Welcome to another installment of this week in Curlin babies: all the news that’s fit to print about Blinkers Off’s favourite sire. This week’s highlights include Shiva Curlin breaking his maiden at Calder, and stakes placings for a couple of fillies, Diversy Harbor and Flash Forward. This week we have Ride On Curlin’s run in the Grade I Arkansas Derby to look forward to, as well as some information about where Palace Malice will be racing next. As always, there’s plenty of news on the Curlin Babies front, so let’s get started!
- Curlin N Twirlin (Bluff for Bluff, by Pine Bluff) – On April 7, Curlin N Twirlin finished ninth and last, beaten 15 3/4 lengths, in an N1X allowance at six furlongs on the Parx dirt. She chased a few lengths back early, steadily dropped back into the far turn, and never fired to make up any ground. It was the four-year-old filly’s first race back after a four-month layoff; hopefully that knocked the dust off, and she’ll be back in better form next time out.
- Curlin’s Kid (Lucette, by Dayjur) – On April 6, Curlin’s Kid finished sixth and last, beaten 13 3/4 lengths, in a maiden special weight at a mile and a sixteenth on the Pimlico dirt. Breaking from the rail, the three-year-old gelding set the early fractions, and dueled with Mr. Ticker Talker (the eventual winner) going into the far turn. He started to fade coming out into the stretch, though, and tired out coming down the stretch. This was his first time at Pimlico and his eighth career race.
- Diversy Harbor (Motokiks, by Storm Cat) – On April 5th, Diversy Harbor finished 2nd by a length in the Providencia Stakes (GIII) at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita turf. The three-year-old filly finished behind Nashoba’s Gold, the horse she beat by half a length in the one-mile China Doll stakes last time out. She bumped into Margot Machance coming out of the gate, settled near the back of the pack, and started making up distance into the far turn. As they approached the stretch, she and Nashoba’s Gold were on even terms, just two or three lengths off the lead. Diversy Harbor had just a little trouble finding a place to come through horses into the stretch; Nashoba’s Gold had a clearer path on the outside, and started her stretch dash a little earlier. That made the difference, and Diversy Harbor was beaten for the first time in her three-race career. It looks like there’s a nice little rivalry brewing between these two turf fillies; I’m looking forward to seeing where they turn up next.
- Flash Forward (Magical Flash, by Miswaki) – On April 6, Flash Forward finished third in the Cat Cay stakes, 7 1/2 lengths behind winner Princess of Sylmar. The race was at a mile on the Aqueduct outer dirt. She raced in last most of the race, four or five lengths from the lead. She didn’t have a big closing kick, and never really challenged either Princess of Sylmar or second-place Wedding Toast, but ran steadily enough late to pick off both Highestmaintenance and Montana Native, who were fading down the stretch. She has still only won one stakes, the My Flag Stakes at Saratoga last August. However, the four-year-old filly has now hit the board in eight stakes races, including a show in the Top Flight Handicap (GII) at Aqueduct last month.
- Lady of Luck (Lunarlady, by Yes It’s True) – On April 5, Lady of Luck finished 4th, just 1/2 length behind winner Hard to Resist, in the Czaria Stakes at six furlongs on the Sunland Park dirt. The four-year-old filly hung back five or six lengths early, biding her time through a three-way speed duel, and started making up distance through the far turn. She gained on the front through the stretch all the way to the wire — but the other two horses coming in from off the pace fired well, and one of the three from the early duel was able to hang on near the front as well. The race is worth watching just for the tough finish: Hard to Resist and Cottagecupcake hit the wire just about together, with both Challenging and Lady of Luck just behind them in that pack. Even though she didn’t extend her win streak to three races, she has nothing to be ashamed of, and contended well in this company.
