BALTIMORE -- Growing up, Kentucky Derby winner Orb was just another horse who fit in with the crowd. http://www.nikefreepascherfemme.com/nik ... mme-sq-31/
. Never caused problems. Never raised a ruckus. Never got sick or hurt while frolicking in the fields of Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., with his pals, or when he was learning how to be a racehorse at Niall Brennans farm in Ocala, Fla. Did everything asked of him. "A model citizen," says Claiborne Farm manager Bradley Purcell. Brennan remembers the colt did everything right. "His workouts, his focus, he didnt fret about things, he was enjoying it," he says. And wouldnt you know it: In his racing debut, last Aug. 18 at Saratoga, Orb leaped in the air as the gates opened and trailed by 14 lengths early on in the seven-furlong race. He made a remarkable recovery, though, and finished third, just 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner. "He was so far behind," recalled his jockey, Joel Rosario. "He made up a lot of ground, and I was impressed. My agent told me, maybe hes going to be a nice horse." Maybe? A few more growing pains followed, like smacking his head in the starting gate in his second race. But a two-month break allowed trainer Shug McGaughey to work out the colts gate issues, and by his fourth start, Orb had found the winners circle -- a two-length victory at Aqueduct on Nov. 24. He hasnt lost since, winning three times at Gulfstream Park, including the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, building confidence and gaining experience along the way. And then came the ultimate moment: charging down the stretch over a sloppy track and winning the Derby by 2 1/2 lengths. "I wish I could tell you back then he looked like a horse who could win the Kentucky Derby," Purcell said. "He had good size, and strength. All we do is let them grow and Mother Nature does the rest." So far, so good, and a win over eight rivals in Saturdays $1 million Preakness would send Orb back home to New York for the Belmont Stakes on June 8 with a chance to become racings first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. "I wouldnt be telling the truth if I said I dont think about (the Triple Crown), because I do," McGaughey said. "I try to block it out, but if youre in this position, anybody would think about it. Its a thrilling thought, but weve got to get by Saturday. If we do, the next three weeks will be a lot of fun." Orb seems to be enjoying it, too, appearing cool and calm around the Pimlico stakes barn in the mornings while hundreds of people are milling around, many angling for the best photo op in cramped quarters. He was the same way at Churchill Downs. "Hes pretty laid back," McGaughey said. A bay son of Malibu Moon, out of the mare Lady Liberty, co-owner Stuart Janney III came up with the name. "I like it. Every poet who refers to the moon, uses the word orb," Janney explained. "I try to name the horses to go with the mare and stallion." Orbs bloodlines are filled with champions. Malibu Moon is a son of 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, and currently is North Americas second-leading sire. Lady Liberty is a daughter of 1990 Derby and Breeders Cup Classic winner Unbridled. Still, there was not much fanfare when Orb was born in February 2010. It was a "textbook" birth, Purcell said, adding Orb was probably 120-130 pounds -- the average weight for a foal. He was among a group of eight colts who spent hours together in the same field. One of them, Departing, is running in the Preakness. When Orb was sent to Ocala in August 2011, Brennan already had an idea of what he was getting since hed been the Claiborne to chart Orbs development, as well as dozens of other horses. "He always looked good physically, but there were others that were the same," Brennan said. "At that time, its like kids on a soccer field playing around and as you get into early spring, they start separating themselves. You begin to see their athletic ability and Orb at this time a year ago was doing very well." Orb was among the first group of Brennans 2-year-olds to be sent out to their respective trainers. Also under his care at the time were two other Derby horses -- Revolutionary and Palace Malice -- and Dens Legacy, who was on the Derby trail for a while. Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, who co-owns Orb with Janney, remembers seeing the horse early on and not being overly impressed. "I think we really thought he was just a horse," Phipps said. "I dont think even Shug thought he was much better than that. But after he came back from the Fountain of Youth he came back looking bigger, better and stronger and then he did the same thing after the Florida Derby. And after the Derby. Lets just hope thats the way hes headed (going into the Preakness)." Despite Orbs troubles at the start of his racing career, McGaughey now marvels at what may be the best horse hes ever trained over a 34-year career that includes 1989 Belmont Stakes winner Easy Goer and many female champions topped by undefeated Personal Ensign. "He has filled out so much physically," McGaughey said. "I look at him and I cant believe what Im seeing from last November to now. Mentally, everything has come together. He was a bit difficult at the gate all of his 2-year-old year and