05/04/2013 10:00PM

Kentucky Derby: Orb gives Malibu Moon classic winner

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Malibu MoonJoy Gilbert photo courtesy of Spendthrift FarmMalibu Moon

Orb, the emphatic winner of the 139th edition of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, became the first classic winner for his sire, 16-year-old Spendthrift Farm stallion Malibu Moon, and adds even more glow to the luster of A.P. Indy, whose influence on the contemporary Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry continues to grow.

Malibu Moon has become one of North America’s most consistent sires across the spectrum since retiring in 1999. That he has done so is a credit to both his bloodlines and an astute decision by Spendthrift’s B. Wayne Hughes, who owned and bred the son of A.P. Indy. Malibu Moon raced only twice as a 2-year-old, breaking his maiden in his second start at Hollywood Park in May 1999, before suffering a career-ending injury.

With his stud options consequently limited, Hughes decided to keep a half-interest in his horse, and sold the other half to Country Life Farm in Maryland. Malibu Moon stood at Country Life for an initial fee of $3,000, and his pedigree—out of the Group 1-winning Mr. Prospector mare Macoumba, a half-sister to four other stakes winners—suggested his potential success as a sire. Given a full book of mares at Country Life, the young stallion made the most of his opportunity.

In his first crop, Malibu Moon sired Perfect Moon, who won two graded stakes as a juvenile, including the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar. His second crop brought champion 2-year-old male Declan’s Moon as well as Malibu Mint, who won the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap as a 4-year-old in 2006. Shortly after Declan’s Moon won the Eclipse Award in 2004, Malibu Moon moved to Dr. Tony Ryan’s Castleton Lyons in Lexington, Ky.

He has continued to excel ever since as both a sire of racehorses and in the commercial market, moving to Spendthrift in 2008. Over the past several years, he has sired Grade 1 winners Life At Ten, Devil May Care, Ask the Moon, Malibu Prayer, Funny Moon, and Eden’s Moon—all of whom happen to be fillies. He is also the sire of recent standout 3-year-old filly Kauai Katie. John Oxley’s multiple graded stakes winner Prospective, who finished 18th in last year’s Derby, was the most prominent son of Malibu Moon to establish much of a presence on the Triple Crown trail, until now. Devil May Care made her own appearance on the Triple Crown scene, finishing tenth in the 2010 Derby.

Orb hails from a female family tree stacked with class tracing back through several generations, but his dam, the winning Unbridled mare Lady Liberty, had failed to impress Orb’s owners-breeders with her early offspring.

Speaking at the post-Derby press conference, cousins Stuart Janney and Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, who own and bred Orb, said that they were generally disappointed with the mare’s produce record when her potential mating in 2009 was discussed. The mare, who won four races from 17 starts and earned just over $200,000 in her career, had produced two live foals and one runner by 2009 with little to show for it. Janney credited Claiborne Farms’ Seth Hancock, his other major partner in the game, with persuading him to take a second look.

“[Hancock] said, ‘Look, she’s a good-looking mare, she’s by Unbridled,” Janney recalled. “Unbridled is getting to be a good broodmare sire, and we need to give her [another] chance.

“I come from Maryland, Malibu Moon had been in Maryland, [and] he certainly had a reputation in Maryland but that’s as a regional sire. I certainly was interested in him, and I kept saying to Seth, ‘What about Malibu Moon,’ and [the first year I asked] he said, ‘Not yet.’ And then the next year I [mentioned] Malibu Moon [again as a possibility], and Seth said, ‘I think he has shown he’s a top sire, and we’ve seen that he is, in fact, a top sire. That’s pretty much it.”

Lady Liberty is out of Black-Eyed Susan Stakes winner Mesabi Maiden, and Orb’s third dam, stakes winner Steel Maiden, is a half-sister to Wood Memorial winner and sire Private Terms as well as to three other stakes winners. Steel Maiden’s dam Laughter is a half-sister to the legendary Ruffian, owned by Janney’s parents, and to graded stakes winners Buckfinder and Icecapade; the latter is the sire of inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Wild Again.