Welcome to another installment of this week in Curlin babies: all the news that’s fit to print about Blinkers Off’s favourite sire. Last week’s highlights include Palace Malice winning the Grade II New Orleans Handicap in dazzling fashion, as well as J to the Croft breaking his maiden at first asking as the longest shot in the field. Big races this coming week includes Please Explain trying to punch her ticket to the Oaks in the Fantasy Stakes (GIII), the undefeated Diversy Harbor taking her first shot at graded company in the Providencia (GIII), and Flash Forward facing none other than the fabulous Princess of Sylmar (not a Curlin baby, but another personal favourite of Blinkers Off…) in the Cat Cay!
- Air Squadron (Air France, by French Deputy) – March 29, Air Squadron finished 5th beaten 9 lengths in a 1 mile 70 yard N1X allowance at Fair Grounds. The four-year-old colt had been on the main track only list, and got into the gate since the race was pulled off the turf. He spent most of the race amid the pack chasing Coneyo Fontova’s pace, though that 12 post he drew ended up leading him to be very wide through the turns. He wasn’t able to find a late kick, and though he faded less than some others, he couldn’t contend with the late closing kick of winner Eriugena (IRE), or even third-place longshot Purgenality. It’s his second-straight fifth place finish after breaking his maiden in his ninth start.
- Charlie A (Seresa’s Spirit, by Rahy) and Danalin (Danaway, by Giant’s Causeway) – Both of these horses raced in an N1X allowance optional claimer at Gulfstream on March 29, over seven and a half furlongs on the turf. They were both near the back early: Danalin down along the rail, and Charlie A outside a bit. Charlie A made a wide move through the far turn but could not sustain it; she finished 9th beaten 8 3/4 lengths. This was her third career race, and her second at this level after a first-out maiden win at this distance in January. Danalin was caught in traffic coming down into the stretch, but finally found racing room. She was flying up the rail as the wire approached, but it was too little too late; Danalin crossed the wire 4th, 3 3/4 lengths behind winner Daring Kathy. This was Danalin’s fifth straight finish at either third or fourth after breaking her maiden at first asking.
- Inmyfathersimage (Friendly Michelle, by Artax) – On April 2, Inmyfathersimage ran 3rd in a $25,000 claiming race at Aqueduct, at a mile over the outer dirt. He broke a step slow, settled back, but started making a wide move through the far turn. He was unable to catch Beeliner, who made a beeline to the front and led wire to wire. He did make it up far enough for a short duel with second-place Saturday Appeal before checking in third. The four-year-old gelding finished 3 1/2 lengths behind Beeliner, and 1/2 length behind the slightly re-rallying Saturday Appeal. He was trained by Rudy Rodriguez and owned by MAT Stables, Inc. going into the race, but was also the only horse claimed out of it. He is now trained by Yvon Belsoeur, and owned by Bruno Schickedanz.
- J to the Croft (A to the Croft, by Menifee) – This three-year-old colt raced for the first time on April 2, in a six-furlong maiden special at Aqueduct. 5-1 on the morning line, he slipped to 16.6-1 by post time. This made him the longest shot in a field of six — but, no matter. He won at first asking. He bolted along the rail to battle for the lead, fought head and head with Cashmere Cat and (briefly) Vona, and shook clear coming into the stretch. Cost Affective came flying on the outside with a closing run, but J to the Croft had enough to keep his head in front at the wire.
- Larrymoeandcurlin (Sally Bowles (SAF), by London News (SAF)) – Just a week after his last start, Larrymoeandcurlin returned in a 1 1/16 mile maiden special weight at Turfway; he finished 7th beaten 15 1/2 lengths. His start was terrible; coming out of the gate, Sin Cara bumped into him so hard that Sin Cara’s jockey lost an iron, though managed to stay on the horse. He settled about a dozen lengths behind the field, but didn’t fire to make up ground. The three-year-old gelding has now made five starts, three in the last month. He has never hit the board. I expect at least another shot in maiden special company at a route distance, given the absolutely dismal start he had here, but if something doesn’t change soon he may need a new surface or some class relief.
