LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- One myth exploded, but there was a happy ending to an old story yesterday when Lil E. Tee reached the wire first in the 118th Kentucky Derby.
Pat Day, who has been the nation's leading rider four times, but never had won the Derby, finally won the race in his 10th try.
The victory came at the expense of Arazi, the 4-5 favorite and hailed as the second coming of Secretariat, who wilted in the stretch and was a well-beaten eighth.
"I knew when Pat Valenzuela [jockey on Arazi] set his horse down [near the three-sixteenths pole] and didn't blow by me that I was in good shape," Day said. "I had a ton of horse left."
Day swept by Arazi and went on to collar another long shot, Casual Lies. Lil E. Tee won the race by a length in 2 minutes, 4 seconds, the slowest running of the Derby on a fast track since 1974.
Lil E. Tee, who is trained in Kentucky by Lynn Whiting and is owned by 82-year-old Cal Partee, from Magnolia, Ark., paid $35.60, $12.60 and $7.60. Casual Lies returned $22 and $11.60, and the exacta paid $854.40.
Dance Floor, the horse owned by rap star Hammer, finished third, 4 1/4 lengths behind Lil E. Tee.
Even though Lil E. Tee got the first call away from the gate, Day said the horse had a rough trip after he eased him back off the pace during the first half-mile.
"Going into the first turn, Thyer came out on me, and for a few strides, I was bouncing off his heels," Day said. "But after that I had a clean trip. At the half-mile pole, Arazi blew by me, and I thought if he fired like he did in the Breeders' Cup last fall, I was running for second money."
Day said he pulled his horse out and followed Arazi.
When Arazi faded in the stretch, Day rallied for the win.
"Words can't begin to describe how I feel," Day said. "I'm ecstatic. A couple of years ago when Unbridled won the Derby and I saw the look on Mrs. [Frances] Genter's face [owner of Unbridled], I said that's the reason I got beat on Summer Squall. I see that look on Mr. Partee's face today. It was his turn."
Lil E. Tee might be headed for the Preakness.
"We'll take a long look at Pimlico, but the horse will tell us," Whiting said. "It just depends on how he comes out of this race."
Lil E. Tee is a Pennsylvania-bred son of little-known stallion At The Threshold and was sold privately as a yearling by his breeder, Larry Littman.
Littman recently recalled the sale: "I sent the colt to Florida to be sold. After he arrived there, I was told that he didn't seem like much of a horse. He had had serious colic surgery earlier. I was told he didn't move well and that he wouldn't ever be a racehorse. Well, I sold him for $2,000."
After Lil E. Tee won a race at Calder Race Course in Miami by 11 1/2 lengths in his second start last fall, Partee purchased the horse privately from trainer Mike Trivigno for $200,000.
The defeat of Arazi reached staggering proportions. It was the worst performance by an odds-on favorite in the history of the Derby. A total of $1,460,470 was bet on him, more than on any other Derby starter.
The colt seemed to fight Valenzuela and never settled in the early stages of the race.
The horse's trainer, Francois Boutin, said he was "trop frais. Too fresh and brilliant. This was not his style of race," he said.
"We're going home," Boutin said. "I knew he was beaten the first time they came by the grandstand."
Boutin said Arazi would leave Kentucky immediately and probably will run next in the June 3 Epsom Derby in England.
During the winner's presentation ceremony, Day, who had visited cancer patients in a children's hospital in Louisville on Friday, wore a cap given to him by one of the young patients.
He dedicated his win to the children. He received a new car from the Chrysler Corp. for his victory. "I'll keep the car, and even if I don't drive it, I'll keep it in my garage and I'll give it a few pats every now and then. I want it painted orange with a white interior [Partee's colors]," Day said.
Day, a born-again Christian, said he would donate the monetary equivalent of the car to the Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Partee has tried to win the Derby on three previous occasions. The best he did was third with Lil E. Tee's sire, At The Threshold, in 1984. At The Threshold also was trained by Whiting.
Whiting, 52, is a third-generation horseman and is a fixture at Churchill Downs, where he has trained regularly for about 14 years.
He previously had won 11 stakes there and had been the leading trainer.
There were several surprises in the race. When no one went for the early lead, Jorge Velasquez shot to the front with Snappy Landing. His pace-setting position didn't last long. Snappy Landing was overhauled by Dance Floor coming out of the first turn. After that, Dance Floor held on gamely until he was passed at the eighth pole by Casual Lies and Lil E. Tee.