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.
#12: Federal Agent breaks his maiden
#11: Miss Frost wins the Tenski Stakes
#10: Curly Queen breaks her maiden
#9: Stopshoppingdebbie wins the Washington State Legislators Handicap
#8: J to the Croft, the longest shot on the board, breaks his maiden
#7: Moulin de Mougin wins the John C. Mabee Stakes
#6: She’s Curly, and the ad hoc match race
#5: Please Explain wins the Suncoast Stakes
#4: Golden Actor breaks his maiden
Not often is a son or daughter of Curlin sent off at boxcar odds first time out. Golden Actor, however, was sent off at 30/1 his first time out, an October 4 maiden special weight at seven furlongs over a wet-fast Gulfstream Park West track. Golden Actor was a $20,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland September last year. His breeding was not the flashiest for a son of a two-time horse of the year, but there was more than enough in his breeding to suggest he could figure out racing quickly. Four foals out of his dam had won first time out. Big Apple Daddy and River Dancer did so at two, and River Dancer even returned to place second in the With Anticipation (GII) in his second start. Two more half-siblings, Clever Freud and Clever Prosepector, won first out at three. Clever Prospector was himself by Smart Strike — Curlin’s sire. On the precocity of his half-siblings alone, letting him off at 30/1 on debut seemed a bit preposterous.
Preposterous it was, that day. Golden Actor (Clever Actress, by Theatrical) did not win, but he still far outran his odds. An even longer shot, Charlie’s Brother, went wire-to-wire. Golden Actor, at the back early, came rolling late but missed by 3/4 length. Seven furlongs may have been a bit short for his breeding, but it was a promising start.
Trainer Ignacio Roncancio wheeled Golden Actor right back just nine days later. It was another maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park West, but this time he stretched out to a full mile. Unsurprisingly, he was no longer under the radar; he went off at 9/5 this time, not 30/1.
Unlike last out, Golden Actor was forwardly placed from the outset. Into and through the clubhouse turn, he battled with Black Martino for the lead. Turning down the backstretch, Golden Actor inched ahead, and he widened his advantage to two lengths by the time the field came into the far turn. Black Martino ran at him past the quarter pole, and Golden Actor almost looked like he was stalling out. Approaching the furlong pole Black Martino had drawn almost even with Golden Actor. Asked again by rider Jose Gallego, Golden Actor found that reason it was such a good idea to stretch him to a mile. He kicked into his next gear in time, and Black Martino had no answer. First-time starter and race favourite African Fighter was mounting a closing run, but it was too little, too late. Golden Actor was gone, and prevailed by a safe 2 1/2 lengths.
He showed versatility of pace in that race, as well as the gameness to fight off Black Martino’s re-rally with a far better one of his own. His first maiden effort was a good race, but this maiden win showed even more promise. Twelve days after Golden Actor’s maiden win was the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs, and his connections thought enough of him to supplement him in. He did not disappoint. Returning to his off-pace style, he took advantage of a three-horse pace battle early to win by open lengths. He returned in the Delta Jackpot (GIII), but did not fire at all and finished ninth.
The Delta Jackpot setback leaves open a question of where he will go from here. There is a possibility he just needed a break, after four races in a month and a half. It appears he is getting it, as he has been off the worktab since that last race. Hopefully he will come back stronger than ever, and be able to build on the promise he showed in his first three starts.