None of this heel-clicking and jumping for joy for Charlie Whittingham.

Today may have marked the 73-year-old trainer's first Kentucky Derby victory, but after half a century of sending horses postward and almost 450 stakes victories, Whittingham knows how to take things in stride. He was a picture of composure after his Ferdinand, ridden by Bill Shoemaker, got a stunning victory in the 112th Derby.

"How do I feel?" Whittingham repeated the question after the race. "I left my hat in the directors' room. And that's good, because it probably wouldn't fit now."

Whittingham hadn't raced a horse in the Derby since 1960, when his Divine Comedy finished ninth. In his only other try, Gone Fishin' ran eighth in the 1958 Derby.

"I've never been back for 26 years. If I didn't win, I wouldn't shoot myself," Whittingham said. "But I decided I wasn't coming back until I thought I could win."

Whittingham reportedly thought the Triple Crown races -- the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont -- put too much pressure on 3-year-old horses. But Ferdinand's outstanding pedigree -- by Nijinsky II out of Banja Luka by Double Jay -- and the breeding prospects for Derby winners, convinced Whittingham to enter his colt.

Ferdinand, bred at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., was special to Whittingham from the first time he saw the chestnut colt.

"He was a big colt when they sent him out as a yearling," Whittingham said. "We've had a lot of the same breeding. He had a lot of scope to him, a great female pedigree. Right away, I thought this has got to be a great horse, if I'm going to have one."

Neither Whittingham nor Ferdinand started well today.

"The first thing, I forgot my field glasses, so half the race I didn't know where he was," Whittingham said.

Where Ferdinand was, it appeared, was in trouble. Breaking from the inside (No. 1) post position, he was immediately crowded along the rail and, by the time he reached the first turn, was dead last.

"I thought we had a very good chance coming in, and I wasn't worried when he got shuffled back," Whittingham said.

"I'm not much of a worrier. That's how I keep all of my hair," he said as his bald pate reflected the bright television lights.

"I was just hoping they'd run fast up front and wear down."

Whittingham's hopes were answered as Ferdinand picked off horse after horse, finally charging ahead in the stretch guided by 54-year-old Bill Shoemaker.

"I couldn't have had anybody better on him today," Whittingham said. "We make a pretty good team, don't we?"

Whittingham was whisked off to a reception, where Gov. Martha Layne Collins toasted the winner.

"You know," Whittingham said to the guests, "that's the first mint julep I've tasted -- I'm kind of a martini drinker -- but that one tasted pretty good today."