Final Derby thoughts and what Orb's win means for racing
As the Kentucky Derby aftermath gives way to Preakness chatter, the story lines for the second jewel of American Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown are becoming fairly well established with Orb's quest to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 certainly the main event.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Claude R. "Shug" McGaughey is getting the bulk of attention among Orb's connections following the Derby win, but I expect the spotlight to shine brighter on co-owner Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps if Orb returns to New York with a chance at racing immortality. Phipps co-owns and co-bred Orb with his cousin, Stuart "no nickname" Janney.
In praising his trainer not only for the Derby win but also a fantastic career, Phipps said McGaughey does things "the right way," which implies that some don't. I was disappointed that the chairman of The Jockey Club, which has incredible power and influence in the Sport of Kings, used racing's biggest pulpit to tell the world that racing has some undesirables.
That's no secret, of course, but there is no single person in America in better position than Phipps to do something about it. If there are people doing it the wrong way--as his praise of McGaughey suggested--then what is The Jockey Club doing about it? Janney, by the way, is vice chairman.
Speaking of Phipps and The Jockey Club, he is a big reason America's Best Racing exists, and his commitment to promoting racing should be commended from all corners. He used the aforementioned influence to revitalize that part of the NTRA's mission, and while that initiative certainly doesn't deserve all the credit for increased Derby ratings, it'd be tough to argue that it didn't at least contribute to it.
All that said, it will be interesting to see Orb's future plans in light of the connections' commitment to promoting racing (in addition to all Phipps has done, Janney is a lifelong supporter, Shug is always generous with his time and beloved by the media, and the trainer's son, Chip, is a Brand Ambassador for ABR).
It can only be a good thing, then, that a breeder-owner who has committed so much to promoting the sport is in control of the career of its most popular athlete.
We're told time and again that racing needs its Triple Crown stars to race beyond their three-year-old years, so what an opportunity for racing to have Orb in the hands of someone so committed to the sport's promotion. The last non-gelded dual classic winner to race as a four-year-old was Real Quiet in 1999. Charismatic, Point Given, War Emblem, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Big Brown, and I'll Have Another all retired following their three-year-old seasons; Funny Cide raced beyond three but is a gelding.
I'm not as big on the "racing needs stars" argument, but at this point a prominent Triple Crown horse racing beyond his three-year-old season would be nice just for the novelty of it, let alone the star power. It'd be great for ABR, too.