Strong didn't capitalize on opportunities to improve his position. "I thought he ran decent," Jerkens said. "He didn't accelerate fast enough to go through holes that were opening, and those closed on him quickly. He was making nice forward motion at the end, though, and that was encouraging."
Jose Ortiz, Samraat's 20-year-old jockey, had a brief shining moment in his first Derby, moving into second at the quarter pole, only a length behind California Chrome. "As soon as I could get clear, I did," Ortiz said. "After that, I had to chase the winner, but he took off."
It was the first time in seven career races that Samraat finished worse than second. The Hamptons horse who was born in Water Mill was trying to join the gelding Funny Cide (2003) as the second New York-bred Derby winner. Trainer Rick Violette was proud of the My Meadowview Farm colt.
"I thought he ran his eyeballs out," Violette said. "He laid it out on the line. The kid rode a terrific race. No second-guessing, my horse ran a great race. The winner just was better."
Irad Ortiz Jr., Jose's 21-year-old brother, led on 30-1 Uncle Sigh for 6 furlongs in 1:11.80 before backing out of it in the first Derby for him and trainer Gary Contessa. "He got the lead and the pace wasn't fast," Contessa said, "but he just got tired."