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
#3: Keen Ice breaks his maiden
So far, there has been a bumper crop of two-year-old Curlin babies who have made themselves known. La Grange and Golden Actor have won stakes. Bold Conquest and Danette are both Grade I placed. Ocean Knight broke his maiden impressively, and Curlino is starting to come into his own as well. Even Jess’s Dream is getting tons of ink due to his regal breeding, despite not yet having run a race.
However, as 2015 approaches, there is one Curlin two-year-old who stands head and withers above the rest. That all started with his maiden win.
Keen Ice (Medomak, by Awesome Again) debuted at Ellis Park on August 23, in a maiden special weight going five and a half furlongs. On paper, the race seemed a bit short for his pedigree, and that bore out on the racetrack. He finished fourth that day, but was improving his position late. A stretch-out seemed likely in the near future, and he got that next out.
Keen Ice was entered again on September 6, in a one-mile maiden special weight over the Churchill dirt. He was 10/1 on the morning line for that second start, but the betting public figured that the Dale Romans trainee had a bit better chance than that. He got slammed at the windows, and went off as the 9/5 chalk.
Keen Ice broke from the 9 gate, and settled near the back of the pack. Starbound set the early fractions, with Tiznow R J stalking just off of him. Approaching the far turn, Keen Ice was unhurried. Five lengths off the pace drifted to six…seven…nine…and by the time the field turned for home, it looked questionable whether Keen Ice would even threaten to hit the superfecta. He was starting to make up a bit of ground, but nowhere near the front. Approaching the three-sixteenths pole he angled inside a bit and passed a few horses. He had improved to third nearing the furlong pole. It was a distant third: Keen Ice still had eight lengths to make up at the stretch call. In announcer Larry Collmus’s words, Starbound and Tiznow R J were “in a race of their own.” Everyone else looked sunk.
It was not their own little race for much longer. The urgency hit, and Keen Ice found his next gear just before the sixteenth pole. The gulf between him and the duelling pacesetters disappeared in the blink of an eye, and Keen Ice hit the wire a head in front of Starbound. What looked impossible at the furlong pole had become reality.
Keen Ice has raced twice since then. He has not won again, but he has been able to show he can contend against tougher company. In the Breeders’ Futurity (GI), he finished fifth. Though he left himself too far out of it to catch Carpe Diem or Mr. Z, he ducked through horses down the stretch like a seasoned old pro, completely unafraid. He bypassed the Breeders’ Cup, instead returning in the Remsen (GII) at Aqueduct. The track was friendly to speed that day, and to the rail. Early speed is clearly not Keen Ice’s bag, but rider Israel Rodriguez smartly placed him along the rail. He made up ground late…and though he was too far off to catch Leave the Light On or Frosted, he eclipsed Classy Class in time to gain the show. Keen Ice has gotten a breather since then, publishing no works since the Remsen, but this long-winded colt has shown plenty of promise. He should hit the Derby trail fresh and strong in the new year, and should only get better with age.