BALTIMORE — Stuart Janney III's family missed owning Triple Crown champion Secretariat because of a coin flip and lost a Kentucky Derby winner by selling a broodmare before she gave birth.
Now the chairman of Bessemer Group Inc., a wealth management firm, finally has a contender in Orb, this year's Derby winner and who has five straight wins going into today's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. The colt is the even-money morning-line favorite.
Janney, 64, his cousin and co-owner Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps and trainer Shug McGaughey wait for their horses to prove they are fit for the Triple Crown races. Janney has said he believes many horses are too immature when the races are held early in their third year.
"He didn't like to force them into these races when they weren't ready," McGaughey, 62, said in an interview at the barn that houses the contenders at Pimlico.
"What's been special is how (Orb) matured physically and mentally during the winter. It's astonishing. I've never seen anything like it in all the years I've been doing this and all the horses I've been around."
Orb was the first Derby entry for Janney, who never got the chance to realize Secretariat was ready for the biggest event in thoroughbred racing.
The coin flip in 1969 was between Penny Chenery of Meadow Stables and Janney's uncle Ogden Phipps of Wheatley Stable, which at the time owned 1957 Derby third-place finisher and Preakness winner Bold Ruler, the Journal of Kentucky History and Genealogy says. Chenery and Phipps went to the office of New York Racing Association chairman Alfred Vanderbilt II, where Phipps won the flip to select the Bold Ruler foal of his choice.
Phipps had pick of Somethingroyal's weanling filly, Hasty Matelda's colt or Somethingroyal's unborn foal. He picked the filly. Chenery got the other two, including the unborn foal who would run under the name of Secretariat and win the Triple Crown in 1973. The filly, the Bride, ran in four races without earning any money.
Two years after Secretariat's run, Janney's parents put their champion filly Ruffian up against Derby winner Foolish Pleasure in a match race. Ruffian, undefeated in 10 starts against other fillies, broke down after a half-mile and was euthanized the next day when her broken ankle couldn't be repaired.
Janney and Phipps had another Derby miss when they sold Supercharger, who was in foal with Super Saver, the 2010 winner, to WinStar Farm for $160,000. Phipps, 72, almost did it again when he recommended Liberty Lady be sold. She hadn't produced any great runners. Janney convinced him to breed her with Malibu Moon, the son of A.P. Indy. The result was Orb.
"I've never had a horse that broke his maiden on Nov. 24 and matured and developed the way his horse did," McGaughey said. "(Orb) convinced us he was ready when he won the Florida Derby (March 30 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach). He took us there."