“Orrrrrrb is coming with giant strides in the center of the track,” Larry Collmus screamed into the microphone on the rainy day at Churchill Downs. And that he was - Orb, soaked to the bone, was charging through the mud to take command on the storied “First Saturday in May”. Shug McGaughey stood in absolute shock as he watched Joel Rosario raise his crop in celebration and then stroke the mane of his mount in thanks for the incredible ride.
As they draped that blanket of roses across Orb’s withers, his name was entered into horse racing history.
This is his story.
Early Life (2010-2011)
Orb’s life began at a place nearly as storied as the Run for the Roses itself. Stuart Janney III and his cousin Odgen Mills Phipps bred their Unbridled mare Lady Liberty to Spendthrift Farm’s Malibu Moon.
The resulting foal, Orb, was born on Feb. 24th, 2010 at the historic Claiborne Farm. He was a beautiful colt, bay in color with one sock and a star between his eyes. Janney and Phipps decided to keep the colt and race him as a homebred.
Two-Year Old Season (2012)
When the colt was of racing age, they sent him to trainer Shug McGaughey to begin his career on the racetrack. Shug took his time with the colt so Orb didn’t make his debut until August of 2012. He finished third in a Maiden Special Weight at Saratoga and then fourth in Maiden Special Weights at Belmont Park and Aqueduct.
Finally, on November 24th, Orb flew from the back of the pack to get to Aqueduct’s wire first. The son of Malibu Moon had broken his maiden on his fourth time out. It was now time to move on to bigger and better things.
Three-Year Old Season (2013)
Shug took Orb down to Gulfstream Park in Florida to start his three-year-old season. It was there that on a sunny January day, Orb defeated a field of seven in an Allowance race.
His connections knew that he had more in him. They decided to give him a shot at the Gr.2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. A win there would mean points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. McGaughey is not one to push horses to make the Triple Crown races, but Orb seemed like he was progressing quickly.
All eyes were on Violence, who had won his three prior starts. However, as the field of three-year olds rounded the far turn, Orb was looming on the outside. Violence did his best to run away, but Orb’s momentum was much too strong. Orb flew past Violence to win by a neck.
Orb was now both a graded stakes winner and a leader in Kentucky Derby points.
McGaughey was pleased with his horse. So pleased was McGaughey that he entered his horse into the Gr.1 Florida Derby. Orb paid his connection’s belief in him off - he dominated the Florida Derby, coming under the wire with his ears pricked.
It was time for the biggest test in Orb’s career - the Kentucky Derby. Winning this race would etch Orb’s name down in horse racing history.
Even Bob Baffert was impressed with Orb as the Kentucky Derby approached. "I love the way Orb moves over the ground. He just really, really floats here,” he told BloodHorse. “This horse looks the part. He's moving great."
Orb left Churchill Downs’ gates as the favorite. He broke a bit awkwardly, but was able to settle on the outside near the back of the back. On the backstretch, Orb was in about 15th place and far off of the blistering fast pace being set by Palace Malice.
As they hit the far turn, Orb began zooming past horses like they were standing still. He emerged from behind horses and came down the stretch like a freight train, running down Normandy Invasion to win one of the most prestigious races in the sport of horse racing. The star on his face shone through the layer of mud as if to say that Orb was indeed a star.
Orb didn’t have as much luck in either of the remaining races in the Triple Crown series. He finished fourth in the Preakness Stakes and third in the Belmont Stakes. His connections were not giving up on his yet. They let the colt rest until late August and put him back on the racetrack for another prestigious race: the Gr.1 Travers Stakes.
Again, Orb didn’t seem to have the winning ways he used to have, finishing third. Despite his string of losses, his connections tried the colt one more time for the Gr.1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational Stakes. This time the colt performed even poorer, finishing eighth.
Orb was finished. He had done his job, so his connections did what their horse told them he wanted to do - retire.
Retirement & Stud Career (2014-)
Orb went back home to Claiborne Farm to begin his career as a stud. He has since produced multiple stakes winners and Gr.1 winner Sippican Harbor.
Orb’s stud fee for 2019 is $12,500.
Orb didn’t find much success on the racetrack after his Kentucky Derby victory, but that victory in itself is enough to propel a horse into the stars. His win in the run for the roses earned him a spot on the list of Kentucky Derby winners, a list that includes names of some of the greatest racehorses of all time. He accomplished what everyone in the industry dreams of having a horse accomplish. For that, Orb is immortalized.
Thank you to my Ko-Fi supporters: Amy W., Stephen A., Keryl W., Joe S., and Robin L.
If you enjoyed this article, consider supporting with a donation through Ko-Fi. Your donation helps us fund our trips to horse racing destination and purchase new equipment to improve our content.
Buy some merchandise! 5% of all monthly merchandise sales help CANTER find Thoroughbred racehorses loving homes after their time on the track is over.
Connect with Champions of the Track:
Like on Facebook
Follow on Twitter
Follow on Instagram
Subscribe on YouTube