- Lynx (Silver Bird, by Lit de Justice) – In his first time on the track in almost two months, Lynx finished 6th beaten 21 1/2 lengths in a 1 1/16 mile maiden special weight on the Gulfstream dirt. As has been the story at Gulfstream this meet, early speed was good; the same three closely packed horses traded first, second, and third positions the entire race. Lynx was in the pack, which chased the three leaders from almost half a dozen lengths behind, but never could muster a move to distinguish himself and challenge the front. The pack fell to over a dozen back from the leading three, and Lynx stayed with it to the wire. This was Lynx’s second race at Gulfstream at this distance; before that the Ontario-bred had only raced at Woodbine. I was hoping to see a little better from him given how close he was to Ring Weekend his last out (which was also off another approximately two-month lay), but he just didn’t have it compared to that top echelon.
- Oso Smart (Duchess Zea, by Ascot Knight) – On his March 30 return to maiden special weight company from two tries in maiden claimers, Oso Smart finished 3rd beaten 3/4 length at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita turf. He stalked the leaders from a few lengths back going into the backstretch, and took the lead from them as they tired approaching the far turn. Pantera Rojo moved up to challenge through the far turn, and down the stretch Oso Smart grudgingly gave way. Life’s Journey’s closing run was enough to get his neck in front of Pantera Rojo and win the race, but Oso Smart was able to continue on gamely enough to repel the rest of the field and hang onto the show. This wasn’t a win, but it was tougher, grittier, and better than I was expecting to see on a return to maiden specials from two losses in the claiming ranks.
- Palace Malice (Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem) – This race was already discussed here on Sunday, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. He came, he saw, he conquered Normandy Invasion and the rest of the field in the New Orleans Handicap (GII). He has started his four-year-old year with a gritty win in the mile-long Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII), and followed it up with this win by daylight at a mile and an eighth. Things are looking fantastic for him so far; it’s hard to imagine a better standard-bearer for the Curlin babies on the racetrack.
- Sheikinator (Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union) – On April 3, Sheikinator finished 6th beaten 7 1/4 lengths in an N2L allowance at 1 1/16 miles on the Oaklawn dirt. It was his second race off his post-CashCall Futurity layoff. He was back early, six or eight lengths behind the pace being set by Mysterious Circle and Chairman Crooks, but never made a huge dent in that. He remained a handful of lengths off the lead throughout. He never made any serious challenge against the lead, though he was able to pass the tiring leaders and a couple of other tiring horses. It was a somewhat even run, when he needed a kick — similar in that regard to his fifth place finish three weeks ago in his first race off the lay. It does seem from his maiden win that he likes to have one late run, but he just hasn’t fired at all in these last three races. It’s hard to tell whether he needs to try a different style, or find some class relief.
- Woelf Den (Gorgeous Goose, by Mongoose) – On April 3, Woelf Den returned to Aqueduct after two races down at Laurel, in an N1X allowance optional claimer at a mile in the dirt. The three-year-old colt finished fourth, beaten five lengths. He stalked along the rail a couple lengths back early, and then went outside to make a move toward the leaders through the far turn. (Moving out like that seemed baffling — he had the rail, and it would have probably made more sense to stay on that rail and make the move on the stretch instead.) That being done, he challenged briefly, bore out into the closing Peter Island on the stretch, and didn’t have enough left to challenge the winner, Life In Shambles. In fact, his bump may have cost Peter Island the win; Peter Island only missed Life In Shambles by a neck. As for Woelf Den, I’m hoping to see a better ride, with possibly a different jockey, next out. That seems a questionable proposition, though, as Eddie Castro rode him all three times at Aqueduct before his move to Laurel for the winter.
- Curlin’s Kid (Lucette, by Dayjur) – Curlin’s Kid is slated to run a maiden special weight at Pimlico on April 6. He drew the rail in a field of six. The race is a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt. This three-year-old colt has run a mile and a sixteenth once before; he finished a well-beaten second. That race was a maiden special at Laurel back in December. This will be Curlin’s Kid’s first race at Pimlico.
