So far this year, Exaggerator may have gotten most of the ink among two-year-old males Curlin babies, but another juvenile colt has begun to make a name for himself down at Remington Park.
Secret Passage (Sweet Eloise, by Sky Classic) was bred to run. It took his dam a while to figure it out, as she did not win until ninth time out (at age three), but she ended up winning four times, and was stakes-placed at four. Her progeny, however, have gotten the hang of things a bit quicker.
Secret Passage is her eleventh foal of racing age. Among the first ten to start, none won first time out, but none took more than four starts to graduate. Five of those ten broke their maidens at age two, with the other five doing so at three or four.
Last month, Secret Passage debuted in a one-mile maiden special weight at Remington Park. The public sent the Donnie Von Hemel trainee off at 9/1 in a twelve-horse field in which every other horse had started at least once before. He lagged dead last for most of the one-mile race, circled the field around the far turn, and got up to win by 3/4 length. He became the sixth of Sweet Eloise’s progeny to win at age two, and the first to prevail first time out.
Thursday night the Pin Oak homebred returned in an allowance-optional at Remington, going a mile and seventy yards. The field size, just five after scratches, could have been a liability given his deep-closing style. Still, the public had confidence; they sent Secret Passage off the 4/5 favourite.
Just as he had in his debut, he dropped well off early. The other four horses in the field all battled for the lead. Despite the four-way speed battle, the pace was in no way fiery: they ticked off the quarter in 24.74, and the half in 48.99. Once again, Secret Passage fired, and made a circling move through the far turn. Mr. N and Better Than Magic tried to stay on, but Secret Passage had their measure. He won going away, two lengths clear of Mr. N come the wire.
His first two starts have shown a lot of promise, and his pedigree suggests he should only improve with age. Curlin babies tend to, after all. Even on the bottom, with so much precocity, there is also a penchant for staying on with time. Secret Passage is half to Don Dulce (Maria’s Mon), a winner at two who went on to win a stakes race at four, and is still going strong in allowance-optional company in New York this year at seven. Half-brother Strong Resolve (Elusive Quality) broke his maiden at two as well, but is still racing now at six, and has won twice this year. Half-sister Sweet Relish (Smoke Glacken) graduated at two, but won a stakes race and was Grade III placed at three. Wherethewestbegins (Gone West) also scored his first win at two, but won seven times throughout his career, including ones his seven-year-old year. In short, though Secret Passage is already doing strong things at two, his breeding suggests he should age well, and be competitive for a long time to come.
Hopefully, he moves on to stakes company soon. The Remington Springboard Mile would make sense, given that he has two wins over the course already, including a maiden win at a flat mile. Then, given that he is trained by Donnie Von Hemel, it would make sense to see Secret Passage try Oaklawn in the winter and spring. Hopefully he develops, handles the rises in class with aplomb, and becomes another serious Curlin baby on the Derby trail.
Both what he has shown and what lurks in his pedigree make that a promising proposition.