Dinny Phipps, Claude McGaughey and Stuart Janney
Dinny Phipps, Claude McGaughey and Stuart Janney

Dinny Phipps, Claude McGaughey and Stuart Janney celebrate Kentucky Derby victory

(Photo : Baltimore Sun)


That Orb was the victor in Saturday’s 139th Kentucky Derby is already a universal truth, and besides reflecting on another outstanding product of the A.P. Indy male line, there’s not much more the scribes haven’t already told you.

What isn’t in broader circulation though, is the anecdotal stuff behind his breeding. Remarkably, for one whose former colour-bearers include Personal Ensign, Buckpasser and Easy Goer, American Jockey Club chairman Dinny Phipps, has never had a winner of America’s marquee horserace. Remembering that his grandmother, Gladys Carneigie Phipps in 1957 bred and raced Bold Ruler to victory under the twin spires of Churchill Downs, it’s been a long and frustrating haul since for the Phipps family, given that they are without peer among America’s most successful owner/breeders of the past fifty years, and that they’ve had any number of near misses. As recently as 2006, Phipps, who maintains a vigilant grip on the quality of his mares, parted with Super Charger (by A.P. Indy) while carrying the 2010 Derby hero, Super Saver, for $160,000 at the Keeneland November Sale. And with Orb, it was very nearly a case of “play it again, Sam”. More about that in a minute, but let’s recall how Orb came about.

First cousins Stuart Janney III and Odgen Mills “Dinny” Phipps teamed up to provide two of thoroughbred racing’s most distinguished families with a coveted first Derby trophy on Saturday. Janney, the Chairman of Bessemer Trust, Trustee of Johns Hopkins University, Vice Chairman of The Jockey Club and a member of the Board of Trustees of NYRA, was introduced to the sport by his parents, who raced the brilliant Ruffian. Orb’s fourth dam Laughter (Bold Ruler) is a half-sister to the ill-fated champion. “This horse’s bloodline goes back to our grandmother, and Dinnys father was instrumental in getting me to take over my parents’ horses 20-some years ago”, Janney commented. “And so I just couldn’t be more delighted that we’re doing this together. I remember when (trainer) Shug (McGaughey) was inducted into the Hall of Fame, that he said at the end of his speech, I really would like to win a Kentucky Derby for Stuart or Dinny, and I thought, well, that’s a good sign because we don’t want him laying down after he gets in the Hall of Fame”. Phipps, a retired American financier was the recipient of the 2003 Eclipse Award of Merit for his contributions to racing. “I think it’s terrific, absolutely wonderful, it’s really the culmination of my horse racing, and I am thrilled to be here today”, Phipps said.

Phipps continued, “I would like to say one thing. I started coming around here in 1957 with my grandmother when she had Bold Ruler, and there was a gentleman who was awfully nice to me, and every time I’ve been here since that time, he was always very nice to me; the last 20 years I’ve seen him at the Masters, and I didn’t see him this year. But Furman Bisher (a celebrated columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) is one of my favourite people, and Furman covered this race with distinction for many years until he died, and I just wanted to say that”.

Distance was never going to be an issue for Orb. Malibu Moon has already been represented by top runners Ask the Moon, Funny Moon and Life At Ten, all Grade 1 winners at 10 furlongs, and his first three dams are by Unbridled, Cox’s Ridge and Damascus. Orb’s second dam, Mesabi Maiden, captured the 1996 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. Orb’s dam Lady Liberty, failed to earn any black-type, but enjoyed a respectable career posting a record of 23-4-4-4 and earnings of $202,045. Orb was the first stakes winner produced by his 14-year-old mother. After slipping in 2011 and 2012, she produced a Flatter colt in 2013.

Phipps admitted that he almost lost another Derby winner. “I wanted to sell her”, he said.

“This mare had a difficult production history, and so Dinny was a little bit impatient about what was going on”, Janney revealed. “But I have to say that Seth Hancock (Claiborne farm, where the Phipps mares reside) was very helpful in taking my side of the argument because he said, ‘Look, she’s a good-looking mare, she’s by Unbridled. Unbridled is getting to be a good broodmare sire, and we need to give her some more chance”. Janney continued, “I certainly was interested in Malibu Moon, and I kept saying to Seth ‘What about Malibu Moon?’ and there was one year where he said ‘Not yet’. And then the next year, I raised Malibu Moon as something we ought to do, and he said ‘I think he has shown he’s a top sire, and we’ve seen that he is, in fact, a top sire’. And with Orb it was pretty clear that you had by far the best-looking offspring from this particular mare. That didn’t mean that we’d be sitting here today, but at least it was a step in the right direction”.

The moral of the story? Patience, patience, and more patience.