Orb and Cerro are two three-year-olds on the radar for the classics after winning allowance optional claiming races at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream the same day, Jan. 26. Both colts have similar records—two wins from five starts—and are improving types who have won as far as most classics contenders are asked to run this time of year. Both have plenty of back pedigree, too, descending from top-mares whose families have seen harder times lately. This is a closer look at Orb.
He’s a homebred for Stuart S. Janney III and the Phipps Stable and is trained by Shug McGaughey. By Malibu Moon out of Lady Liberty, by Unbridled, Orb’s direct female line has been owned and bred by the Janneys (and later in partnership with the Phippses) since sixth dam Bold Irish was acquired from Bull Hancock. The lives of the Hancocks of Claiborne Farm are interwoven with the families of the Phippses and Janneys and their shared bloodstock reflects this. The Phippses, who are related to the Janneys (Ogden Phipps is the brother of Barbara Janney, who with her husband Stuart S. Janney, Jr., bred and raced Ruffian), have stood their major horses at Claiborne and have patronized other sires at the farm, and Orb’s female family is stacked with one Claiborne sire after another until the fifth dam, who is by Native Dancer.
Dam Lady Liberty (1999, bred by Stuart S. Janney III and Phipps Stable) is by Unbridled, a Derby winner.
Second dam Mesabi Maiden (1993, bred by Stuart S. Janney III and Ogden Phipps) is by Cox’s Ridge.
Third dam Steel Maiden (1983, bred by Mr. and Mrs. Stuart S. Janney, Jr.) is by Damascus.
Fourth dam Laughter (1970, bred by Mr. and Mrs. Stuart S. Janney, Jr.) is by Bold Ruler.
Fifth dam Shenanigans (1963, bred by Stuart S. Janney, Jr.) is by Native Dancer.
Shenanigans, of course, is the dam of Ruffian, whose sire Reviewer was by Bold Ruler; therefore, fourth dam Laughter is closely related to that iconic mare. Laughter produced five stakes winners, including Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Private Terms. The latter was sired by the Damascus horse Private Account and is closely related to Orb’s third dam, Steel Maiden, by Damascus. Laughter also produced an unraced sister to Steel Maiden named Laughing Look, who produced Grade 1 Travers winner and Grade 2 Wood Memorial winner Coronado’s Quest (by Forty Niner).
The family got a little thinner over the next few generations, though second dam Mesabi Maiden won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, but Orb represents another chance for black type. He is by the Spendthrift sire Malibu Moon, a top son of A.P. Indy. Malibu Moon’s fillies have been particularly noteworthy, and they have stayed better than his colts on the whole, but the sire has been a successful A.P. Indy precisely because his offspring have adapted to the speedier climate of racing nowadays and are not particularly known for stamina at 1 1/4 miles. Orb does, however, get some reinforcement through Unbridled, plus the the A.P. Indy/Unbridled cross is responsible for Grade 1 winners Tapit (Pulpit/Unbridled), Sky Diva (Sky Mesa/Unbridled), General Quarters (Sky Mesa/Unbridled’s Song), Unbridled Command (Master Command/Unbridled’s Song), and Grade 2 winners Apart (Flatter/Unbridled) and Sheriff Pete (Mineshaft/Unbridled’s Song). Some of these stayed the Derby trip. Orb is inbred 3×4 to Mr. Prospector and 5×5 to Bold Ruler.
The skinny: Orb’s pedigree has markers for classic distances, but it’s heavily influenced with speed, too. Orb races from off the pace, apparently has very little early speed, and has already succeeded at a distance that would indicate he’ll get farther. His next few starts will tell if he’s good enough for the Derby; if he’s not ready now, he could still pan out as a later three-year-old at 1 1/4 mies, and his trainer is known for developing that type of horse. Orb made his first four starts without Lasix, but he went on the diuretic last out.