Race of the Week 2017

Orb's Quest for the Crown

By Chelsea Lowman 

Every spring the world's finest three year old thoroughbreds journey to Churchill Downs to compete for roses, in the Kentucky Derby. With each running of the prestigious race, a new champion is revealed, and the quest for the elusive Triple Crown begins once again. This year, the weight of attempting to capture the crown falls on Orb.


On May 4, Orb bulldozed over a sloppy track to win the 139th Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths. It was the colt's fifth consecutive victory, and a very important one at that. By winning, Hall of Fame trainer, Shug McGaughey, finally had a Kentucky Derby win under his belt. For Orb's owners, Stuart Janney III, and Phipps Stable, along with jockey, Joel Rosario, it was their first victory in the run for the roses as well.


With each passing year of Triple Crown failure, the idea of a horse sweeping the Triple Crown begins to sound more and more like a farfetched fairy tale. It is an arduous feat that has not been accomplished since Affirmed ran in 1978. Since then, twelve nice colts have come close to achieving racing immortality, only to be denied in the final leg of the Triple Crown, the mile and a half Belmont Stakes. In my opinion, there are a lot of reasons to believe that Orb is the colt that will finally go all the way. The versatile colt has been impressive in his last five races, and has a pedigree that is full of class. 


Orb is a horse that was built for distance. On both sides of his pedigree, you will find exquisite bloodlines. The colt is by Malibu Moon, who is the son of champion sire, A.P. Indy. A.P. Indy (by 1977 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew) showed his ability to achieve classic distances during his racing career by winning the Belmont Stakes and Breeders Cup Classic in 1992. Malibu Moon also had talent running through his blood from his dam, Macoumba. Macoumba was by the famous stallion, Mr. Prospector. 


As if the bloodlines on Orb's sire's side weren't impressive enough, you will also find prominent champions on his dam's side. Orb is out of the mare, Lady Liberty, who is by the stallion, Unbridled. Unbridled had proved his worth by winning the Kentucky Derby back in 1990. Everything about Orb's flawless pedigree suggests that he has the ability to run nonstop. Based on that, the longest and toughest jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, should not be his undoing, as it was for many colts before him. However, before we start getting excited about the possibility of a Triple Crown winner, Orb will first have to win the Preakness Stakes.


Nine horses will likely line up to face Orb on May 18, for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. Six of those probable starters are horses who competed in the Kentucky Derby. However, many believe that Orb's toughest rival in the Preakness may be a gelding who skipped the run for the roses. This newcomer is named, Departing.


Departing is coming into the Preakness off of an eye catching 3 1/4 length win in the Illinois Derby. In five career starts, the gelding has only lost once, when he finished third in the Louisiana Derby.


Ironically, Orb and Departing grew up together at Claiborne Farm near, Paris Kentucky. As foals, the two horses would race eachother around their paddock, just for fun. Now, they will meet again to race, but this time, it won't be for fun. Both horses will break from the starting gate with a mission. For Orb, that mission will be to try to keep Triple Crown hope alive. For Departing, he will attempt to deny Orb the black-eyes susans, and the chance of sweeping the coveted crown.


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