May 7, 2005
Under sunny skies and 80-degree heat, a near record crowd of over 156,000 came out to the newly renovated Churchill Downs in Louisville to witness the 131st running of the Kentucky Derby. For the first time since 1984, the maximum field size of 20 entered the starting gate in the 1 1/4 mile classic. As expected, Bellamy Road, owned by George Steinbrenner, was the favorite at 5-2 off his commanding victory in the Wood Memorial. Arkansas Derby winner Afleet Alex was the second choice in the pool at 9-2, while Blue Grass Stakes winner Bandini was the near 7-1 third choice.
Jockey Joe Bravo hustled 71-1 longshot Spanish Chestnut right to the front early as expected, and he was tracked by 59-1 Going Wild around the clubhouse turn and through the backstretch run. The pair set a torrid pace over the fast Churchill track, going a quarter in 22.28, a half mile in 45.38, and three-quarters in 1:09.59. Javier Castellano kept the favored Bellamy Road rated in fifth, while Jeremy Rose had Afleet Alex out of traffic trouble for the backstretch back in eleventh. Turning for home, the front runners were through and backed up, creating a logjam at the quarter pole. Bellamy Road made his bid here but felt the effects of chasing the pace and weakened out of contention by the 3/16 pole. Rose and Afleet Alex weaved their way through traffic on the turn, and, splitting horses to get by the tiring favorite, Afleet Alex had a clear path along the rail. To his outside was 71-1 bomb Closing Argument, who raced in 6th early on and was traveling well out on the crown of the track. Afleet Alex drew even with Closing Argument inside the 1/8 pole but the longshot held him at bay. However, sneaking up along the far outside was 50-1 shot Giacomo. Mike Smith kept the longshot back in 18th through 3/4 but had plenty of horse for his sustained run through the lane. With a furious rush, Giacomo blew by Closing Argument in the final strides to win by 1/2 a length, completing the ten furlong classic in 2:02.75. It was just another length back to Afleet Alex in third. Favorite Bellamy Road finished a disappointing seventh. It was the first Derby win for owner Jerry Moss, trainer John Shirreffs, and jockey Mike Smith.
Despite having five horses entered, none of trainer Nick Zito's entrants hit the board, as Bellamy Road was 7th, Andromeda's Hero was 8th, High Fly finished 10th, Noble Causeway was 14th, and Sun King was 15th. He said afterwards, "I didn't feel good obviously. I thought I was in good shape, Jerry Bailey and Javy (Castellano) had their horses in good position. I was waiting for my other horses to close but obviously it wasn't our day. I knew there would be a hot pace but we were in the clear, and I was waiting for my closers but they never came. Great expectations bring great disappointments, that's the way it goes. I'm only human, it's going to be a bit of a setback but when you start thinking about what happens in life, it's not that bad." Todd Pletcher, seeking his first Derby win, didn't fare much better, as Flower Alley was 9th, Coin Silver was 12th, and Bandini, the third betting choice, was next to last.
Winning owner Jerry Moss said, "We knew we had a good horse. John (trainer Shirreffs) kept saying he was doing really well. He had trouble in a bunch of races in California and he was waiting to give us a big one and he sure did. We're just thrilled and delighted, this is just one of the greatest thrills we could ever have."
Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "He redeemed his father (Holy Bull). I knew the first time I got him when he was two. I had to back that up and he did it today, he made us proud. I had to do some maneuvering. I got carried out on the first turn, I was able to save a lot of ground down the backstretch. When I could angle him out he kept running them down, he can run all day. I'm so numb. I can't tell you how I feel. When I stood up at the finish, all my strength left my body. Never have I had a feeling like this. This is unreal. We've never had him rate like he did today. John (trainer Shirreffs) did a tremendous job"
Winning trainer John Shirreffs said, "When he ran second to Declan's Moon and the way he loomed up there, I knew we had a horse of high caliber. I didn't see a lot of the race because I was on the ground floor. The fractions were fast, he was wide around the first turn. I didn't pick him up until the three-sixteenths pole. I saw the white shadow roll, and I thought we had a chance to hit the board. Then I said to myself, 'We might win it.'"
Results chart from DRF.