Mike Smith, who won his only Kentucky Derby in 2005, knows it's not easy to do.
And he says you don't ever know when to expect it.
Smith's win was on 50-1 shot Giacomo.
"Giacomo was a horse that had a lot of talent just to get the mile and quarter, and the race really set up for him," Smith said. "There was a lot of speed in there, and they went extremely fast and they paid for it. It certainly helped us."
Smith said he's still disappointed over favored Holy Bull’s twelfth place finish in 1994, when he went on to be named Horse of the Year.
“It’s a tough race to win,” Smith said. “The best horse hardly wins the Derby. It’s a mile and quarter for the first time, there’s a lot of traffic and a lot of fans, things that the horses just aren’t used to. There’s a lot of energy in the air. Some horses pretty much run their race before it even starts. It’s got to be in the cards. Everything’s got to fall right, and you’ve got to have a talented horse on top of it.
“Holy Bull just wasn’t himself that day, for whatever reason," Smith said.
This year, Smith picked up the mount on Palace Malice after last Saturday's Grade I Toyota Blue Grass. Garrett Gomez was aboard Palice Malice, but had a previous commitment on Vyjack for the Derby, so a door was opened for Smith.
“I’ve seen a lot of guys pick up a horse at the last minute and win a Derby,” Smith said. “McCarron picked up Go for Gin two days before (in 1994), so I mean, it happens.
“This year’s crop seems to be real good. We’ll know more as it goes on. There seem to be some very talented horses in there.”
By Dick Downey, with Santa Anita notes