- Moulin de Mougin (Cambiocorsa, by Avenue of Flags) – On April 4, Moulin de Mougin finished third, 2 lengths behind post-time favourite Theatre Star, in an allowance optional claimer, at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita turf. The four-year-old filly did not run for a tag; she qualified under the N2X condition. She stalked a couple of lengths off the pace, and came three wide into the stretch; she was unable to catch Theatre Star or match the late run of Rhagori, but had enough in the tank to repel Lady Asano’s late run and hold the show. This was her second attempt at 1 1/18 miles; she won an allowance at the distance by 1 1/4 lengths on February 9, also on the Santa Anita turf. This looks to be the right level and distance for her.
- Oxford Babes (Spring Awakening, by In Excess (IRE)) – On April 10, Oxford Babes finished 5th beaten 9 3/4 lengths in an N1X allowance at six and a half furlongs on the Keeneland polytrack, as a 41.6-1 long shot. It was the four-year-old filly’s third career start and first race against winners; on March 15 she won a six-furlong maiden special weight at Turfway. She settled about half a dozen lengths back down the backstretch, but lacked the late kick of winner Dauphine Russe or second-place horse Similu. She did have enough left down the stretch to pass several tiring horses, however. It wasn’t an amazing race, but it wasn’t a bad shot against a tougher company than she ever faced at Indiana Downs or Turfway.
- Please Explain (Lizzy’s Bluff, by Pine Bluff) – I already discussed this race in some detail in my fantasy recap earlier this week, so I’ll try to avoid repeating too much here. Please Explain went out in the Fantasy Stakes as the 2.9-1 favourite, and came back with her first career off-the-b0ard finish. Drayden Van Dyke had her in last early, about half a dozen back, and she just never fired. She crossed the wire in seventh place out of the field of eight, ten lengths behind winner Sugar Shock. She garnered no Kentucky Oaks points here, so it remains to be seen what her next race will be.
- Shiva Curlin (Cavan Thunder, by Jump Start) – On April 6, Shiva Curlin won a maiden special weight at a mile on the Calder dirt. This was the three-year-old colt’s third career start, and his first start off of a seven-month layoff. He broke well, and settled into a stalking position about a length off the early pace set by Supreme Privilege and Dreaming of Dayna. He looked like he wanted to go earlier, but was boxed in along the rail all the way through the far turn. However, coming into the stretch, Supreme Privilege came off the rail far enough to give Shiva Curlin a hole. As soon as that happened, he was gone; he accelerated down the stretch, and finished six lengths in front of the second-place Royal Signature. His connections clearly saw talent in him last year; Shiva Curlin’s first career start was in the Seacliff Stakes at Calder last August, in which he finished fourth. He made one more start, finishing second in a maiden special at Calder last September by a neck, but fourteen lengths in front of the third-place horse. He clearly came back ready to go from the winter lay; hopefully we’ll see him in allowance company soon.
- Skydeck (Thiscatsforcaryl, by Storm Cat) – On April 10, Skydeck finished second beaten a head by longshot First Freedom in a $20,000 maiden claimer, at six furlongs on the Keeneland poly. The three-year-old filly was in her fifth career start, and in her first race in the claiming ranks after four attempts in maiden special company at Turfway. Breaking from the 10 gate in a field of 12, she stalked a couple lengths back from First Freedom’s lead down the backstretch. She made a move through the far turn; it was only around two horses, but ended up being about five wide, distancewise. Skydeck gained ground in the last sixteenth, but just barely ran out of room — First Freedom held on by a narrowing head. At post time, Skydeck was owned by J. Armando Rodriguez and trained by Mike Maker: the same connections as General a Rod. She was, however, claimed out of the race; now she is owned by William Hart, and trained by Wayne Catalano. Hopefully this means I will get to see her run at Arlington this summer, a pretty likely plan for a horse who has only ever run on the polytrack, and is now trained by Catalano.
