Saturday, May 4, 2013 was a glorious day for Maryland’s Thoroughbred connections, with triumphs in two of racing’s most prestigious events: The Kentucky Derby and the Virginia Gold Cup.

Going For the Gold

Michael Wharton's Grinding Speed wins the Gold Cup! (Photo by Isabel Kurek)

Michael Wharton’s Grinding Speed wins the Gold Cup!
(Photo by Isabel Kurek)

Starting closest to home, Michael Wharton’s Grinding Speed, with Mark Beecher in the irons, handily won the 88th running of the Virginia Gold Cup by 6 3/4 lengths over Straight To It, making that back-to-back wins for the Maryland-bred over the Great Meadow course after last fall’s victory in the International Gold Cup. The win was a trifecta of Maryland connections, as the seven-year-old grey gelding is owned, trained and ridden by Marylanders.

It has certainly been a heady spring for Reisterstown jockey Mark Beecher, with his claiming of the Maryland Hunt Cup the week prior aboard Mr. Maxwell. Indeed, the only bobble this year for the 2012 Maryland Governor’s Cup Overall Rider of the Year, Leading Timber Rider and Leading Amateur Rider was a tumble at My Lady’s Manor aboard Grinding Speed, which obviously has stopped neither the horse nor his rider (despite a broken collarbone) in their spring barnstorming tours.

A son of Grindstone, Grinding Speed was bred for the flat, but switched to the jumps in 2010, winning his first over the hurdles at Potomac that year before the pair switched to the sticks, and since then, with the Manor as the only exception, the Hunt Valley-based Alicia Murphy-trained horse has finished first or second every time. (It is no surprise to see a touch of Turn-To in the bloodlines of this timber horse.)

First Crown for Orb

Maryland connections continued to triumph, from over the sticks to around the oval, as Orb captured the 139th running of The Kentucky Derby. Although bred in Kentucky, Orb’s sire, Malibu Moon (A.P. Indy x Macoumba) has deep Maryland roots. Malibu Moon was purchased by the Pons family and originally stood at Country Life Farm in Bel Air. When his popularity began to increase, he was shipped to Kentucky where he now stands at Spendthrift Farm. Looking at Orb’s pedigree, you also see ties to Maryland-bred Native Dancer of Sagamore Farm when the Vanderbilts were in residence.

Meanwhile, Orb’s owner, Butler-based Stuart Janney III, has an equally illustrious Maryland pedigree, as his father (Stuart Janney Jr.) has won four Maryland Hunt Cups, the first in 1935 aboard Mrs. W. A. Wadsworth’s Hotspur, and then three consecutive wins in the ’40s aboard his own Winton. Janney, Jr. and Janney III have played prominent roles in both Maryland and U.S. Thoroughbred racing, with Junior having served as chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission and president of the Maryland Breeders association, and his son serving as a vice chairman of The Jockey Club and chairman of its safety committee.

Now the buzz around the news wires is all about who is going to enter the 138th Preakness Stakes to challenge the Kentucky Derby winner Orb.

To learn more…

Michael Wharton’s Grinding Speed captures the Gold Cup! (Steeplechase Times/This is Horse Racing!)

Baltimore Sun: Orb wins!

Steeplechase Times salutes Orb and the Derby

Stuart S. Janney III needed convincing to stay in racing (This is Horse Racing)


Channel 13

Considering The Preakness (Baltimore Sun)

More on Janney’s Maryland Thoroughbred Connections, from the ultimate source, The Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred

Stuart Janney shuns limelight (Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore Magazine profiles Janney

Orb’s Sire Malibu Moon and Maryland’s Pons Family (Baltimore Sun)

Maryland’s Joe Clancy in The New York Times

Maryland’s Golden Girl & 2nd Winningest U.S. Jockey Rosie Napravnik (USA Today)