Stuart Janney III, co-owner of Kentucky Derby winner Orb, has not even been able to see his colt since the historic run at Churchill Downs.
The chairman of the Bessemer Trust spent the early part of this week in Texas for meetings, then convened with board members early Wednesday and Thursday in New York for discussions that prevented him from slipping away to the Belmont Park barns.
Not that Janney has been lacking for updates on Orb, who took the mile-and-a-quarter Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths with a stretch run through the muck. Trainer Shug McGaughey has been mobbed with media requests.
"I tell Shug I don't even need him to call anymore," Janney, a Butler resident, said Thursday from New York as he prepared to take a flight back to Baltimore. "I can watch all kinds of videos of him and the horse on the Internet. He doesn't even need to bother talking to me."
Orb, son of one-time Maryland stallion Malibu Moon, continues training well in rainy weather at Belmont. He went out on a sloppy track Thursday, jogging about a half a mile and galloping another mile.
"[Exercise rider] Jenn [Patterson] said he was kind of bucking and playing and jumping the water puddles on the backstretch," McGaughey said. "I was pleased with what I saw. His energy level is right where you'd want it to be on Thursday after Saturday."
McGaughey is now looking to ship Orb to Pimlico Race Course on Monday after a breeze in New York.
"That was one of the routes we had been thinking about," Janney said. "It's important to get him there to get him accustomed to all the surroundings and the track and all of that."
Janney said he plans to spend his weekend "decompressing" from the Kentucky Derby experience. He's received more than 600 congratulatory emails and hundreds of calls and texts. He spent free moments this week talking with reporters and radio hosts, a rare turn in the spotlight for the leader of a historic — but conservative, in racing philosophy and self-promotion — stable.
Janney, who took over his parents' stable at his uncle Ogden Phipps' urging, has emerged as a top breeder and often speaks of the sport in an analytical way that sets him apart from owners who shell out large payments for top horses to chase Triple Crown dreams.
But winning the Kentucky Derby can cut through even the most stoic of men.
"It's an extraordinary event," Janney said. "I was just talking about that with a friend. You can sort of wonder about why it matters so much. But with so many people watching, paying attention to what's going on, all the drama, it is interesting to be at the center. It probably affects you more than you realize."
Janney will again fly to Texas early next week, and then spend Wednesday in New York before catching up with Orb and McGaughey in Baltimore later that night. He'll help to host the Phipps family — his cousin Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps is the co-owner — to Baltimore but said no extravagant parties are planned. His son Matt, a Gilman graduate, will fly in from Hong Kong, where he works in real estate.
"We're all excited to see how the horse can do," he said.
McGaughey has spent the week trying to let Orb recover from the grueling Derby run, focusing at least as much on changing the colt's mindset as letting him recuperate physically. Monday's breeze — a short workout in which the horse is given only mild guidance by the rider — should signal to him that another race is coming.
"We just want to put him back in the game," McGaughey said. "We don't need anything fast, just something that puts his mind back on what he's doing. Then, we'll get him to Pimlico and get him acclimated. There's not much else we can do."
Janney, the Phipps family and McGaughey have developed a reputation for bringing their 3-year-olds along slowly and would generally not run a horse back two weeks later. McGaughey would prefer to have a longer period in which to prepare Orb for another run, but still feels the colt can deliver in the mile-and-three-sixteenths Preakness on May 18.
"You've just got to hope you haven't drained your horse over the winter with prep races and his training, so he can bounce out of a big race like he had on Derby day," he said. "But I think we'll be fine."
Orb has won his last five races dating back to Nov. 24.
Notes: Goldencents remains the only Preakness hopeful currently stabled at Pimlico. The Doug O'Neill-trained colt, 17th in the Kentucky Derby, returned to the track for the first time Thursday and jogged. "He was smooth, graceful on the track, and relaxed," jockey Kevin Krigger said. "That's all the factors you're looking for." … There are still only seven confirmed starters for the Preakness. That would be the smallest field since seven ran in 1986, but five horses, including Derby finishers Normandy Invasion (fourth) and Mylute (fifth), are still listed as possible, and others are likely to emerge if those top-flight horses decide to skip the trip to Baltimore.
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