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Perfect 10: Derby winners born, raised at Claiborne

Orb became the 10th and first Kentucky Derby winner since 1995 born and raised at the Hancock family’s Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky. The Malibu Moon colt was bred and is owned by longtime Claiborne clients Phipps Stable and Stuart S. Janney III and won the Derby almost 83 years after the farm’s first Derby-winning graduate, eventual Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox, won at Churchill Downs.

Orb and Claiborne’s other nine Derby winners were bred by a varied and sometimes-overlapping group of breeders. Claiborne’s own stamp is on three—Johnstown (1939), who was bred by Arthur B. Hancock Sr.; Jet Pilot (1947), who was bred in partnership by Arthur B. Hancock Sr. and Mrs. R. A Van Clief; and Swale (1984), who was bred in the Claiborne Farm name.

The following is a look at the ten Kentucky Derby winners born and raised at Claiborne Farm:

Gallant Fox
Breeder:
Belair Stud
Owner: Belair Stud
Pedigree: Sir Gallahad III-Marguerite, by Celt
Race record, earnings: 17-11-3-2, $328,165
Career: The “Fox of Belair” was a somewhat ordinary 2-year-old with just two wins in seven starts but did enough to lure legendary jockey Earle Sande out of retirement. Gallant Fox’s lone prep for the spring classics, and the first race with Sande aboard, was a victory in Jamaica’s Wood Memorial. The Preakness was run before the Kentucky Derby in those days and Gallant Fox won it 13 days later, again with Sande up. He won the Derby eight days after the Preakness and posted a 3-length victory in the June 7 Belmont Stakes. Turf writers started using the phrase Triple Crown during Gallant Fox’s run. Sir Barton pulled off the same sweep in 1919—even with a win in the Withers sprinkled in between the second and third jewels—and while the feat was highly regarded a name wasn’t tagged to it. Gallant Fox raced only six times after the Triple Crown, winning five times, the lone loss coming to 100-to-1 longshot Jim Dandy in Saratoga’s Travers Stakes. Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1957.

Omaha
Breeder:
William Woodward Sr.
Owner: Belair Stud Stable
Pedigree: Gallant Fox—Flambino, by Wrack
Race record, earnings: 22-9-7-2, $154,755
Career: Much like his sire, Omaha was gangly and awkward early in his career, winning just one race in his first nine tries. He blossomed at the right time for Hall of Famer James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons though and bounced back from a third in the Wood Memorial to win the Derby and Preakness a week apart, then the Withers 14 days after his score in Baltimore, and finally the Belmont. The sweep came just five years after his sire’s similar success and remains today the only father-son tandem to sweep the Triple Crown. Omaha’s career after the classics was relatively uninspiring, he won two races in the U.S. before embarking on a stint in England as a 4-year-old that saw him win two stakes at Kempton before retiring with back-to-back runner-up efforts in prestigious distance events at Royal Ascot and Newmarket. Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1965.

Johnstown
Breeder:
A.B. Hancock Sr.
Owner: Belair Stud
Pedigree: Jamestown-La France, by Sir Gallahad III
Race record, earnings: 21-14-0-3, $169,315
Career: A sloppy track is probably the only thing that stood between Johnstown being a third Triple Crown winner for Belair Stud and trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons. He dominated the Kentucky Derby, winning by 8 lengths from Challedon, but lost to that same rival when fifth in the mud at Pimlico a week later. Beaten 11 1/4 that day, the Preakness was the only race Johnstown finished worse than fourth. He rebounded with victories in the Withers and Belmont, the latter by five lengths in 2:29 3/5, a second off War Admiral’s then track record. Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1992.

Jet Pilot
Breeders:
A. B. Hancock & Mrs. R. A. Van Clief
Owner: Maine Chance Farm
Pedigree: *Blenheim II- Black Wave, by *Sir Gallahad III.
Race record: 17-7-3-2, $198,740
Career: The 1947 Derby winner, a $41,000 yearling bought by cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden, was a product of the Claiborne breeding program through-and-through. He won the Derby gate-to-wire, holding off C. V. Whitney’s Phalanx and Calumet Farm’s Faultless in the final strides. The Derby was one of only two wins that season, along with the Jamaica Handicap, and Jet Pilot was the lone Derby winner trained by “Silent Tom” Smith, who gained national fame years earlier for his handling of Seabiscuit.

