I just watched the replay of that race (three times actually), and I'm tellin' you, it is just a Christmas present!
Ferdinand broke from the rail and was last going by the wire the first time. I wanted to watch him from start to finish, but in the replay, you just lose him....he's nowhere, and stays nowhere until about the 8th pole. Then he's just THERE....somehow closing from the OUTSIDE. Except that he doesn't stay outside.....he ducks in again toward the rail and splits horses to win going away! And what was he.....24/1 or something?
The caller was Battaglia....just about the worst racecaller to ever come down the pike, and he didn't even see Ferdinand until he grabbed the lead at the 16th. The fact is that Durkin, Denman, Dooley, Wrona, and Stauffer wouldn't have seen him either!
It's little wonder that Shoe's ride that day is generally considered the greatest Derby ride ever, at least in the modern era, but in watching the race again 23 years later, it looked to me like he was just hanging on, and if he had stayed on the outside, he probably would have won anyway. But Shoe had a runaway train in the last 8th mile in that race, he knew what he had under him, and his unparalled experience told him what was happening in front of him. He steered the runaway train toward the inside (probably hoping that he didn't run over anybody), and the rest is history.
As good as Ferdinand was, he will never show up on any "best of" lists. But his unspeakable demise in Japan leaves a legacy that's very hopeful for the future. More and more horses are being saved from the kill pens, and it's largely because of the awareness raised by Ferdinand.
He was a very good boy indeed!