Annie’s Curls, wire to wire!

I hoped I would see Annie’s Curls (Keiko, by First Samurai) race at Arlington this summer.  The juvenile daughter of Curlin was on the worktab there, after all.  However, this summer’s Arlington meet did not end up being the best for followers of Curlin’s progeny.  Annie’s Curls never entered…and though two other Curlin babies entered and then scratched during the meet, not a single Curlin baby saw the starter at Arlington this year.

As for Annie’s Curls, she shipped out to California with trainer Michael Stidham’s “A” string.  On debut, she finished fourth beaten 7 3/4 lengths, but she was only a length and a quarter out of second.  The runaway winner of that race has turned out to be a pretty good racehorse: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Songbird.  Even Treasuring, who edged Annie’s Curls for third that day, eventually broke her maiden, and then finished a gutsy second behind Lucky Folie in the Desi Arnaz last week.

Second time out, she returned to six furlongs over the Del Mar dirt.  She was well back, did not fire, and finished a disappointing and non-threatening eighth.  Then, she shipped to Keeneland and stretched out to a route for the first time.  Annie’s Curls responded well to those changes.  She was a little closer to the early pace going two turns.  She stalked off of heavily favoured Sky My Sky, assumed the lead, but could not hold off a strong, sweeping move from Amazing Charisma.  Still, she had enough left at the end of the 1 1/16 mile race to outgame Wolf Gourmet for second.

After that race, Annie’s Curls moved from the barn of Mike Stidham to the barn of Kristen Mulhall, along with the rest of Ike and Dawn Thrash’s horses.  She fired off a few more works — four furlongs, then five, then six — at Santa Anita.  On November 19, she returned to race again at Del Mar, and cut back to a flat mile.

Out of the gate and approaching the clubhouse turn, Escapee, Pageant Material, and Annie’s Curls all showed interest in assuming the lead.  Through the turn, Annie’s Curls asserted herself there.  Escapee pressed most closely down the backstretch, but still allowed Annie’s Curls to slow the pace a bit.  After a 22.85 opening quarter, she got away with a 24.10 second quarter.

Escapee faded out of it, but as the field turned for home, Annie’s Curls had new competition.  Pageant Material still stalked in relatively close order coming into the stretch, and Well Acquainted found her rally from a few lengths back.  Between the two, it was Well Acquainted who made the best late run; she gained on Annie’s Curls with every stride.  Still, the daughter of Curlin doggedly held her lead, and crossed the wire half a length to the good.

If this race is any indication, it looks like Annie’s Curls may have found her way (or, at least, the first trick in her book) as a two-turn speed horse.  She also seems to do well with Mike Smith in the irons, as he was aboard for her second at Keeneland, as well as her graduation Thursday at Del Mar.  As her dam won at three, and Curlin babies tend to improve with age, hopefully this is just the beginning for Annie’s Curls.

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