Sunday, May 5, 2013

Orb's Class Shines Through

Orb after the Florida Derby
Photo courtesy of Coglianese/Gulfstream

The best horse doesn't always win the Kentucky Derby.  But yesterday, he did.

If you want to know what a superior equine athlete looks like, look no further than Orb, who relentlessly surged from the back of a muddy pack to capture the 139th Kentucky Derby with absolute authority.  It takes a really good horse to do that.

When the equine biomechanical experts at EQB evaluated Orb's cardiovascular system for owner-breeders Janney and Phipps, they deemed his heart scan results to be "elite."  That's no surprise, given his illustrious pedigree.  A grandson of Belmont winner and classic sire, A. P. Indy, out of a mare by Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, Orb hails from a female family that has been flush with class for generations.  It's produced standouts Ruffian, Icecapade, Buckfinder, Private Terms, Coronado's Quest, and now, Orb.

Through his sire, Malibu Moon, and his maternal grandsire, Unbridled, Orb is inbred, 3 x 4, to the influential Mr. Prospector, bred on a similar cross to Tapit (by Pulpit, out of Tap Your Heels, by Unbridled).  Orb's second dam, the Cox's Ridge mare, Mesabi Maiden, won the Black-Eyed Susan-G2 at Pimlico for Janney and Phipps in 1996, narrowly defeating favored Cara Rafaela, who would later achieve Broodmare of the Year status as the dam of Champion Bernardini

Orb's dam, Lady Liberty, though never finishing on the board in stakes company, was no slouch, either, amassing $202,045 in earnings.  She broke her maiden at Saratoga at three, at a mile and an eighth on the grass, and subsequently captured allowance tests at Gulfstream, Belmont, and Keeneland during three seasons of competition.  Throughout her career, in which she won from six and a half furlongs on the dirt to 12 furlongs on the turf, she demonstrated the same late kick that Orb has shown in each of his five victories. 

Orb's Derby conquest was no fluke.  He ran farther than most of his 18 competitors, and in the final quarter mile, when it counted, he ran fastest.  According to Trakus, whose technology digitally measures each horse's performance during a race, Orb was the only runner to have accomplished his final quarter mile in less than 26 seconds; Orb did it in 25.88.  Orb also covered 80 feet more ground--the equivalent of nine and half lengths--than runner-up Golden Soul, whose official losing margin was two and a half lengths. Thanks to Trakus's saddle-mounted GPS system, we know that Orb's performance was even more impressive than it seemed.

If all goes well, we'll see Orb in two weeks, at the Preakness.  His unflappable quality dares us to dream that he could be the first Triple Crown winner of the 21st century: the second since his great grandsire, Seattle Slew accomplished the feat in 1977.   Orb seems to be that good.

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