I apologize for there being no update on the Curlin babies last week. However, it’s not for lack of racing by the sons and daughters of Blinkers Off’s favourite sire. Highlights of the past two weeks include Palace Malice romping in the Westchester (GIII), as well as Stopshoppingdebbie improving her career mark to six wins in six starts in the Hastings Handicap. This coming week features Ride On Curlin making his return in the Preakness Stakes, as well as Curlin’s Princess becoming the first member of Curlin’s third crop who I am aware of to set foot on the track.
There are lots of Curlin babies to catch up on, so let’s dive in!
- Barbara’s Smile (Credenza, by Lord Carlos) – On May 3, Barbara’s Smile made her first career start a winning one, taking down a $40,000 maiden claimer at seven furlongs over the Belmont turf by 1 3/4 lengths over her nearest rival. The three-year-old filly was at the back of the pack early, and saved ground. However, through the second half of the far turn, she shot out wide and circled the field. She found her best stride late, pulled even with frontrunner It’s Your Dime with slightly less than a sixteenth to go, and won it going away. The fractions she closed into were honest enough for a maiden claimer, but not super speedy either. I would not be surprised to see her in a bit longer race next out; what would surprise me would be seeing her up for a tag next out. I expect to see her in allowance company.
- Baroness Rose (Sandra’s Rose, by Old Trieste) – On May 15, Baroness Rose finished sixth beaten 14 1/4 lengths in a $75,000 N1X allowance optional claimer at Arlington, at 1 1/16 miles on the polytrack. The three-year-old filly was in the race under the allowance condition. She settled into the second flight after the break, and chased the leaders from about two lengths back down the backstretch. She tried to make a wide move in the backstretch, but could only get within a length of the front before she just couldn’t sustain the run anymore. She was at the back of the pack by fairly early in the stretch run, and stayed there. She finished about four lengths behind the mass of horses trying and failing to chase Stellaris, the runaway winner. It was only Baroness Rose’s fourth career race, and her first attempt on the poly. All three of her previous races were on turf.
- Bold Shot (Soul Search, by A. P. Indy) – On May 10, Bold Shot finished second beaten 3 1/2 in a sloppy $30,000-$25,000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the Churchill Downs dirt. The race was originally scheduled for turf, but washed off. Bold Shot was up for the higher tag. Breaking from the 2 gate, Bold Shot settled in back early, along the rail to save ground. He made a nice run across the rail, but wasn’t quite able to catch Moon Traveler, who had stalked closely off the pace and then made his move on the far turn. The pace of the race set up poorly for his closing run; he had slow fractions to close into, though he was gaining late. This was a perfectly fitting level and distance for this four-year-old gelding, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in similar conditions next out.
- Diversy Harbor (Motokiks, by Storm Cat) – On May 4, Diversy Harbor finished third beaten 1 length in the Honeymoon Stakes (GIII), at 1 1/8 miles over the Santa Anita turf. The three-year-old filly stalked just off pacesetter One More for much of the race, a length or less off. She caught up to One More through the far turn and took the lead coming into the stretch. However, both rival Nashoba’s Gold and longshot Sweet Bliss, who had been at the back of the pack early, both fired. Nashoba’s Gold picked off Diversy Harbor in the last sixteenth of a mile, and ran ahead to win by a length. Sweet Bliss had just enough late to nose out Diversy Harbor for the place. Diversy Harbor’s first graded stakes win will have to wait for another day, though nothing in that race suggested that she was at the wrong distance or level.
- Fairness (No Fair, by War Chant) – On May 3, Fairness finished third beaten 1 1/4 lengths in a one mile N1X allowance over the Louisiana Downs turf. The four-year-old filly, a 19.1-1 long shot in the field of nine, was in front once the pace settled. She set the early fractions, and held the lead until the field turned for home. In early stretch, both Princess of Pearl and Reina de Diamantes caught up with her, and she couldn’t quite hold with them in the final sixteenth. Reina de Diamantes pulled ahead to win by a length, and Princess of Pearl was a neck ahead in second. However, this was a distinct improvement from her last showing, and it would be no surprise to see her in allowance company at Louisiana Downs again.