Canonero II
Breeder:
Edward B. Benjamin
Owner: Edgar Caibett
Pedigree: Pretendre-Dixieland II, by Nantallah
Race record, earnings: 23-9-3-4, $360,980
Career: Two years before Secretariat swept the Triple Crown and starting off a decade graced by racing royalty, Canonero II was a true rags-to-riches story that almost seemed too far-fetched to be true. Nicknamed the Caracas Cannonball, Canonero II sold as a yearling for just $1,200 and started his career in Venezuela. He eventually returned to the U.S. and was relegated to the mutuel field with five other starters for the Derby. He closed from 18th place after the opening half to win going away, triggering what many still revere as the biggest upset in Derby history. Canonero II’s win two weeks later in the Preakness proved it was no fluke, but he was unable to complete the sweep when fourth in the Belmont Stakes. He stayed in the U.S. and as a 4-year-old defeated Riva Ridge in the 1972 Stymie Handicap, his only win after the Preakness.

Riva Ridge
Breeder:
Meadow Stud Inc.
Owner: Meadow Stable
Pedigree: First Landing-Iberia, by Heliopolis)
Race record, earnings: 30-17-3-1, $1,111,347
Career: Unlike more celebrated stablemate and 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, Riva Ridge was bred in Kentucky and not Virginia by longtime Claiborne client Christopher Chenery. Riva Ridge was champion at 2 and equally good, if not better at 3, winning Keeneland’s Blue Grass ten days before a 3 1/4-length score in the Kentucky Derby. A sloppy track derailed him in the Preakness, where he was fourth, but he bounced back with a 7-length romp in the Belmont for trainer Lucien Laurin. He was solid if not spectacular at 4 in 1973, winning three important stakes, but falling into the shadow of Secretariat. Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1998.

Swale
Breeder:
Claiborne Farm
Owner: Claiborne Farm
Pedigree: Seattle Slew-Tuerta, by Forli
Race record, earnings: 14-9-2-2, $1,583,660
Career: Swale fulfilled the dreams of the late Bull Hancock with his victory in the 1984 Kentucky Derby, the only one for Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. and the second for Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens. The brilliant colt whose only major misfortune as a 2-year-old was being in the same barn as eventual champion juvenile Devil’s Bag, later became part of the legend that is Stephens and his string of five consecutive Belmont victories. Swale was the third in the series for Stephens. Swale died just a week after that victory in the final jewel of the Triple Crown, suffering an apparent heart attack while returning from a routine training session at Belmont Park. He was posthumously honored with that season’s 3-year-old championship.

Ferdinand
Breeder:
Howard Keck
Owner: Elizabeth Keck
Pedigree: Nijinsky II-Banja Luka, by Double Jay
Race record, earnings: 28-8-9-6, $3,777,978
Career: Two years removed from the devastating loss of Swale following the Belmont Stakes, Ferdinand provided a pick-me-up story for Claiborne and racing in general when he won the Kentucky Derby. Ferdinand not only allowed trainer Charlie Whittingham (age 73) and jockey Bill Shoemaker (age 54) to become the oldest of their profession to win the roses, but also helped stalwart Claiborne stallion Nijinsky II become the first stallion to sire the winners of the Kentucky Derby and Epsom Derby in the same season. The Aga Khan’s Shahrastani completed the double five weeks after Ferdinand’s memorable victory. Ferdinand was also second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont. He was named Horse of the Year the next season, when he capped the season with a thrilling win over Alysheba in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Hollywood Park.

Thunder Gulch
Breeder:
Peter Brant
Owner: Michael Tabor
Pedigree: Gulch-Line of Thunder, by Storm Bird
Race record, earnings: 16-9-2-2, $2,915,086
Career: Purchased privately by European gambling magnate Michael Tabor late in 1994, Thunder Gulch ended his juvenile season with a win in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct and a runner-up in the Hollywood Futurity to become a colt to watch on the classics trail. He scored back-to-back wins in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby to open his sophomore campaign, lost the Blue Grass Stakes, and sprang a 24-to-1 upset in the Kentucky Derby to be the third of trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ four Derby winners. Thunder Gulch was a close third in the Preakness and won the Belmont Stakes. Victories in the Swaps, Travers, and Kentucky Cup Classic locked up that year’s Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old male.

Orb
Breeders:
Stuart S. Janney III & Phipps Stable
Owners: Stuart S. Janney III & Phipps Stable
Pedigree: Malibu Moon-Lady Liberty, by Unbridled
Race record, earnings: 8-5-0-1, $2,335,850
Career: Kentucky Derby victory May 4 was fifth straight victory and third consecutive stakes win for homebred colt. Provided Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, jockey Joel Rosario, and owners Stuart Janney and Phipps Stable with first victories in the opening jewel of the Triple Crown. Rallied from well off fast pace and skipped over sloppy track to win going away by 2 1/2 lengths. Joins Barbaro and Big Brown as third Florida Derby winner to win Kentucky Derby since 2006.

This article is one piece in a multi-part series on Claiborne Farm and its success in the Kentucky Derby.

To read about Claiborne Farm's history with the race, click here.

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