I'll Have Another chased down Bodemeister down the stretch to take the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
The winning horse in the field of 20 has significant Canadian connections. Mexican jockey Mario Gutierrez raced at Hastings Park in Vancouver for six years, while the horse is owned by Windsor, Ont., native Jr. Paul Reddam.
"I was just kind of numb through the whole race and blink my eyes and it was over," said Reddam. "This team has just been terrific."
An elated Gutierrez, celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a successful first Derby run, gave special thanks to his friends and supporters from Vancouver in the post-race interview.
Trainer Doug O'Neill captures his first Triple Crown race as a result.
The chestnut colt stormed out of post No. 19 — the first winner from that slot in 138 runnings of the Derby — and bided his time back in mid-pack while Bodemeister set a blistering pace on a hot, muggy afternoon.
"He's an amazing horse," Gutierrez said. "I told everybody before the first time I rode him, I knew he was the one."
But a record crowd of 165,307 looking on didn't know I'll Have Another had the goods until the field turned for home.
That's when Gutierrez, who moved up between horses around the final turn, positioned his colt not far from the rail and set him down to run.
The horse won by 1 ½ lengths, paying $32.60 US, $13.80 and $9. Previously the Santa Anita Derby winner, he went off at 15-1 odds.
Bodemeister with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith set Derby records for his splits, but the horse's famed trainer Bob Baffert was ultimately denied a fourth Derby and 10th Triple Crown victory. He ran the opening quarter-mile in 22.32 seconds and the half-mile in 45.39.
"I told Mike, `Look, if he breaks great and feels like running, we can win it," said Baffert, who suffered a heart attack in Dubai five weeks ago. "That's the only time I've run second where I've been happy because he ran his race."
Meanwhile, I'll Have Another was comfortably galloping along behind the blazing speed. Gutierrez angled his colt clear on the final turn and took dead-aim at Bodemeister, who was clearly in front at the top of the stretch.
"I knew we were in trouble when I saw Doug's horse coming," said Smith, who won the Derby with 50-1 shot Giacomo in 2005.
Dullahan closed strongly to finish third.
Went the Day Well finished fourth, followed by Creative Cause, Liaison, 5-1 second choice Union Rags, Rousing Sermon, Hansen, Daddy Nose Best and Optimizer.
Alpha was 12th, followed by El Padrino, Done Talking, Sabercat, 8-1 third choice Gemologist, Trinniberg, Prospective, Take Charge Indy and Daddy Long Legs was last.
Gemologist had won all five of its previous races.
The Preakness Stakes, the next jewel in the Triple Crown, will be run May 19 at Pimlico, Md.
"Maryland here we come," said O'Neill, who's based out of Southern California.
I'll Have Another cost just $11,000 as a yearling.
The last horse to win the Triple Crown, which also includes the Belmont Stakes, was Affirmed in 1978.