(Malibu Moon x Lady Liberty, by Unbridled)
- Trainer: Shug McGaughey (Hymn Book, Easy Goer, My Flag)
- Jockey: Joel Rosario (5th last year on Creative Cause)
- Owned by: Stuart S. Janney III & Phipps Stable
- Record: 7-4-0-1
- Earnings: $921,050
- Top speed figure(s): 97 Beyer, 101 Equibase
Background: The bay colt represents the legendary Shug McGaughey’s latest (not that there has been many in recent years) attempt to capture racing’s biggest event, with decades passed since Easy Goer came within breathing distance of capturing both the Derby and the Preakness. Orb stamped himself as a solid competitor after turning three, and represents some of racing’s oldest names with McGaughey training, carrying the silks of the Janneys (Stuart Janney III’s father owned Ruffian among others), and bred by the illustrious Phipps family.
Prep Schedule: A perfect example of why waiting and seeing is often the best yardstick for measuring Derby potential; Orb was slow to understand racing but showed some grit in his two-year-old year, debuting 3rd at Saratoga in a race won by Violence after breaking slowly from the gate and trailing. After misbehaving and enduring more trouble, he broke his maiden on his 4th try at Aqueduct in December, ousting the talented Freedom Child and Revolutionary going a mile. As a three-year-old he has won three straight and all at Gulfstream including the Florida Derby (I) and the Fountain of Youth (II) preps. With two comfortable, confident-looking wins at 9 furlongs, Orb remains right on track.
Pedigree: Sire Malibu Moon— by A.P. Indy and out of a nice Mr. Prospector mare— had a very short-lived career but has spawned plenty of routers as well as sprinters in a successful stud career. Dam Lady Liberty is by Unbridled, who is quickly becoming a top broodmare sire (G1 winners Shackleford, Tapit, Dream Rush) and major influencer in the three-year-old classics (traced in Real Quiet, Victory Gallop, Empire Maker, Red Bullet, and more). Lady Liberty’s dam Mesabi Maiden won the Black Eyed Susan (lI). TrueNicks Rating: A, Variant 2.65
Running Style: Off-the-pace
Pros: Orb appears to be a safe sell all around, with McGaughey representing some of the best training outfits in the country despite not having a lot of Derby contenders. Orb appears to be peaking right on time and runs well within himself to extend to 10 furlongs.
Cons: Regular rider Johnny V breaks up with Orb in favor of the brilliantly fast Verrazano, which may give that horse a tactical advantage over Orb. Orb also favors an off-the-pace running style, which a lot of other horses are looking to get which could lead to cramped conditions. Also worth noting: filly Dreaming of Julia scampered 9 furlongs in 1:48.97 while Orb took 1:50.87— about a 10-length difference.
Final Word: Likely to be the second favorite to Verrazano in the betting, Orb should have a place in everyone’s top 5 picks, doing little wrong since the start of the year with room to grow after defeating several worthy horses on the trail already. He has talent, the right connections, and above all, the right fitness and mentality to get the job done.