CHESTER - Being an underdog doesn't faze trainer Gennadi Dorochenko. On April Fools Day of this year, he won the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby with Hero to Order, who at 109-1 was the longest shot on the board and longest-priced horse in history to be victorious in that race.
And Hero to Order is heading to the post in today's Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby. The same is true for his stablemate, Macho Bull. At Fair Grounds, Hero of Order returned $220.80, $79.20 and $26.60 across the board.
His potential returns today will not be as lucrative. But Hero of Order is 10-1 in the West Virginia Derby morning line, and that's pretty generous for a horse who's already a graded winner at the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby distance.
Gennadi Dorochenko has Hero of Order (left) and Macho Bull (right) in today's West Virginia Derby. (Photo courtesy Coady Photography)
Dorochenko not only conditions Hero to Order, he owns him. The colt was a $3,000 purchase at the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Entering Saturday, he has a career record that includes 18 starts, two wins, four placings and purse earnings of $711,722.
If Dorochenko ran a Wall Street hedge fund and made profits of such magnitude, he'd have a two-floor condo that overlooked Central Park. Right now, he's content with the two farms he operates near Paris, Ky, "one of which I own, the other which I lease," he said.
"People criticize me because my win percentage isn't high," said Dorochenko, who adheres to the believe that it's preferable to spend a little to make a lot, rather than spending a lot to make a little.
Since he began training Thoroughbreds in the United States, in 1998, Dorochenko has achieved a strike rate of 8.2 percent. But at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort, it's an impressive 27.8 percent.
Dorochenko intends to deliver a one-two punch in the West Virginia Derby. Will it be enough to take down the likes of Hansen, et al? "It's a derby, a rich one, and everybody wants to run their best horses in a race like this," Dorochenko said. "You never know. It's not until they get to the wire when you find out which one is really best."
Hero of Order's accomplishments are pretty well-known. Macho Bull, 30-1 in the morning line, is less heralded. Macho Bull was a $33,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. He campaigns for a partnership, and his career stats include 12 starts, two wins and a half-dozen third-place finishes, and earnings of $60,524.
Macho Bull knocks on doors, but passing through them has been somewhat of a chore. He broke his maiden at first asking for a $12,500 claiming tag at Golden Gate Fields near San Francisco last November Jerry Hollendorfer was his conditioner then.
More recently, with Dorochenko handling training duties, Macho Bull finished a distant third in the Grade 3 Iowa Derby on June 30 at Prairie Meadows. Hero to Order finished an almost equally distant second in the event. The winner was Hansen, who prevailed in front-running fashion by ten lengths.
"But the Iowa Derby was 1 1/16 miles, a hundred meters of so shorter than the West Virginia Derby," said Dorochenko. "The extra distance at Mountaineer could make a very big difference."
Age 53, Dorochenko is originally from Krasnodar, a city in southern Russia. He came to the U.S. in 1993, he said, with $500, no green card, a very limited grasp of English and the goal of making money (which had proven elusive to him as a horseman in his home country).
For quite a while, it wasn't easy for Dorochenko on these shores, either. He lived with friends. He lived on Los Angeles streets. The years went on and he constructed his life, and his professional success, a brick at a time. He now trains "about 65 horses that are mine," Dorochenko said, "and some others for clients. Together, maybe about 80 or so.
"I try, I try. Working with racehorses is hard," he said. "You can live in America for free. But if you want to succeed in America, you have to work. America has the toughest horse trainers in the world. It's not a place to be if you want to sit on the couch."
West Virginia Derby Notes: Post-time for the nine-race West Virginia Derby card, comprised entirely of open stakes, will be 2 p.m. (EDT). The Derby itself is the eighth race, and has a post of approximately 5:45 p.m. (EDT) Fox Sports will offer live coverage of the race, 5 6 p.m. (EDT).