That shouldn't be a surprise. Orb's family lines run back to Ruffian, a filly bred by Janney's parents out of the Phipps' top stallion, Secretariat sire Bold Ruler.
Ruffian won her first 10 races, setting new records in eight stakes. She was euthanized in July 1975 after shattering her right foreleg in a nationally televised match race with that year's Kentucky Derby winner.
That shook the family of long-time horsemen. Janney had taken his then girlfriend Lynn and now wife of nearly 38 years — they met in college when Janney asked to see her notes from a class and she said no — to Ruffian's final race to introduce her to the sport.
"It was just devastating," she said. "I remember clear as day the way Ruffian put her head on [trainer] Frank Whiteley's shoulder, and then going to wait for word from the vets."
Janney's father and grandfather were integral members of the Maryland Racing Commission, and his father won the Maryland Hunt Cup four times.
Janney focused his energies elsewhere, though. A Gilman, University of North Carolina and University of Maryland Law School graduate, he decided to remain focused on his career when he took over the family stable upon his father's death in 1988. That meant moving the breeding operation from Glyndon to famed Claiborne Farm, where Secretariat stood and Seth Hancock could manage the day-to-day workings.
"Ever since he took over, I've been impressed with how level-headed and thorough he is," Hancock said. "He has the people he listens to, and he considers that advice carefully before making a decision."
Janney said he asks McGaughey to monitor the races available in Maryland, but few end up being good fits for his horses. He remains frustrated that the state, tracks and horsemen bickered for more than a decade while the game in his home state almost disappeared.
In 1998, Janney served as the chair for a committee called together by Gov. Parris Glendening and the Maryland Racing Commission to look for ways to make the sport economically viable in the state. Navigating through bitter feuds and bureaucratic fog soured Janney on the experience, but John McDaniel, then the racing commission chair and still a member of that state board, said Janney's deft hand led to a thorough report.
"I'd have to go back and read it again, but the work they did certainly foretold the 10-year deal we just reached," McDaniel said. "A lot of the same themes are there. Stuart is simply a top-notch exec, and he cut through and found solutions. It just took a while to get there."
Staying the course
Janney will fly to Louisville on Saturday and go straight to his seats without stopping by the barn where McGaughney and his staff will be enduring one of the longest waiting periods in all of sports.
"Shug knows what to do," he said. "He doesn't need me there."
Janney is not at all disengaged. He spends his early mornings monitoring the horses in training and broodmare band before turning to his work for Bessemer. Though he travels frequently and spends most of the week away from Maryland, he enjoys that work and says he has given no thought to stepping down to spend more time on his racing interests.
"I guess I could do that," said Janney, who serves on numerous boards, including two for Johns Hopkins alone. "But I'd get bored, I think."
This week proves that the build up to a big race holds little allure for Janney. He may be a bit ornery on Friday as the tension builds, his wife Lynn said, but that passes quickly.
"If you could really pin him down and get to the root of it," McGaughey said, "he'd say how much he wants to win. But you won't be able to do that."
If Orb does not win the Derby but stays healthy, Janney plans to go to Texas on Sunday for a business meeting.
If Orb does win, Janney plans to stay.
"Sunday would be important," he said, "so we could figure out what the next best move is for the horse."