- Wise Minister (Take a Check, by Touch Gold) – On April 6, Wise Minister finished second in an N1X allowance race at a mile and a sixteenth on the Pimlico dirt. He stalked a handful of lengths off the pace early, and never was able to challenge the lead of Ghareeb. He did, however, get ahead of the pack at large, along with Canal Street. The three-year-old colt didn’t have quite as much left at the end as the six-year-old Canal Street, and crossed the wire third: a length behind the adversary to his immediate outside, but 14 1/4 behind the runaway Ghareeb. However, Ghareeb was disqualified. Coming into the stretch, he had borne out sharply into Tooth N Claw, leading the latter to clip heels and drop right out of the race. After a stewards’ inquiry and jockey objection, Ghareeb was placed last, elevating Wise Minister to second. There was actually an objection lodged by the jockey of Tru Greek against Wise Minister, alleging interference going into the first turn; that claim was denied, and Wise Minister held second. This was Wise Minister’s first time stretching past a mile, and his first attempt against older horses. He acquitted himself well given that, and I expect to see him in more allowances on the Maryland circuit as the spring progresses.
- Calamondin (Redaspen, by Bianconi) – Calamondin drew the 2 gate in a seven furlong N1x allowance at Aqueduct on Saturday, April 12. The four-year-old gelding makes his first start since March 19, when he broke his maiden by 10 3/4 lengths in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Laurel. This will be his first time racing at Aqueduct, and his first career attempt against winners.
- Ride On Curlin (Magical Ride, by Storm Cat) – On April 12, Ride On Curlin will head postward in the Arkansas Derby (GI); he drew the 4th gate. At 1 1/8 miles, it will be the longest race of his career by half a furlong; last out he finished third behind Hoppertunity and Tapiture in the hard-knocking Rebel Stakes (GII). The Pride of Ellis put in a strong seven-furlong work this week, and looks ready to put up a good effort. Jon Court has the mount for the first time; Court has won the Arkansas Derby twice (Line of David in 2010, Archarcharch in 2011). He has a good shot of punching his ticket to the Kentucky Derby if he manages to hit the board. He currently has 15 points — 10 points for fourth will mean a few things have to fall his way, but the 100 or 50 points for first or second put him in for sure, and even the third-place 20 points should give him a good shot to make his next stop the Run for the Roses.
- Shesacurlinmytoes (Cafe Concerto, by Trempolino) – April 13, Shesacurlinmytoes breaks from the 2 gate in a $40,000 starter allowance at Golden Gate Fields, at a mile on the turf. The three-year-old filly last raced at the same level and distance, but on the Golden Gate Tapeta, on March 16; she finished second beaten just half a length that last time out. She has only raced once on the turf in her eight starts to date: a January 3, 2014 win in a $20,000-$18,000 maiden claimer, at a mile on the Golden Gate turf. It’s good to see her return there.
- Smart Number (Star Number, by Polish Numbers) – Smart Number has the 4 post in a $40,000 allowance optional claimer at Pimlico on April 13, at 1 1/16 miles over the dirt. The three-year-old filly is not up for the tag, and races under the N2L condition. This is her first race at Pimlico; she raced through the winter at Laurel. Last out, on March 1, she finished a well-beaten third in a one-mile allowance optional claiming race at Laurel. This is only her second race at a mile and a sixteenth; she has done most of her races, including her maiden win, at a mile.
- Palace Malice (Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem) – Dogwood Stable issued a release this week, announcing Palace Malice’s plans for the next few races. It’s looking like he’s cutting back to a mile for the next few races: next on his calendar is the Westchester Stakes (GIII), a mile at Belmont on May 11. If that race goes well, the goal is the Met Mile (GI) on Belmont day. If a mile at Belmont isn’t to his liking, they may consider something longer like the Brooklyn Handicap (GII), but the main goal looks to be mile races for the immediate future. I’m not quite as worried about the distance as I was going into the Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII), given that he took on horses more accustomed to a mile and won, but that stretch run in the New Orleans Handicap (GII) still underscored my thought that he’s a distance horse.
- An as-yet-unnamed two-year-old colt by the Tale of the Cat mare Upcoming Story had been announced as hip 58 in the Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds in Training sale, but was declared out. I will keep an eye on him to see if he pops up in another sale eventually, or ends up just hitting the worktab later in the next year or two.
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!