Not since the heady early days of Saratoga has there been such a good day for Curlin babies. From Churchill to Parx to Laurel to Santa Anita, the sons and daughters of Curlin were running big and getting their pictures taken.
Curlins Pride (Lauren’s Tizzy, by Tiznow) got the day started out the right way. Going into today he had started three times in special weight company, with his best finish being a third-place in a dirt mile at Ellis in his second start. The three-year-old colt tried a mile and a sixteenth on turf last out, finishing sixth. Today he stayed among maiden specials once more, but changed a few things. He went back to dirt, trying it for the first time at Churchill, as both his previous main-track tries had been at Ellis. He stretched out to nine panels.
He woke up emphatically. Tracking a few lengths off of Langdarma early, the Anne Smith trainee began to advance as the field approached the far turn. He bore down on Langdarma through the turn, and took command down the stretch. Curlins Pride crossed the wire eight and a half lengths ahead of Langdarma, stamping himself as one to watch going long on the dirt.
Soon after that race ended, Curls in Place (Pola’s Place, by Out of Place) saw the starter in the Parx 5th, an N1X at five furlongs on the grass. It took this four-year-old filly a while to find the wire for the first time. She broke her maiden in her previous race, her eighth career start, in a maiden special weight turf dash at Indiana Downs. That maiden win was her first turf dash try; she had never before gone shorter than seven and a half panels on the grass, and she broke her maiden at five.
Her allowance run today made it clear that Curls in Place belongs in turf dashes. She broke well, and settled midpack, about two and a half lengths off of Mellyumpkin and Sunshine Heart on the pace. Approaching the eighth pole it looked like she would have to either angle out or contend with a wall of horses, but a hole opened up between Sunshine Heart and Yes Its Persia, who had made her way to contend with the frontrunners. Curls in Place shot through the hole and took the lead. Odds-on favourite Lamontagne tried her best to close from the outside, but Curls In Place crossed the wire a neck in front. This makes her two-for-two in turf dashes, and a likely candidate for an N2X turf dash near you.
The #CurlinBabies train rolled south to Maryland next, where Please Explain (Lizzy’s Bluff, by Pine Bluff) ran in the Laurel 6th, an N3X allowance-optional at a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt. The four-year-old filly had a strong run late in her two-year-old year and early in her three-year-old year, struggled last spring and summer, tried turf, and then took an extended break. She took a while to get going this year, but trainer Tom Proctor moving her to the mid-Atlantic woke her right back up. She cleared her N2X at Delaware going two turns on the dirt in May, and then fired off a pair of runner-up finishes in N3X races at Parx and Delaware. Trying the Laurel track for the first time, the public sent her off at odds-on.
It was tight, but Please Explain did not disappoint. She broke from the rail, and tucked in midpack on the inside. Lionhearted Lady set easy and unpressured fractions, but Please Explain did not rush. She chased from a couple of lengths back, boxed in, but found room to angle out as the field turned for home. She came off the rail, kicked on, and took dead aim on Lionhearted Lady. The pacesetter had plenty left given how slow her early fractions were, but Please Explain proved better. She nabbed Lionhearted Lady on the wire, winning by a head. Given where Please Explain lies in her conditions, it will be interesting to see where Proctor places her next. She may qualify for some esoteric allowance conditions occasionally, but with her N3X cleared, most of her race options would likely be either minor stakes or higher-priced allowance-optionals where she goes in for the tag.
A little later in the afternoon, two sons of Curlin ran in the King Pellinore Stakes at Santa Anita, going a mile and a quarter on the grass. Texas Ryano (Blending Element, by Great Commotion) and Kulik Lodge (Kulik Cat, by Giant’s Causeway) both ran, and both took plenty of favour from the bettors. Kulik Lodge went off the 2.5/1 favourite, with Texas Ryano the 2.8/1 slight second choice. Both looked well-intentioned in this slot.
Kulik Lodge has finished a troubled fourth in the Del Mar Mile (GII) last out; the five-year-old horse dropped in class today, and stretched out to a mile and a quarter for the first time. Given the Tom Proctor trainee’s breeding, as well as how well he ran at a mile and an eighth when he tried it, it made sense to try him going a mile and a quarter. the class level made sense as well, given how well he had performed against the likes of Avanzare and Talco last out.
Texas Ryano was stepping up to stakes company for the first time since a disappointing tenth-place finish in the Oceanside Stakes last summer. He was off for almost a year after that, and returned in allowance company. He hit the board in his first three starts back, all against N2X company. The four-year-old colt from the Carla Gaines barn finally cleared the condition in his fourth start back, going a mile and an eighth at Del Mar. Still, he had tried longer than the distance of the King Pellinore before. Two starts back, Texas Ryano finished second in a 1 3/8 mile allowance.
Both sons of Curlin acquitted themselves well in the King Pellinore. Southern Freedom set the early fractions, honest but not blazing for a mile and a quarter, with Kulik Lodge tracking in second through the early stages. Texas Ryano was content to trail near the back in the early going, not a surprise given his closing style. Approaching the far turn, Kulik Lodge and Class Leader closed up the margin, and entering the stretch that pair passed Southern Freedom. Abbey Vale ran on with that pair, but someone was moving better than any of them. Texas Ryano had been making up ground, and fired strongly through the final furlong. He rolled on by, leaving the battling quartet fighting for second. Texas Ryano hit the wire a length and three quarters in front of Class Leader. Abbey Vale was a neck farther back in third, with Kulik Lodge another neck back in fourth. Southern Freedom held fifth, another neck back from Kulik Lodge. Though Kulik Lodge finished just short of a stakes placing once again, he still acquitted himself well. Texas Ryano has shown in two straight races that he is not the closer-that-won’t-get-there. He has found his stride at four, and the longer distances agree with him.
Congratulations to Curlins Pride, Curls In Place, Please Explain, and Texas Ryano for making it a four-win day for the Curlin babies!