The heavily fancied Orb, a sentimental favourite in his trainer's home state, landed a hugely popular victory at a mud-splattered Churchill Downs with a come-from-behind success in the Kentucky Derby yesterday.
With late money ensuring he was sent off the 5.4-1 favourite, the Florida Derby winner was kept well out of a ridiculous pace in the early stages by his Dubai World Cup-winning jockey Joel Rosario before circling the field to hit the front a furlong out.
He went on to claim the United States' greatest race by 2 lengths in a time of 2:02.89s on a surface officially described as sloppy; the crowd figure was a massive 151,616, despite filthy conditions, reports the Racing Post.
Rank outsider Golden Soul finished to good effect to run second in the US$2.2 million event, just ahead of Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion and Mylute.
All the principals came from well off the pace in a race where Irish contender Lines Of Battle ran respectably enough under Ryan Moore to come seventh on his dirt debut.
Orb, a son of Malibu Moon, scored just once in four starts as a juvenile before really blossoming as a 3-year-old with a hat-trick at Gulfstream Park for much respected trainer Shug McGaughey, a Kentucky native renowned for his patience and horsemanship.
Although he was admitted to the US Hall of Fame nine years ago, McGaughey hadn't had a Derby runner since 2002 and had had only six previous runners altogether, doing best with the great Easy Goer, second to his arch-rival Sunday Silence in 1989.
"Means everything to me," said an emotional McGaughey, whose formal name is Claude R McGaughey III. "I've always dreamed of this day and it finally came. Thrilled for the people who put in so much time on this horse, and of course I'm thrilled for me."