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Orb winning the Fountain of Youth
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Coglianese Photos/Courtney Heeney

Orb Sets a Course to the Classics

Winning the Fountain of Youth in his stakes debut was the first step.

The Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) on Feb. 23 looked like a tough spot for a potential Triple Crown hopeful to make a stakes debut, thanks to the presence of unbeaten CashCall Futurity (gr. I) winner Violence  in the field. But Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey felt that his rapidly progressing Orb  might be up to the challenge, and he was right. Racing as a homebred for Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable, Orb was able to run down Violence in the stretch and then withstand the favorite's rally to win by half a length.

Orb is a modern representative of a long and happy association between the Janneys and the Phipps family, two families connected by the marriage of Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps' daughter Barbara to Stuart Janney, Jr., in 1936. Janney was an ardent horseman who had been the winning jockey in the testing Maryland Hunt Cup four times, and when the Janneys' interests turned to flat racing, Mrs. Phipps helped her daughter and son-in-law get started by giving them three mares. The most important of the trio was the Fighting Fox mare Bold Irish, who produced the Janney's first homebred, the Saggy filly Temerity, in 1959.

A half sister to three stakes winners, Bold Irish already had produced a nice stakes winner in The Irishman (by Nasrullah). For the Janneys, she produced another stakes winner, Knocklofty (by the War Admiral horse Parnassus). More importantly, she produced a gray filly to a 1962 cover by Native Dancer. Named Shenanigans, the filly proved only modestly talented as a racer, picking up three wins and a second in the Maryland Futurity from 22 starts. It was her daughter Ruffian (by the Phipps' good Bold Ruler son Reviewer) who would take the Janneys to the pinnacle and the abyss of Thoroughbred racing. Regarded by many as the best filly to grace American racing in the 20th century, Ruffian cruised through 10 starts against her own division with contemptuous ease before suffering a fatal breakdown in a match race against 1975 Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure.

While Ruffian could never be replaced, the Janneys received some consolation for her loss through her half brothers Icecapade (by Nearctic) and Buckfinder (by Buckpasser), both grade II winners. The former, a horse at least as temperamental as he was talented, became a first-rate sire whose male line still continues through the sons of inaugural Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Wild Again (Icecapade—Bushel-n-Peck, by Khaled) and the classy sprinter Phone Trick (by Clever Trick, by Icecapade).

Laughter, Shenanigans' 1970 filly by Bold Ruler (who was bred and owned by Mrs. Phipps' Wheatley Stable), was better than a half sister to Ruffian by blood but nowhere near her in talent, winning four times in a dozen starts without earning black type. Nonetheless, she went a long way towards mitigating the loss of Ruffian as a potential broodmare by producing five stakes winners, including 1988 Wood Memorial Invitational (gr. I) winner Private Terms, the last major stakes winner to carry the colors of Stuart Janney Jr. before his Sept. 1988 death in an automobile accident. She also produced Laughing Look (by Damascus), who, in turn, produced the best horse to campaign in Stuart Janney III's silks thus far. This was Coronado's Quest (by Forty Niner), a handsome, muscular chestnut whose wayward disposition added some gray to Shug McGaughey's hair but who atoned for his sins by winning the 1998 Buick Haskell Invitational Handicap and Travers Stakes (both gr. I).

Steel Maiden, a full sister to Laughing Look, became a multiple stakes winner before producing a dozen foals, 10 of them fillies. The best of the bunch was Mesabi Maiden, a 1993 daughter of Cox's Ridge who popped up to win the 1996 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) and placed in three other graded events. None of her seven named foals, all fillies, ever earned black type, but her firstborn, the Unbridled mare Lady Liberty, was a solid runner who earned more than $200,000 as a homebred for the partnership of Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable before retiring to the paddocks. Orb is Lady Liberty's fourth foal, third runner, second winner, and first stakes winner.

Orb is a son of Spendthrift Farm stallion Malibu Moon , the leading son of A.P. Indy currently at stud. Presently sitting atop the 2013 general sire standings, Malibu Moon is also the sire of the speedy filly Kauai Katie, a multiple graded stakes winner in 2013, and 2013 La Canada Stakes (gr. II) winner More Chocolate. To date, Malibu Moon has sired 68 stakes winners from 914 North American foals age 3 or older in 2013.

As Malibu Moon is out of 1994 Prix Marcel Boussac Criterium des Pouliches (Fr-I) winner Macoumba, a daughter of Mr. Prospector, Orb is inbred 3x4 to the great Claiborne Farm sire, the other cross coming through Mr. Prospector's grandson Unbridled (by Fappiano). He is also inbred 5x5 to Bold Ruler through Secretariat (broodmare sire of A.P. Indy) and Laughter. Neither of these duplications are particularly uncommon in high-class racing stock these days; what is rather unusual about Orb's pedigree is that it is free of Northern Dancer except for a remote cross at the sixth remove.

Orb was the beneficiary of a six-pound pull in the weights for the Fountain of Youth, but unfortunately will not get the opportunity to match up against Violence again at level weights as the latter colt fractured a sesamoid during the race and is off the Triple Crown trail. His fate points out the task McGaughey has ahead of him in keeping his new star sound and progressing, a task that may become more difficult if Orb develops the heavy musculature of his sire. When they stay sound, though, the Malibu Moons can travel both fast and far; the stallion already has back-to-back Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) winners Funny Moon (2009) and Devil May Care (2010) to his credit, and the fast-rising Orb is certainly reason enough to provide hopes that Malibu Moon will at last add a male classic winner to his well-deserved reputation as a sire of top fillies.