- Jay Eye See (England’s Rose, by Nureyev) – On May 10, Jay Eye See finished second beaten 8 1/4 lengths in a N2X allowance optional claimer at Monmouth, at a mile on the dirt. The four-year-old colt settled in two or three lengths off the lead early, and chased from there up the backstretch. Jay Eye See moved four wide around the far turn and picked off everyone except for Go Appeal, who came through the far turn three wide and opened up huge on the field down the stretch. Jay Eye See was the only horse in the field up for the $30,000 tag, and was claimed. Going into the race he was owned by Crossed Sabres Farm and trained by Marcus Vitali; he is now owned by Richard L. Lister and trained by Jorge Navarro. It will be interesting to see where he races next; even though he had usually raced in Florida, his new trainer has horses racing in both Florida and the Northeast.
- J to the Croft (A to the Croft, by Menifee) – On May 15, J to the Croft finished second beaten a neck in an N1X allowance at 1 1/6 miles over the Belmont turf. The three-year-old colt broke quickly, and made his way right to the rail. He held that speed nicely, though he was never particularly loose on it. Both Canzoni and Belly of the Whale challenged him coming into the stretch. It looked like J to the Croft was finding even more run and going to hold on, but in the final seventy yards or so, Canzoni found his next gear. He got his neck in front by the time the wire fell. J to the Croft made only his third career start in this race, and only his second on the turf. After his maiden win on dirt, versus his less-than-impressive fifth last out, I was a little surprised to see him on turf again. However, he showed here that I may have underestimated him on the turf. This was a nice race, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him under similar conditions next out.
- Kara’s Match Point (Home Court, by Storm Cat) – On May 4, Kara’s Match Point finished fourth beaten 1 1/2 lengths in a N1X allowance at Belmont, at six furlongs on the dirt. She made it near the early pace fairly quickly, and dueled with Superior Sarah into the stretch. However, she lost ground as the wire approached, and also ended up getting picked off by eventual winner Jonata and eventual third-place Aliana late. The four-year-old filly almost held for show, but was nosed out by Aliana for that award. She broke her maiden at second asking, though has raced at approximately this level eight times since that win over a year ago, finishing no better than second. She may need a bit of a class drop to remember how to win.
- Maria Maria (Hollow Miss, by With Approval) – On May 10, Maria Maria finished fourth beaten two lengths in an N2X allowance optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles over the Arlington turf. This race was the three-year-old’s first attempt against older fillies and mares. Maria Maria settled near the back of the pack early, and by the time the field turned for home, she was over eight lengths off the lead. However, she fired strongly down the stretch, and soon was flying down the outside. She was gaining on leading trio Malibu Yankee, Happy Henrietta, and Who’s Mary’s Daddy with every stride. Space ran out, however, and she finished fourth: a neck behind second-place Happy Henrietta and third-place Who’s Mary’s Daddy. Maria Maria has raced her last three outings at three different parks; hopefully she will settle back into her own if she does end up racing at Arlington for the summer.
- Liberated (Lady Melesi, by Colonial Affair) – On May 2, Liberated finished sixth beaten 18 3/4 lengths in the La Troienne Stakes (GI), at 1 1/16 miles on the Churchill Downs dirt. The race only had a field of six. As soon as the gates opened, there was daylight between Liberated and the rest of the field; she never truly threatened. It seemed folly to race her here; she had less business being in this race than Ria Antonia has running in the Preakness. I hope to see her do one of two things shortly: either take a class drop, or take a few months at the farm before returning to the racetrack. I love this filly, given my deep personal affinity for both Curlin and Colonial Affair — but given that she hasn’t even hit the board this year, she has no business in stakes races right now.
