Welcome back to the twelve days of Curlin babies: a look back on twelve races during 2014 that stand out among races by Curlin’s progeny over the course of the year. They are races I keep returning to in my head, and ones that I am always excited to discuss. They will all have a story, a clear reason why they stand out among the hundreds of races in which I saw Curlin babies race this year.
#9: Stopshoppingdebbie wins the Washington State Legislators Handicap
Seeing any favourite horse run is a moment of nervous excitement, but those nerves are only amplified if a horse is coming into the race undefeated. Sometimes they are allayed quickly, when the undefeated horse trots home much the best. Other times, they persist until the shadow of the wire.
Stopshoppingdebbie (Taste the Passion, by Wild Again) put together an impressive streak. She raced just once at two, breaking her maiden at first asking in August of 2012. That year, it was her stablemates who got all the glory: both Blueberry Smoothie and Goin to the Window won stakes races at two, whereas Stopshoppingdebbie raced just that one time. The next year, though, she proved she ruled the roost at Emerald Downs. She swept the four stakes races for three-year-old fillies in 2013, with those two stablemates filling out the lower rungs of the trifecta in each race. Only one of those races was close: the Kent Handicap, in which she needed every inch of the 1 1/16 miles to prevail over Goin to the Window by a neck. By the end of last year’s summer season at Emerald Downs Stopshoppingdebbie had raced five times, and come home victorious five times.
She returned this past May at four, in the six-furlong Hastings Handicap. It was her first race since August, and there was that little bit of worry as to whether she would return the same horse. That worry dissipated quickly. She patiently bided her time as the outmatched Ms. Sutherland shot to the lead, took control on the outside, and won by four comfortable lengths.
Her seventh start, in the Washington State Legislators Handicap, was not the easy win the Hastings was. To keep her streak alive she would need to tap into all of the fight she showed in winning the Kent in order to dispatch with the very same foe.
She stalked in the second flight as Blueberry Smoothie, Madame Pele, and Finding More all vied for the lead. She swept around those three around the far turn, getting her head in front near the quarter pole. Unlike in so many of her other races, she did not easily draw off from there. Blueberry Smoothie, softened by the contested pace, tried to press on inside. However, the real challenge came from Goin to the Window on the outside. Another one who had sat off the pace early, she had plenty left to make a run. Jockey Rocco Bowen took out the whip, and Stopshoppingdebbie had to keep on with everything she had. Still, Goin to the Window was gaining on her stablemate with every stride. Unlike so many of Stopshoppingdebbie’s races, a question loomed. What would come first: the wire, or her stablemate’s nose?
The wire came first. Stopshoppingdebbie got there a half-length before her charging foe did, and advanced her record to a still-perfect seven-for-seven. As much fun as it is to see an undefeated horse win emphatically, it often says more for a horse when they are presented with a challenge, and still able to come out on top.
As the season progressed, Stopshoppingdebbie ran her streak to eight, and then to nine. After the season at Emerald wound down, trainer Tom Wenzel brought her down to Santa Anita for a try against graded company, and possibly a Breeders’ Cup try. It made sense: she had been tested to the extent that Goin to the Window, Blueberry Smoothie, and Emerald Downs could test her…and passed each test with flying colours.
Unfortunately, the fairy tale ended there. She finished fifth in the L. A. Woman (GIII), and has not run since. Word is that she bled, and that may be her final race. One could only wish it turned out better, and there is still a certain amount of wondering what might have happened had she not bled. Still, her connections did the right thing trying her against tougher company, and putting her streak on the line. If this was her final year, she will not retire untested.