- Diversy Harbor (Motokiks, by Storm Cat) – The undefeated Diversy Harbor takes her first shot at a graded stakes — and her first past a mile — on April 5. She drew the 8 slot of 10 in the nine-furlong Providencia (GIII) on the Santa Anita turf. She has raced twice before, a maiden win at 6.5 furlongs and a win in the China Doll at a mile. This will be the smallest field this three-year-old filly has faced to date, though the gate draw will be nothing new. She has drawn similarly outside gates in both of her previous races: the 9 in her maiden win, and the 8 in the China Doll. Diversy Harbor will be a rematch in the Providencia with the second- and third-place horses from the China Doll, Nashoba’s Gold and Tiz Kissable.
- Flash Forward (Magical Flash, by Miswaki) – This four-year-old filly makes her third start of the year in the Cat Cay stakes at Aqueduct on April 6. She breaks from the rail. Her last time out, she finished third in the Top Flight Handicap on March 1, 2 1/2 lengths behind Teen Pauline and just a nose behind Centring. That race was at a mile and a sixteenth; Flash Forward dials back to a mile on the Aqueduct outer dirt here. This field is particularly notable because of the horse breaking from the 3 gate: Princess of Sylmar, making her four-year-old debut. Flash Forward has never faced her before, though she also faces a couple of her nemeses from the New York stakes circuit last year, Wedding Toast and Montana Native.
- Lady of Luck (Lunarlady, by Yes It’s True) – Lady of Luck drew the 5 gate in the field of 7 for the Czaria Stakes. This race is 6 furlongs over the Sunland dirt on April 5. This four-year-old filly comes into this race on a two-race win streak: a neck win in a 6.5 furlong AOC at Sunland on February 1, as well as a 2 length win in a 6 furlong N3L allowance at Sunland on December 14.
- Moulin de Mougin (Cambiocorsa, by Avenue of Flags) – April 4, Moulin de Mougin races in an Allowance Optional Claiming at a mile and an eighth on the Santa Anita turf. With one scratch already inside of her, she will break from the 7 gate as the 8 horse. This is her first time out since February 9, when she won a 1 1/8 mile N1$X AOC at the same distance over the Santa Anita turf by 1 1/4 lengths. This four-year-old filly changes from one high-profile jockey to another: Gary Stevens rode her last out, and Mike Smith has the mount this time.
- Please Explain (Lizzy’s Bluff, by Pine Bluff) – Please Explain heads to the post in the Fantasy Stakes (GIII) on April 5, trying to punch her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks. She only has ten points from her third-place finish in the Fantasy, so she needs to hit the board here. The Fantasy is 1 1/16 miles: the same as the Honeybee (GIII) where she finished 3rd last out, and just longer than the 1 mile 40 yd. Suncoast which she won at Tampa. Bug Drayden Van Dyke, who shipped out to ride her in the Honeybee as well, has the mount.
- Wise Minister (Take a Check, by Touch Gold) – Wise Minister drew the 4th post of 7 in an April 6 N1X/N2L allowance, 1 1/16 miles over the Pimlico dirt. This is the longest distance over which this three-year-old colt has raced so far; his maiden win and his most recent allowance attempt were at a mile, and his other three career starts were at sprint distances. His last time out, he was fourth beaten 9 1/2 lengths at a mile at Laurel, in a field that featured fellow Curlin baby Woelf Den in second.
- Ride On Curlin (Magical Ride, by Storm Cat) – Ride On Curlin remains on track for the Arkansas Derby. He changes jockeys yet again, this time to Jon Court who rode him in his latest workout. His five-time previous jockey, Calvin Borel, has the mount on Conquest Titan instead.
That’s it for this week. If there’s a Curlin baby at any level of racing who you think I missed, leave a comment and let me know so I can add them to my list and cover them in future installments of this week in Curlin babies!