thats all behind him. I couldnt be more pleased with his development." During his win streak, Orb had a new rider for the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby in John Velazquez because Rosario had a prior racing commitment. Rosario regained the mount for the Derby after Velazquez chose Verrazano as his Derby horse. On the day Orb won the Florida Derby, Rosario was in Dubai winning the $10 million World Cup aboard Animal Kingdom. "This is very good," he said of Orbs win. "Hes really getting much better. He showed it in the Kentucky Derby, and I hope he shows it on Saturday." Orb is considered a closer, but McGaughey says hes versatile. "He comes from back, but they dont have to take him back," McGaughey said. "It depends on the colour of the race. If its a fast pace, hell be off of it, but if its slow, I think hell actually be laying up close like he was in the Florida Derby within four, five, six lengths. And he has got enough of a punch that you dont take him out of the game plan when you do lay up close." McGaughey does not take all the credit for Orbs success. Credit also goes to exercise rider Jenn Patterson, who has spent as much time with Orb as anyone. She was with him in the weeks before the Florida Derby, and would make the weekly three-hour round trip drive from Gulfstream Park to Payson Park for Orbs workouts. "Without her, we wouldnt be here," McGaughey said. "Its not only her riding ability, its her horsemanship and dedication to the whole thing. Nobody will know how much I appreciate her and what I think of her and her abilities. The rapport we have between each other... I think its a pretty remarkable relationship." And because of it, Orb no longer fits in with the crowd. He stands out. http://www.nikefreepascherfemme.com/nik ... +-2-lb-84/
.com Tour Championship for a share of the third-round lead with Justin Hicks. http://www.nikefreepascherfemme.com/air ... mme-mk-53/
. Williams has won 35 of her past 36 matches, including titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics, the U.S. Open, the season-ending championship and now the first event of 2013. She already has won the Australian Open five times, and with the seasons first major a little more than a week away, shes in good shape to add another one. PARIS -- Picture this: Angered by a line call, a tennis player pulls out his phone and uses it to snap a photo of the mark left in the clay by the ball. Maybe the sort of thing that would happen at a public court, if two pals got into a tiff during a match and one wanted evidence for later -- except in this case, it was a professional who did it at the French Open. Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine set down his racket and briefly became an amateur photographer in his 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 loss to seventh-seeded Richard Gasquet of France in the first round of the Grand Slam tournament Monday. Stakhovsky plans to show the picture to the tournament supervisor in hopes of avoiding losing some of his prize money. "Im now expecting a fine, actually, so Im going to go and fight," Stakhovsky said. "I believe it was a bad call, it was a bad judgment. After all, we are playing on clay, where you should be clearly able to read the mark," he added, "and unfortunately, not all of our referees are able to do so." During the first set on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the 101st-ranked Stakhovsky hit a shot that landed right along a line. The ball was ruled out, but Stakhovsky was sure it was in. He argued with the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, who wouldnt change the decision. So Stakhovsky decided to gather proof for his case, getting his phone and walking over to where the spot in question was, then leaning over to get a close-up of the red clay. "It was just spontaneous. Its never thougght through," he said. http://www.nikefreepascherfemme.com/nik ... +-3-bo-93/
. . "When you see it, you get frustrated, because you saw the ball is nowhere being out and the frustrations comes in." Asked by a reporter to show the photo, Stakhovsky obliged, grabbing his phone from a pocket. "Everybody wants to see it," he said with a chuckle. Stakhovsky said it wasnt even the first time hed done this: He pulled a similar stunt during the clay-court tournament at Munich last month. "Munich was a very close call which could go both ways, so I didnt really bother going to the supervisor and asking. But this one is in a Grand Slam, so first of all, the fine is actually there, possibly, (and) I dont want to get it. So Ill try to explain myself. I dont know if its going to work." At a clay event in Rome this month, another pro, Viktor Troicki of Serbia, ushered a TV cameraman out onto the court to get video evidence of a ball mark he was sure showed a call was incorrect. "I saw that," Stakhovsky said, then offered a critique of the camerawork on that occasion, saying the angle was all wrong: "They came from the side, so you couldnt see the mark." Gasquet, for his part, agreed the call Monday was quite close and said he wasnt bothered a bit by Stakhovskys antics. "Its funny. Its not a problem," Gasquet said. "Hes a funny guy. I think hes one of the funniest guys in the draw. For sure, its not usual to see that, but I can understand hes frustrated." ' ' '