Stuart Janney III is in the enviable position among the owners of
the 10 entrants in Saturday’s $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby
(G1) at Gulfstream Park. Orb, whom he bred and owns in partnership with
the Phipps Stable, is the only colt with his ticket to Churchill Downs
The 3-year-old son of Malibu Moon made his way into the 20-horse
Kentucky Derby field with his upset victory over previously undefeated
Violence in the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb.
23. The Shug McGaughey-trained colt earned a sufficient 50 points in
Churchill Downs’ new Derby qualifying system for his third straight
victory, removing himself for the late qualifying scramble in important
final prep races like the Florida Derby. Orb will run only for the money
and the glory Saturday, having already proven worthy of inclusion into
the Derby field.
Ironically, Janney is likely the owner with the mildest case of
Derby Fever of all the others with horses in the Florida Derby. He has
also aligned himself with trainer Shug McGaughey, who, like every
trainer, has dreamed of winning the Kentucky Derby one day but has never
allowed that dream to change his conservative training style.
“We don’t gear anything around the Derby. The best way to describe
it is that the horse carries you there. That may be what you want to do.
I do have a fairly strong opinion that the worst thing you can do is to
identify (the Derby) as your goal and basically kind of push the horse
to conform with what your aspiration is,” Janney said. “ If you say
that’s what your goal is, then you can’t miss a day, you can’t miss a
work. There are no days off. You need to go in certain race. I think
that’s a big reason why a lot of these horses don’t particularly perform
well after the Derby.”
Janney has never been represented by a Kentucky Derby starter, but
the Chairman of Bessemer Trust Co. seemed to have a golden opportunity
in Coronado’s Quest in 1997. His homebred colt was a multiple
graded-stakes winner at two and captured the Wood Memorial (G1) the next
year, stamping himself as the likely favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
Janney and McGaughey, though, opted to skip the Derby due to their
colt’s erratic pre-race behavior that had compromised several of his
“It was not at all tough to not go in the Kentucky Derby. I couldn’t
be any more happy about the whole thing. Shug and I completely saw
eye-to-eye on that. We weren’t going to go to the Derby regardless of
how he did in the Wood. Obviously, he did everything right in the Wood.
He just needed time,” Janney recalled. “We needed to be sure that on a
big day he could handle it all. Neither one of us had any confidence
based on the Wood in front of a relatively small crowd that the Derby
would be a good thing for him.”
Coronado’s Quest was pointed toward the Preakness Stakes in Janney’s
home state of Maryland, but a minor foot problem two days before the
middle jewel of the Triple Crown knocked him out of action. He did go on
to capture the Haskell (G1) and the Travers (G1) that year.
“We were more disappointed about missing the Preakness, but
sometimes things work out for the best,” Janney said. “Winning the
Haskell and the Travers is not bad.”
McGaughey has started only six horses for the Kentucky Derby during his
Hall of Fame career and only one (Saarland, 10th in 2002) since
saddling Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring for second- and third-place
finishes behind Sunday Silence in 1989.
Although he has the points to make the Derby field, Orb still needs
to convince his connections that he’s ready for the challenge by
offering a strong effort in the Florida Derby. He has impressed them
with his rapid development during the Gulfstream meeting, leading them
to think he might be one who will carry them to Churchill Downs.
“He is calm and takes things as they come. I think his pedigree
suggests that me might like that distance and his running style is
probably pretty good for what goes on,” Janney said. “So those are the
things that suggest that maybe he might want to do it. But we’re a long
way from there.”