The $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes was supposed to be all about the Todd Pletcher trained colt, Violence, and it would have turned out that way if not for a strong rallying performance by an up and coming colt from the Shug McGaughey barn. Taking full advantage of blazing early fractions, Orb, under John Velasquez, circled four wide on the turn to collar Violence late in the Grade 2 affair, and edge on by to win by a half-length over the very game 3-5 favorite. Completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:42.24 over a fast track, Orb and Violence left the rest of the field far behind at the wire, with Speak Logistics nearly seven lengths farther back in third. Majestic Hussar, the perpetrator of the very fast early pace, held on to finish fourth in the field of nine Kentucky Derby hopefuls this afternoon at Gulfstream Park.
The improving son of Malibu Moon out of the Unbridled mare, Lady Liberty, Orb has now won three straight after needing four races to break his maiden. The Kentucky homebred for Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable got his first win at Aqueduct on November 24, when he rallied powerfully from last to win going away at a flat mile. Behind him that day was future Withers winner, Revolutionary.
More recently, Orb came back to capture a nine furlong allowance at Gulfstream four weeks ago, despite getting bounced around on the first turn. Once clear that day, he made a decisive move on the turn to quickly take command, in a performance that impressed his Hall of Fame conditioner.
For McGaughey, Orb moves him one step closer to a career long goal. Despite his illustrious list of accomplishments, McGaughey has never won the Kentucky Derby. Orb may well represent his best chance in years.
Meanwhile, for the heavily favored, Violence, he may no longer be undefeated, but he did little to tarnish his reputation. Chasing fractions that were simply too fast, proved to be his undoing, but it was a fine performance in his sophomore debut. It will be interesting to see where he emerges next as one of the many highly regarded Derby contenders in the Todd Pletcher barn.
The win here in the Fountain of Youth was worth 50 points in the new Kentucky Derby points system, which replaced the old graded stakes earnings system. Orb now sits atop the standings with his first 50 points. Violence (20), Speak Logistics (10), and Majestic Hussar (5) also gained valuable points in their quest to make the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.
The victory capped a big day for McGaughey and Janney, who one race earlier teamed up to take the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes with their excellent turf horse, Data Link. Rallying down the outside, the race favorite got up to score by one length over Joes Blazing Aaron in the one mile turf test.