- Lord of the Realm (Danceroftherealm (GB), by King of Kings (IRE)) – On May 3, Lord of the Realm finished sixth beaten 4 1/2 lengths in an $8,000-$7,500 N2L claimer at seven furlongs over the Woodbine poly. The four-year-old colt was in for the lower tag, but not claimed. He performed relatively admirably for a 42.85-1 shot coming in off a lay since December. He was caught five and six wide through almost the entire race due to his outside gate, and chased a couple lengths back throughout. He didn’t have quite enough kick to challenge the closing victor Try Running, but still managed to finish less than five lengths back, and in the middle of the eleven-horse field. Given that this was his first race back off of such a long lay, there is a chance he will come back fresher and better next time out.
- Palace Malice (Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem) – On May 11, Palace Malice won the Westchester Stakes (GIII) with authority. He finished the one mile over the Belmont dirt 9 3/4 lengths ahead of his closest rival, with plenty of run to spare. He settled back a few lengths off of I’m Steppin It Up and Red Rifle early. Through the far turn, by the three-eighths pole, he moved alongside those leaders on the outside and came easily in front. He wasn’t even asked for run until he was already in the lead; as soon as John Velazquez asked, Palace Malice opened up even more on his rivals. Declan’s Warrior, who looked on paper to be the biggest threat in the field, was able to close for second. However, he never seriously threatened Palace Malice. Blinkers Off’s favourite horse is fit, fast, and got exactly what he needed: a nice run at a mile at Belmont to prep for next month’s Met Mile (GI).
- Please Explain (Lizzy’s Bluff, by Pine Bluff) – Please Explain, the surprise entrant in May 2’s Kentucky Oaks (GI), finished 10th beaten 24 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/8 mile test. She was about eight lengths back early, chasing the field, but never really made up any ground. She steadily lost ground through the far turn, and fell back with the trailing pack. I’m not sure off the pace is her best style, and even though she’s a nice horse, she was no match for competition like Untapable or My Miss Sophia. Trainer Tom Proctor did say on At the Races with Steve Byk during a May 6 interview that Please Explain would get thirty or forty days on the farm before returning to training; as a fan of thers, I was extremely glad to hear this. I am hoping she can freshen up, take care of whatever physical issues she may have (something that still worries me after the Honeybee medication violation), and come back in a bit easier spot.
- Rebel Spy (Private Status, by Alydar) – On May 2, Rebel Spy finished third beaten 3 lengths in a maiden special weight at 1 1/16 miles over the Pimlico dirt. This lightly raced four-year-old gelding notched his second third-place finish in three career starts. He settled in a handful of lengths back early, and then pulled to within a length or two down the backstretch. He looked like he was possibly making a run as the field turned for home, but had no answer to winner Segovia’s run down the rail. He was also nipped by Nest of Pirates for the place; the latter secured second by a neck. The distance didn’t seem to be a huge issue, though trying for a bit shorter doesn’t look like a bad idea. However, he has already drawn into his next race (see Racing Soon, below); he’ll be going the same distance, but trying a new surface.
- Ride On Curlin (Magical Ride, by Storm Cat) – On May 3, Ride On Curlin finished seventh beaten 6 3/4 lengths in the Kentucky Derby (GI), at 1 1/4 miles over the Churchill Downs dirt. He broke from the 19 gate, and jockey Calvin Borel sent him directly to the rail, where he chased about a dozen lengths back. He was dead last early; I didn’t love seeing this, since as much as he is a horse who does best off the pace, he is not a deep closer. It became clear that there wasn’t going to be anywhere for him to go. Once the field started coming down the stretch, Borel finally sent Ride On Curlin out wide. He started gobbling up ground in the middle of the track, but the gain was too little too late. He is Preakness bound, though; hopefully he will get a better trip in the smaller field.
- Sheikinator (Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union) – On May 3, Sheikinator finished second in an N1X allowance optional claimer, beaten just half a length. He was in there under the allowance condition. The race was one long speed duel where No Surrender led and Sheikinator followed no more than a length back. They opened up a good seven lengths on the rest of the field by the time the wire came, but Sheikinator just couldn’t get his head in front of No Surrender. With that said, it was still his best showing since November at Churchill, when he broke his maiden in his second race.
