BALTIMORE — Stuart Janney III's presence at the Preakness Stakes has never been dependent on the runners in his stable. As a product of one of the more storied families in Maryland racing, being at Old Hilltop this time of year is a regular part of his schedule, as much for fun as for business.
Thanks to the colt Janney co-bred and owns along with his cousin Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, life has been jovial for the Baltimore native the past 13 days. While some of that merriment will be replaced with nervous energy when he arrives at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, Janney's latest Preakness experience has every chance at becoming one that will stand out.
Janney's vested interest in this year's Preakness goes far beyond his Maryland roots. Two weeks after his and Phipps Stables' homebred colt overwhelmed his foes in the Kentucky Derby, Janney will watch Orb attempt to advance his Triple Crown hopes when he heads a field of nine entered in Saturday's 13⁄16-mile classic.
Spending his mornings around the Pimlico barns Preakness week has been part of Janney's world "for most of my life," the chairman of Bessemer Trust explained. Thursday morning offered a new twist as the horse residing in stall No. 40 — the traditional space reserved in the stakes barn for the Derby winner — represents the first time the Butler resident will have a starter in his state's signature race.
Janney had the morning-line favorite for the 1998 Preakness, but Coronado's Quest was scratched the day before the race because of a hoof bruise.
Back then, trainer Shug McGaughey had to inform Janney to go to his children's school and inform them of the news before they read it. This time, the only information McGaughey has relayed is how continually blown away he is by Orb's bounce-back from his 21/2-length Derby victory.
"I think it's wonderful the horse is here in such great shape doing as well as he is doing," Janney said. "We almost made it with Coronado's Quest years ago. I hope (Orb's) doing just fine because my son got on a flight to Hong Kong about a half-hour ago and so it's a long way to go (to tell him) if we have to scratch.
"It's a huge sense of pride," Janney continued. "I had a lot of horses that raced in Maryland and they were stabled up here an awful lot so it's nice to be back here."
The Janney name has been synonymous with Maryland's equine industry for decades with Janney's father, the late Stuart Janney Jr., a former chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission and steeplechase rider.
Fittingly, it was the younger Janney's native roots that helped draw him toward the breeding cross that would yield the current leader of the 3-year-old division.
Orb's sire, Malibu Moon, began his stud career at the Pons family's Country Life Farm in Bel Air, Md., where he commanded a fee of just $3,000 during his initial season in 2000. The success of his early crops prompted Malibu Moon to be moved to Kentucky, where he now leads the Spendthrift Farm roster with a fee of $70,000, but his regional success lingered in Janney's mind when mulling possible mates for Orb's dam, Lady Liberty.
"That was a very fortuitous thing they did when they brought Malibu Moon (to Maryland) and he turned out to be as good as he was." Janney said. "He was an extraordinarily good stallion because I'm sure he didn't see the greatest mares in the beginning. He made his way on his own."
Improving the industry as a whole is part of Janney's mission as vice chairman of The Jockey Club. It has also become part of Orb's lofty mission.
A sponsorship deal between luxury car company Maserati and Orb was unveiled Thursday with the deal set to benefit the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation, which provides assistance to members of the Thoroughbred industry and their families.
Having seen The Maryland Jockey Club, Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and Maryland Horse Breeders Association come to a 10-year agreement last December on a plan for sustained racing at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, Janney would like to see his horses' Bluegrass home adopt similar plans for shoring up its lifeblood industry.
"If you ask people what they think about Kentucky, they probably say the horse industry and clearly Kentucky is sort of falling a bit behind all the time," Janney said. "The horse industry is so strong you don't immediately see it. But under the surface it's there and it's a problem, so I hope that Kentucky figures it out because it's really critical for the whole industry because of Kentucky's place in the hemisphere."
When: 6:20 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.