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Saturday, May 4, 2013
Derby rains and reigns

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

So much for an exciting day at the Churchill Downs racetrack and mud flats.

Nothing can disrupt horse racing like a deluge. Horses racing through the rain and over the mud can be like football on ice. It's unlike anything else. Rain at the Kentucky Derby unsettles everything from partying on the infield to handicapping the races and wondering what in the world just finished second. "All" ran second. As is usually the case on an off track, extremes ruled the day, with late runners flying by those who acted like they had never seen a cloud before.

Some really good horses finished in the top flight. Orb could be a monster. Revolutionary is terrific even though he is unable to leave the gate with any conviction. Normandy Invasion is powerfully consistent. "All" closed with a rush to swipe second from Revolutionary.

We're supposed to learn something every day at the races. Here are the lessons from this Derby:

Orb wins the 139th Kentucky Derby
Jockey Joel Rosario and Orb powered to victory in the Derby.
Once again, the top Beyer numbers were brutalized in a major race. Goldencents, with the top Beyer number of 105, barely finished, as his wildly overconfident rider learned what it's like to race in the biggest league, not in five-horse fields in Los Angeles. Itsmyluckyday, with two Beyer numbers over 100, stopped for directions. Verrazano, with two Beyer numbers over 100, will race at a mile next time. People who rely on the highest numbers of any type get bad prices when they do win, which is not all that often at the top echelon.

Horses with experience in the rain did poorly. Of that lot, only Revolutionary did anything. The others were all wet.

Top speed and mud numbers can get costly fast.

As for horses with decent races at Churchill, only one made an impression, "All" (Golden Soul), which had a nice second-place finish last fall in a maiden special.

Here's something else to think about. It has become common practice at some tracks to place yard markers on the TV coverage -- 200 or 300 or 400 yards from the finish line, you might see those numbers superimposed across the track on television. Listen, we have enough to worry about toward the end of a race without having to worry about what that is on the ground, graffiti?

On my picks listed here on the outrageously early time of Wednesday afternoon, I had three of the top four.

If Orb, which is Bro spelled backwards, stays healthy, he has a good chance to win the Preakness Stakes in Maryland. It would help if he broke a bit better, as he and Revolutionary tend to sleepwalk out of the gate.

Speaking of good health, that's always the most important thing on and off the track.