- Sheriff Curly (Love You Madly, by Partner’s Hero) – On May 8, Sheriff Curly finished 2nd beaten 9 1/4 lengths in an N2L allowance at a mile over the Prairie Meadows dirt. It was the three-year-old colt’s first attempt against winners; he had broken his maiden on April 18, just over Whisper to Curlin. He hung last, unhurried early, about half a dozen back. He started to overtake some rivals through the far turn, but by then Bruvver Max had turned on his afterburners and opened up a good ten lengths on the field. Sheriff Curly chased well enough to get ahead of everyone else, but he was never anywhere close to Bruvver Max. Still, it wasn’t a bad effort, given the slow fractions he had to close into. I would not be surprised to see Sheriff Curly in a similar race next out.
- Shesacurlinmytoes (Cafe Concerto, by Trempolino) – On May 4, Shesacurlinmytoes finished seventh beaten 6 3/4 in an N2L starter allowance at a mile over the Golden Gate turf. She got into a decent spot early: outside on the second flight, just about three lengths off the lead. However, the three-year-old filly started losing ground turning for home, and steadily tired out the rest of the race. It will be interesting to see where she goes next. She did finish second at the starter allowance level three starts ago, but after four starts at the level without a win, it would not be surprising to see her drop to a claiming race instead.
- Shiva Curlin (Cavan Thunder, by Jump Start) – On May 3, Shiva Curlin ran in the Sir Bear Stakes at one mile on the Gulfstream dirt; he was seventh and last, beaten 23 1/2 lengths. The three-year-old colt was close to the back to start, and never able to really improve his position much. He briefly got his head ahead of Brothersofthetime down the backstretch, but proved completely unable to mount a run at the wire-to-wire winner C. Zee. He dropped out of it through the far turn, and lugged in a distant last. It seems as though this was too much too soon for Shiva Curlin; maybe the allowance at Parx from which he scratched may have been a better fit. From this performance, it does seem like he should turn up in allowance company next time out, not stakes.
- Skydeck (Thiscatsforcaryl, by Storm Cat) – On May 10, Skydeck finished fourth beaten 5 3/4 in a maiden special weight at six furlongs over the Arlington polytrack. This three-year-old filly made her first start in the Wayne Catalano barn after being claimed at Keeneland last month in a $50,000 maiden claimer. She broke from the outside gate and looked a little bit rank, but straightened out and set herself in to stalk from about two lengths back. It looked coming out of the far turn that she was going to make a run at pacesetter Kaabond and closer-stalking Shezaghostslayer, but she wasn’t able to sustain that run. She faded a bit down the stretch, and crossed the wire fourth out of six. I would probably guess that she’s going to stay in maiden special company at least once more at Arlington before they consider dropping her back in for a tag.
- Smart Number (Star Number, by Polish Numbers) – On May 15, Smart Number won an N1X allowance for Pennsylvania-breds at one mile over the synthetic at Presque Isle Downs. The three-year-old filly won by 2 3/4 lengths. She settled in the second flight while the speed-dueling pair of Chosen and Kizuna opened up about a dozen lengths on the rest of the field down the backstretch. She caught up to them by the far turn, got her head in front entering the stretch, and started opening up just as favourite Spring Reason looked like she was possibly going to mount a challenge. This was Smart Number’s first race at Presque Isle, and her first attempt on the synthetic. After a nice run like this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her back on it.
- Stopshoppingdebbie (Taste the Passion, by Wild Again) – On May 10, Stopshoppingdebbie won the Hastings Handicap at Emerald Downs by 4 lengths, at six furlongs on the dirt. The race was her first since her win in the Washington Oaks last August. The four-year-old filly stalked off the pace early, but pulled ahead coming through the far turn. She opened up a handful of lengths coming into the stretch, and maintained that advantage through to the wire. Out of this race, Stopshoppingdebbie keeps her perfect record; she now has six wins in six career starts. All six have been at Emerald Downs, and the last five have been in stakes company. Last season she had wins at distances as long as 1 1/8 miles, so it looks like this race was an early-season warm-up for longer distances to come.
