This week at Picks and Ponderings, I put on my handicapper hat to preview the Santa Ysabel Stakes (GIII). Head on over there for my analysis of the race, and for the two horses who I think tower over the rest of the field.
Here, however, I can pay proper attention to a little fact about that race that is less relevant there, and far more relevant here:
There are three Curlin babies in the Santa Ysabel. THREE!
There have been a few races with three Curlin babies drawn into them before, but at least one has scratched every single time, and none has been a stakes race. Saturday, three three-year-old daughters of Curlin will vie in a field of nine for their share of the Kentucky Oaks points: Curlin’s Fox, Danette, and Stellar Wind.
Curlin’s Fox (Foxysox, by Foxhound) intrigues here. She has only raced once, winning a maiden special weight down the hill at Santa Anita on February 1. The stretch-out seems eminently logical: both her sire and her dam won graded stakes races at route distances, and beginning her at a sprint looked like a way to ease her into racing. However, the surface is a big question. Curlin did his best work on dirt, but her underside screams grass. She looks to be working rather well over the dirt at Santa Anita, so there is a chance she will handle it. Pace remains another question; she closed to break her maiden, but it does not look like the pace in front of her will be all that hot. In the positive column, Curlin’s Fox gets Mike Smith back from her maiden win. He excels in big races, in addition to having shown he can pair well with her. I do not see a win by any of the Curlin babies in the Santa Ysabel as particularly likely, but if one does win, Curlin’s Fox is the most likely candidate based on jockey and on class.
Unlike Curlin’s Fox, Danette (Sugar Britches, by Dixieland Band) is a known quantity in graded stakes races over the Santa Anita dirt. After eight races she still has yet to win, but her resume has more high points than your average maiden. She has turned in good efforts both from a closer-stalking place, as well as further back in the pack. Danette finished third in the Chandelier (GI) at Santa Anita in September, and was a strong fifth against a speed bias in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) the next time out. Having proven herself competitive against those fields, she should at least be able to hit the board against the runners in the Santa Ysabel. However, her last two races have suggested that her form cycle may have downturned. She last raced about two months ago; it is anyone’s guess whether that was enough time to get her rested and back into good enough form to be a contender here.
Stellar Wind (Evening Star, by Malibu Moon) makes her west coast debut in the Santa Ysabel. She raced twice at Laurel last year, graduating second out by 8 3/4 lengths over fellow Curlin baby Wasatch. The horse who beat her by 3/4 lengths first out has won a stakes since then; the second- through fourth-place horses in her maiden win all have yet to race again since then, making that form a bit hard to decipher. Since that maiden win, she has shipped west and moved into the barn of John Sadler. She has a long pattern of works, and should be fit, though the race should be the proof of how well the Virginia-bred has actually settled into her new California home. Stellar Wind would have to take a large step forward to win the Santa Ysabel. Still, she has shown some versatility and some ability to handle a race that does not go completely her way. In her debut, despite not starting well, she ran on late to finish a close third. In contrast, her maiden score came on the front end. With that the case, I endorsed her as my longshot candidate over at Picks and Ponderings: though she is nowhere near the likeliest winner of the race, she has far more upside than is typical for someone so likely to be the longest shot on the board.
Good luck to Curlin’s Fox, Danette, and Stellar Wind on Saturday! I dream of a triple dead heat…but as long as all three run well, I will be happy.