Done Talking might be the one this year.
The Laurel-based colt surely will be 20-1 in Saturday's 138th Run for the Roses, but his late-running style fits the 1?-mile race. He passed 11 rivals to win the Illinois Derby and screams for longer races.
"I like our chances," trainer Hamilton Smith said. "We're going to be a long shot, but that's OK. He's been a long shot all along. I think he belongs in the race. He finished real strong in Illinois. That's what he'll have to do there -- come off the pace."
And to think Skeedattle Stables, operated by three Clarksville, Md., friends whose Gin Talking was the 2000 Maryland-bred Horse of the Year, almost missed out on the fun. Skeedattle offered the colt at auction last year but took Done Talking back after failing to draw a minimum bid and sent him to Smith, who has won 1,644 races over 30 years on the Maryland circuit.
Smith trained Done Talking's grandsire and multiple stakes winner Gin Talking along with standouts Case of the Blues and Blind Date. Winning the Illinois Derby was a career highlight for Smith, who admitted at age 67 that he never thought he would race in the Derby.
"There's butterflies in my gut. It gets to you. It's very exciting," Smith said. "Everybody who trains race horses wants to run in the Derby."
Smith realized Done Talking's late-running style comes from the horse being a bit lackadaisical. The trainer reunited jockey Sheldon Russell with Done Talking in the Illinois Derby after an earlier victory together. Done Talking is 1-for-9 without Russell.
"Russell fits real well with him," Smith said. "He's an aggressive rider."
Union Rags is the early Derby favorite over Creative Cause and Hansen. Indeed, Done Talking isn't on many top-10 lists considering he has only one major victory. Smith is realistic about Done Talking's chances but also optimistic.
"It will be his toughest race, but he deserves a shot anyway," Smith said. "He may get his head knocked off, but he's honest."
Done Talking has some Derby lineage as the grandson of 1990 winner Unbridled. Done Talking's sire, Broken Vow, won nine of 14 races and placed in four others before becoming a successful sire of 412 stakes winners. Dam Sassy Image was a stakes-winning sprinter, perhaps a reason Done Talking's recent half-mile work has been sharp.
The Derby hopefully isn't the end of the Triple Crown for Done Talking. Smith and the owners want to enter their local leg on May 19, too.
"We definitely want to run in the Preakness if we can," Smith said. "If we didn't make the Derby, we would have pointed to the Preakness."