This Saturday’s second leg of Horse Racings Triple Crown, the 2013 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland, carries quite a bit of irony when two “brothers”, who could possibly go off as the two top betting choices, will square off. One, 2013 Kentucky Derby winner, Orb, will be trying to make racing immortality, and the other Departing, will try to stop him.
They aren’t blood brothers mind you, but they did grow up together….sort of speak.
You see both of these horses were foaled, and partially raised, at the legendary Claiborne Farms in Paris, Ky. In fact, they shared the same paddock, along with seven other horses, for about nine months.
“They were together from Sept,. 2010 until June, 2011,” said Claiborne farm manager Bradley Purcell. “We had nine colts in that paddock and they were two of them. How neat is that? We liked both of them quite a lot. They were both very strong, classy individuals and easy to handle and had very good heads on their shoulders. We couldn’t have asked for anything better out of them. Now, everyone wants to know if they used to race each other and who won?”
“We just kind of oversaw them to make sure they stayed healthy and strong, and Mother Nature did the rest.” Purcell added.
Claiborne Farms, for which yours truly frequents quite often, is hallowed ground….you can just feel the electricity when your there.
Over the past 100 or so years, some of the greatest ever, at one point or another, spent signifigant time at the mammoth farm just outside the small town of Paris.
The list includes, Bold Ruler, Buckpasser, Danzig, Easy Goer, Forego, Go for Wand, Hoist the Flag, Inside Information, Kelso, Nijinsky II, Triple Crown winners Ohama, Gallant Fox and the immortal Secretariat.
Wait…I’m not done. How about Personal Ensign, Relaxing, Riva Ridge, Seabiscuit, Round Table and another immortal, the great Ruffian. Don’t forget about super sire Seeking the Gold or classical winner Swale either. If that list doesn’t impress you, I’m not sure what will.
Anyway, in June of 2011 Orb was sent to Niall Brennan’s farm (Florida) to be broken, while Departing was sent to Holly Hill Training Center (South Carolina).
Orb began to flourish in Florida. He showed his quality almost immediately and was well behaved. He learned, trained and blossomed both mentally and physically.
Albeit, he lost his first three races, he finally broke his maiden on his fourth try (Nov. 24 at Aqueduct), and hasn’t lost since.
Departing, on the other hand, took after his two older brothers. They were rogues and difficult to handle, so the decision was made to geld the two brothers when they were young…the same fate awaited Departing because of the similar behavior .
“I was the one who gelded him,” Jane Dunn, who runs Hilly Hill, said. “The mare could be exceedingly difficult and her foals are inclined to be that way. As Dell Hancock would like to say, ‘His mother was coming out in him.’ They have no control over their behavior; it’s the hormones that kick in”.
“He was a late-developing colt”, Dunn added. “I don’t believe he’d be the horse he is today if I hadn’t gelded him. Seth Hancock has always been very good whenever I’ve called and said we need to geld a horse. I’ve never had him tell me no. Mentally, it took him a while to come around. I always liked him once he started behaving. He just had attention deficit disorder, worrying about everything other than what he was supposed to be doing. Once I gelded him he was a different horse; very focused and professional. And he’s always been a beautiful moving horse.”
While Orb lost his first three races, Departing actually won his first three races.
Like his “brother”, he too, displayed a smooth and efficient stride. It wasn’t anymore on display when he came from behind to take the Texas Heritage Stakes at Sam Houston in Texas on March 2..He laid in a good stalking position early on in that race, yet when they turned for home, he dropped his head, leveled out and sprinted home to win by almost three lengths.
From there, he closed well in the Louisana Derby, but could do no better than third (to Revolutionary) in that race on March 30.
But it wasn’t until his last race where I believe people started to sit up and take notice.
Departing took on a large field (13 others) in the Illinois Derby on April 20. The field didn’t draw all that strong this year, but still, he showed professionalism, talent and, once again, that big closing run.
He broke towards the back of the pack, calmly weaved his way thru traffic, went 6 wide on the turn for home yet just blew them away down the lane and won by more than three lengths.
With all the other top three year olds skipping this race and awaiting other races, on paper (and from a distance) Orb looks to be a heavy betting favorite and deservedly so….but I would not be so quick to count Departing out.
Nothing like a little “sibling rivalry” in one of America’s most classical races’…you know?
Thanks for reading…