Often in horse racing, you have to separate fan mode from handicapper mode. Most of the week, given the amount of difficult races, I have been in handicapper mode. However…the handicapping is done, the pre-race analytical writing is done, and it’s time to get into fan mode.
It looked like it was going to be a banner year for the Curlin babies coming into the Breeders’ Cup this year. Palace Malice was head and withers above the handicap division, and looked on course for another chance at the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Then, things came off the rails…he flopped in the Whitney, they finally figured out he had a bone bruise, and he retired. The stud arrangement with Three Chimneys keeps open the possibility of him returning to training next month if he passes a veterinary exam…but that is not until November 15, and he is still recuperating.
Around the same time this was going on with Palace Malice, Moulin de Mougin was beginning to make her mark on the filly and mare turf division. She won the Mabee, becoming Curlin’s second North American graded stakes winner. She looked like she was making a winning move in the Rodeo Drive, but she clipped heels and went tumbling down to the turf. She got up and looked okay at first blush, and she was being pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf anyway. But, a nuclear scan revealed some bone bruising in her shoulder and her stifle. Trainer Richard Mandella did the right thing by her, and turned her out for two months of rest at the farm. She will be pointing to a campaign in the winter, but is missing the Breeders’ Cup.
Meanwhile, there has been another Curlin baby flying under the radar. She has not won a stakes race yet, like La Grange or Golden Actor. In fact, she has not won yet, period. She had a seventh-place first outing in a five furlong baby race at Arlington, shipped west, and even dropped in for a tag at Del Mar. However, trainer Keith Desormeaux figured out what he had, put her back in maiden special company, and stretched her out. She has only been getting better since. She had a good third and a very close second over a mile on the Del Mar poly, and it was enough for Desormeaux to try her in the Grade I Chandelier: her first run at 1 1/16 miles, and her first run on dirt. She was third, finishing ahead of Majestic Presence and Maybellene: horses who had beaten her on poly. She was clearly behind Angela Renee and Conquest Eclipse, but there was daylight between her and fourth place, too. She may not have won yet, but there was no question: she fit.
She, of course, is Danette.
She is the only one of Curlin’s progeny seeing the starter at the Breeders’ Cup this year. Of course, she is up against it from a handicapping perspective: though she likes the track, she is also facing a tougher and deeper field than she did in the Chandelier. Still, with the good run in the Chandelier, and the fact that the Curlin babies tend to get better with time and experience…I hold hope that she will outrun her almost certainly long odds, and maybe even break her maiden today on the biggest stage there is.
Good luck, Danette! Come home fast, come home safe…and hopefully, win one for the Curlin babies!