Updated: March 19, 2014, 10:32 AM ET

Second place is someplace

By Steve Davidowitz | Special to ESPN.com

Who finished second to Orb in last year's Kentucky Derby? Frankly, the vast majority of people -- including ardent racing fans -- do not know the answer to that question any better than they may remember who was second a decade ago.

Everybody loves the Derby winner but once the Triple Crown races are in the books, few will remember the horse that did not get the blanket of roses in the Churchill Downs' winner's circle. For the record, longshot Golden Soul was second to Orb last year and Lion Heart was second to Smarty Jones a decade ago.

This lack of respect for the second place finisher is a commonly shared curse in the world of sports. For a few quick examples, I doubt you can name the team that finished second in the 2013 NCAA basketball tournament. Or, the team that finished second best in the 2012 World Series.

In horse racing, we praise to the skies the horse who wins the Kentucky Derby. But after a few weeks or months, most people will have a hard time remembering who almost won the world's most famous race. This despite the fact that there have been countless Derbies when the horse who did finish second was better than the winner, or at least deserved as much praise.

In a previous column that focused mostly on the biggest flops in Derby history, I pointed out that Hall of Fame horses Native Dancer and Easy Goer finished second in the 1953 and '89 Derbies respectively. But the list of truly notable second place finishers in the Kentucky Derby goes much deeper than that.



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Making the call at the Kentucky Derby

By Bob Ehalt | Special to ESPN.com

Late-night TV host Conan O'Brien takes in the view of a race caller.
Benoit PhotoLate-night TV host Conan O'Brien saw first hand how difficult it is to call a horse race.

When Larry Collmus took over the job of calling the Kentucky Derby in 2011, he reached out for advice from track announcers who had previously been the voice of the Run for the Roses.

People like Tom Durkin and Mike Battaglia told him it was like any other race. Except … that about 16 million people would be listening and hanging on his every word.

Except … that he would have to pick out each and every horse in a cluttered field of 20 without skipping a beat.

Except … that rain and mud could complicate things and turn some horses into identical twins.

Except … that if he made a mistake, he would hear about it for the rest of his life.

Yep, just a typical day at the office.

"For me, calling my first Derby was like a mountain climber reaching the top of Mt. Everest," Collmus says. "It was an unbelievable experience. It was incredibly exciting, yet it was also nerve-racking.

"When it was over, there was such a feeling of relief. It was like someone lifted a 1,000-pound gorilla off me. I called the Derby, and I didn't mess it up. It was a feeling I've never had before or after any other race."

On May 3, Collmus will call the Kentucky Derby for the fourth time, this time in a different capacity. Already the race caller for NBC's coverage of the first leg of the Triple Crown, the 47-year-old native of Baltimore was named Churchill Downs' track announcer in February, turning the announcer's booth into his office and the 140th Derby into a home game for him. Not that he'll have been at Churchill for long. Derby Day will mark only his sixth day on the job.



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• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.

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