Who would have guessed that those in attendance at Saratoga on August 18 would be seeing the key race for the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes some six months later? It was the highly regarded son of Medaglia d’Oro, Violence, who lived up to the confidence of the bettors by overcoming a sluggish start to get up to a hard-earned neck victory over another talented two-year-old named Titletown Five. Bet down to 4-5 in the seven furlong maiden race, Violence would parlay that debut victory into a pair of graded stakes wins later in the year that established him as one of the winter favorites for the Kentucky Derby.
Meanwhile, another first-timer that day ran a very big race. Closing with a rush to finish third, Orb got within 1 ¼ lengths of Violence at the wire. This came after the son of Malibu Moon broke very slowly from his rail post position. It was the kind of performance that promises of better things to come, but unlike Violence, there would be no stakes wins for the Shug McGaughey charge in the coming months. A very disappointing race in his second start, in which he acted badly in the starting gate before the race, followed and the promise he showed in his debut was forgotten by many. In three subsequent starts, though, Orb has improved each time.
He now enters Saturday’s Grade 2 feature at Gulfstream Park as a hot horse for his rematch with Violence. 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. In his next start, Orb came back to capture a nine furlong allowance at Gulfstream four weeks ago, despite getting bounced around on the first turn. Once clear, he made a decisive move on the turn to quickly take command. It was a performance that impressed his Hall of Fame conditioner.
“When I came down here after he broke his maiden, I thought it was a deal where I’d get to run him a couple times and then when we got him back to New York and we’d run him over the bigger track – and that’d be his gig,” McGaughey said. “He was a surprise the other day, but he was training awfully well for it.”
While Orb will be making up a big jump up on paper, he is a horse who has plenty going for him on Saturday. Despite the Fountain of Youth being his initial foray into stakes racing, Orb is no stranger to running against quality opponents. Past performances for his short career are already littered with stakes runners and talented colts, and he has proven quite competitive. As his trainer said, he also has been working very well since coming to Florida, and certainly looks to be headed in the right direction.
Violence is the horse to beat, and will undoubtedly be heavily favored in the Fountain of Youth, but if you are looking for a horse that might be able to give him a real run for his money, look no further than the horse that began his racing career in the same race as Violence. Orb might just be for real.