- Whisper to Curlin (Whisperifyoudare, by Red Ransom) – Oh, Whisper to Curlin. You get me so excited, and then keep reminding me that you might just have a big old case of second-itis. On May 2, Whisper to Curlin raced in a 1 mile 70 yard maiden special weight over the Prairie Meadows dirt. The three-year-old colt went off as the 7-10 favourite, and finished…you guessed it, second. This time, he was beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Denali Tiz a Park. This was Whisper to Curlin’s fifth race — his fourth at Prairie Meadows, and his fourth second-place finish at the Iowa oval. He got a good stalking place early, about two lengths behind pacesetter Song Golden (IRE). He pulled equal through the far turn, and got his head in front coming down the stretch. However, he had no answer for the big last-to-first run of Denali Tiz a Park, who pulled even in the final furlong and opened up big late.
- Woelf Den (Gorgeous Goose, by Mongoose) – On May 11, Woelf Den finished fourth beaten 8 1/2 lengths in an N1X allowance at a mile over the Belmont part dirt. The three-year-old colt stalked the pace early, but took the front for himself going into the far turn. He opened up a couple of lengths, but was challenged and passed as the field turned for home. He drifted out some and faded back. It looked like he might hold third, but the mild closing run of Cap the Moment was enough to pick him off by 3/4 length for the show. It will be interesting to see where he races next. I’d be surprised if it weren’t in allowance company again, but it may be worth it to try running him at a bit shorter distance.
- Curlin’s Princess (Image of Mom, by Halo’s Image) – On May 16, Curlin’s Princess makes her first career start, in a four-and-a-half furlong maiden special weight over the Gulfstream dirt. She breaks from the rail in a field of nine, and is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line. The two-year-old filly is the first of Curlin’s third crop who I have seen in a race so far. It will be interesting to see how this race goes, given that Curlin himself did not race as a two-year-old and Curlin’s progeny are not at this point remarkable for their precocity.
- Curly Queen (Queen Mama, by Seattle Slew) – On May 17, Curly Queen races in a six-furlong N1X/N2L allowance on the Calder dirt. The three-year-old filly breaks from the rail in a field of eight. This will be her fourth career start, and her first against winners. Her last time out, on April 26, she won a maiden special weight at a mile and 70 yards at Calder. This race will be the shortest distance of her career; her two second-place finishes at the maiden level were at seven furlongs and a mile.
- Miss Frost (Allencat, by Storm Cat) – On May 18, Miss Frost breaks from the 3 gate in a one-mile N1X/N2L allowance over the Belmont turf. This will be the Dogwood Stable filly’s three-year-old debut; she has not raced since a fifth place finish in the Chelsea Flower Stakes at Belmont last October. Of her five career races, all but her first maiden attempt have been on the turf. This race will be a bit of class relief for her; all three of her races since she broke her maiden have been in stakes company.
- Oso Smart (Duchess Zea, by Ascot Knight) – On May 17, Oso Smart races in a one-mile maiden special weight over the turf at Golden Gate Fields. The three-year-old colt drew the 7 gate in a ten-horse field. It’s a bit of a class drop as well as a cut in distance from his last race; his previous outing was on March 30, in a 1 1/8 mile maiden special weight at Santa Anita. He likely faces easier at Golden Gate. It’s good to see some kind of major change for him, since he has raced eight times on the southern California circuit and done no better than three third-place finishes.
- Oxford Babes (Spring Awakening, by In Excess (IRE)) – On May 20, Oxford Babes runs in an N1X $25,000 allowance optional claimer at Indiana Grand, six furlongs over the dirt. The four-year-old filly races under the allowance condition. She is lightly raced; this will only be her fourth career race. Her last time out, she finished fifth beaten 9 3/4 lengths in a six and a half furlong allowance on the Keeneland poly. This will be her first career race on the dirt; she has raced once on the turf and twice on the synthetic before this.
