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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Longshot Wins Derby by a Whisker

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky -- Grindstone won the Kentucky Derby by the margin of a nose, giving trainer Wayne Lukas an unprecedented sixth straight triumph in a Triple Crown event. But it was jockey Jerry Bailey who executed the crucial moves and saved the inches that made the difference between victory and defeat.


Saturday's finish was so close that the 142,668 spectators at Churchill Downs and the television audience could not decipher the photo finish between Grindstone and Cavonnier. Chris McCarron, aboard the loser, reacted momentarily as if he thought he had won. Lukas was asking people around him, "Did we get it?" Bob Baffert, Cavonnier's trainer, was accepting congratulations. But the photo finish camera disclosed that the victory had gone to a colt who, before Saturday, was the least accomplished of Lukas's five entrants.


There was no mistaking what had happened to the favorite, Unbridled's Song. In mid-race he surged authoritatively to the lead, looking as if he wasn't bothered a bit by his much-publicized foot problems or the bar shoes that he was wearing for protection. Just as he seemed to poised to confirm that he was the bright star of his generation, he faded in the stretch and finished a badly beaten fifth.


At first, few paid attention to Bailey, who was giving another demonstration that he is the best big-money rider in America. Somehow he found a seam in the big field and angled Grindstone to the rail at the first turn.


As Unbridled's Song rushed past the exhausted pacesetters on the backstretch, Bailey was starting to make his move from 15th place. Looking at the mass in front of him, he said: "It looked like there were 114 horses in front of me."


He put Grindstone behind another of the Lukas horses, Prince of Thieves, and let him run interference for a while. He shot inside of two tiring horses, steered outside of another one, and then went back to the rail. "I never had to check once," Bailey said.


When Lukas had had a chance to watch the films, he extolled Bailey: "This is the greatest position rider I've ever seen."


Lukas had swept last year's Triple Crown races with Thunder Gulch and Timber Country, and had captured the 1994 Preakness and Belmont with Tabasco Cat.


Lukas had so many good 3-year-olds that he treated Grindstone as no more than a fifth-stringer this spring. Few people would have paid attention to him before the Kentucky Derby but for the fact that Lukas was training him and Bailey was going to be on his back.


(For other results, see Scorecard.)