I’ve already discussed Orb and his pedigree a bit on this blog, but it’s the time of year to take a more formal approach and profile this colt’s royal pedigree, which leaves no doubt as to Orb’s ability to handle the distance of the Kentucky Derby.
You all know that I’ve been a fan of this horse from day one. Ever since Alabama Day last year I’ve been asserting that Orb is going to make a big splash as a three year-old. However, after a few losses last fall I didn’t really think he’d be in a position near the top of most people’s Derby lists as early as the end of February. He’s obviously made huge strides over the winter in Florida and now this long striding colt has a chance to give the Janneys, Phippses, and trainer McGaughey each of their first Derby wins.
Orb is by Malibu Moon, by A. P. Indy. Although fragile on the racetrack, he has blossomed as a sire. After starting his stud career for a modest fee of $2,500, he has gradually worked his way up through the ranks to now be considered one of the elite Kentucky stallions. He has shown a remarkable degree of versatility through his progeny with some displaying the stamina inherent in the A. P. Indy line and others showing the speed of his damsire, Mr. Prospector. He first rose to prominence as the sire of Declan’s Moon, the champion two year-old of 2004 and early favorite for the 2005 Kentucky Derby before an injury sidelined him. Since then, he has sired some horses with blazing speed such as the wickedly fast Kauai Katie, who is currently tearing up the track as the fastest three year-old filly sprinter in the nation. However, many of his better known progeny distinguished themselves around two turns. He is the sire of millionaire Life At Ten, winner of the G1 Beldame and G1 Ogden Phipps Stakes as well as the 10-furlong Delaware Handicap (G2). He also produced Funny Moon, winner of the mile-and-a-quarter Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), Ask the Moon, winner of the Go For Wand (G1) and Personal Ensign (G1) over 10 furlongs at Saratoga, and Devil May Care, a three-time G1 winner of the Frizette, Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks.
Orb’s female family represents of the greatest active maternal lines in the United States tracing back to Bold Irish, owned by the Wheatley Stable of Ogden Mills and Gladys Mills Phipps, and her daughter Shenanigans. Bold Irish had some modest success as a broodmare in the 1950s, but really blossomed once transferred to Stuart Janney, Jr. after his marriage to Barbara Phipps. Through her final foal, the unraced Castle Hyde, she would eventually become the ancestress of Demons Begone, favorite for the 1987 Kentucky Derby, 1992 Preakness winner Pine Bluff, and Fusaichi Pegasus, winner of the 2000 Kentucky Derby. Obviously there is residual classic potential in the family of Castle Hyde, yet Bold Irish’s greatest triumph as a broodmare unquestionably was her 1963 Native Dancer daughter, Shenanigans.
Shenanigans is famously the dam of the greatest filly of the twentieth century, Ruffian. The brilliant, but ill-fated Ruffian would never get a chance to carry on the line, but Shenanigans did produce a few other foals of note. Her best colt was Icecapade, by Nearctic, a G2 winner who became a top stallion best known as the sire of inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Wild Again, who was himself an elite sire. She also produced Buckfinder, a G2 winner and runner-up to Cox’s Ridge in the Metropolitan Mile (G1), who won or placed in 18 of 21 starts and had modest success as a sire. He is best known for fathering millionaire Track Barron.
Despite the loss of her enormously talented daughter Ruffian, Shenanigans’ female line was still given an opportunity to carry on through her one other daughter, Laughter. She was foaled two years prior to Ruffian and was sired by Bold Ruler, thus making her a three-quarter sister to her otherworldly black sibling, who was in turn by Bold Ruler’s son Reviewer. Although not a great success on the racetrack, Laughter has proven her worth in the breeding shed and makes one wonder what might have been if Ruffian had ever been able to produce a foal. Laughter produced four stakes winners, the best of which was Private Terms, the undefeated favorite for the 1988 Kentucky Derby and winner of the G1 Wood Memorial. He ended his career having won 12 of 17 starts amassing $1.2 million in earnings.
Laughter also produced three fillies by Damascus. Her 1986 daughter by that sire was unraced, but produced a colt by Forty Niner that surpassed even Private Terms in raw talent. That son, Coronado’s Quest, possessed some of the brilliant speed and fiery disposition of Ruffian, but also had the stamina to carry that speed 10 furlongs. Although he won some important sprint races early in his career such as the Cowdin and Riva Ridge Stakes, Shug McGaughey, in one of his greatest training feats, got Coronado’s Quest to stay the distance of Travers Stakes (G1) and beat Belmont winner Victory Gallop in a blanket finish. He ended his career having won 10 of 17 starts and earned over $2 million.
Yet it is Shenanigans’ first Damascus filly, Steel Maiden, to whom Orb’s pedigree traces. Steel Maiden won a couple of listed stakes and finished second in the Black Eyed Susan (G2). Her best foal was Mesabi Maiden, who bettered her dam by winning the Black Eyed Susan in her only stakes win. Her sire, Cox’s Ridge, displayed a great combination of speed and stamina on the racetrack with his greatest triumph coming in the G1 Met Mile, but also showing the versatility to win graded stakes as short as seven furlongs and as far as 1 3/16 miles. Although Mesabi Maiden was her only stakes winner, Steel Maiden also produced, through a mating Orb’s damsire Unbridled, a 1998 filly named Women’s Rights. Janney sold her while in foal to Horse Chestnut, but the resulting filly would go on to produce Suggestive Boy, a four-time Group 1 winner in Argentina, who was recently imported to the United States and is already Grade 1 winner in this country after taking the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita.
That top earning daughter Mesabi Maiden, like her dam, was no great success as broodmare, but did produce Lady Liberty, by Unbridled, who won four races and earned over $200,000. Lady Liberty never won or placed in a stakes race, but she did win a high-level allowance at Keeneland going 12 furlongs on the turf. Although that was her final win, she did go on to finish a solid fifth in the Bewitch Stakes (G3) also at a mile and a half and fourth in the Glens Falls (G3) at 1 3/8 miles. She is the dam of Orb, but did produce one prior winner, Cause of Freedom, by Alphabet Soup. That gelding was an inconsistent runner, but did inherit some of his female family’s high stamina as his biggest win came–albeit via disqualification–at 1 3/8 miles in an allowance race at Gulfstream.
This branch of Shenanigans’ family has clearly seen its intrinsic stamina accentuated by the blood of Damascus, Cox’s Ridge, and more recently Unbridled and A. P. Indy, through his son Malibu Moon. Orb’s wins in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby illustrate the huge strides McGaughey has made with this rangy colt over the winter, but I believe there’s even better to come. His pedigree suggests that not only will he handle the mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby, but stretching out to that distance and beyond may be key to exploiting his full potential.