- Rebel Spy (Private Status, by Alydar) – On May 17, Rebel Spy will race in a 1 1/16 mile maiden special weight over the Pimlico turf. The four-year-old gelding drew the 6 gate in a field of fourteen. This will only be his fourth career start, and his third consecutive start at Pimlico. It will be his third start off of a seven-month lay, and his first career attempt on the green stuff. Last time out, he finished third beaten 3 lengths on a May 2 maiden special weight at Pimlico; see details above in this entry.
- Ride On Curlin (Magical Ride, by Storm Cat) – On May 17, Ride On Curlin will break from the 10 gate in the Preakness Stakes, at 1 3/16 miles over the Pimlico dirt. In a field of ten, Ride On Curlin drew the 10 gate. He shipped out from Churchill to Pimlico on Monday, and on Wednesday appeared on the worktab at Pimlico. He did four furlongs in 49.6o, fastest of five at the distance that day. I don’t mind the 10 gate for Ride On Curlin at all, especially with the jockey change. I do not anticipate that Joel Rosario will be nearly as keen as Calvin Borel was in the Derby to get Ride On Curlin to the rail. This is a good thing, as I’m not sure he has any particular affinity for the rail. It looks like Ride On Curlin handled the ship well and is getting used to the track; hopefully this will all come together to provide a better finish in the Preakness than he had in the Derby.
- Slip By (Fortune Pending, by Fortunate Prospect) – On May 17, Slip By is on the also-eligible list for a 1 1/16 mile maiden special weight over the Pimlico turf — the same race in which Rebel Spy is drawn. The three-year-old colt has raced four times before. His last time out, he finished third in a 1 1/8 mile maiden special weight at Keeneland, for the best finish of his career. It would be his first race at Pimlico; to date, he has only raced at Gulfstream and Keeneland. If he draws in he will have a distant outside post, since fourteen horses are set to start the race.
- Sylvia T (Brisquette, by Unbridled’s Song) – On May 18, Sylvia T appears in a maiden special weight at six furlongs over the Belmont turf. The four-year-old filly has the 6 gate in a field of thirteen, though two of the thirteen are main track only. This will be Sylvia T’s first start since February 2, when she finished sixth in a maiden special weight at six furlongs on the Aqueduct inner dirt. She has five seconds and one third in ten starts, so it appears she may be approaching Career Maiden™ status. However, this start is her first on the turf. Something needed to change, and the surface looks to be about the last thing left to change before dropping her from maiden special down to maiden claiming company.
- Baroness Rose (Sandra’s Rose, by Old Trieste) – Baroness Rose had been scheduled to race at Churchill Downs on May 10, in a 1 1/8 mile N1X turf allowance. However, the race was pulled off the turf, and Baroness Rose was scratched as a result. As discussed above, however, she did return to the track on May 15 at Arlington.
- Larrymoeandcurlin (Sally Bowles (SAF), by London News (SAF)) – Larrymoeandcurlin had been scheduled to run at Indiana Grand on May 6 in a five and a half furlong maiden special weight on the dirt. However, he was a trainer scratch. He has not been scheduled for another race again, but he did return to the worktab on May 9, going five furlongs in 1:04.40.
- Wise Minister (Take a Check, by Touch Gold) – Wise Minister had been scheduled to race in an N1X allowance optional claimer at 1 mile 70 yards over the Monmouth dirt on May 10. However, he was a veterinarian’s scratch from the race. At this point, I have found no more detailed information about why the vet scratched him from the race. However, he has returned to the worktab. On May 13, Wise Minister worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 at Fair Hill.
And, that’s it for two weeks of updates. That’s a lot of Curlin babies. Time to catch our breath, get a good night’s sleep, and get ready to watch Ride On Curlin ride to victory in the Preakness, yes?