Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies: a look back on twelve races during 2015 that stand out. Among hundreds of races by Curlin’s progeny through the course of the year, they are the ones I keep returning to in my head, the ones that I am always ready and excited to discuss.
#11: Stellar Wind and Curalina finish 2-3 in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Curlin won the Breeders’ Cup Classic at three, but going into this year, none of his progeny had yet made a huge splash in the Breeders’ Cup. Palace Malice finished sixth in the Classic in 2013. Danette, still a maiden at the time, finished a surprisingly good fifth in the 2014 Juvenile Fillies, rallying from well off the pace when speed was good.
Both Stellar Wind (Evening Star, by Malibu Moon) and Curalina (Whatdreamsrmadeof, by Graeme Hall) had things going for them going into the Distaff this year…and both sophomore fillies had questions surrounding them.
Stellar Wind had done nothing wrong this year, with her only loss in five previous starts this year being a tough-trip fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. Still, she had not yet faced older company, and trainer John Sadler has a spotty history shipping runners out of California for big races.
Curalina had faced older company before, finishing second behind horse-for-the-Belmont-course Wedding Toast in the Beldame Stakes. Still, questions remained around whether her form was as sharp as it was earlier in the season.
By the time the field crossed the wire in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, no one needed to ask these questions anymore.
The daughters of Curlin broke right next to each other: Curalina had the 8 gate, Stellar Wind the 9. In the early stages of the race, Curalina stalked close to the pace, in a line of horses just behind pacesetting pair My Sweet Addiction and Yahilwa. Stellar Wind, on the other hand, settled just in front of the rearmost group, priming to make one of her trademark closing moves.
Approaching the far turn, Stellar Wind had begun her advance. She was gaining on the leaders — caught wide, but circling the field with power. As the field turned for home, she and Stopchargingmaria separated themselves from the field by open lengths. Stellar Wind made tenacious pursuit. She did not quite get there, and a long stewards’ review determined that Stopchargingmaria did not cost her the placing. Even so, it was a huge effort in the toughest race of her life, in her first try against older fillies and mares.
Curalina, on the inside, got caught behind some fading horses, and had to wait for an opening. Once that happened, she powered her way through. It was too late to run down Stopchargingmaria and Stellar Wind. Still, she separated herself from the rest of the pack, and held comfortably safe from a late rally from Sheer Drama. Curalina crossed the wire a clear third, sharp and game enough to silence any questions about her form.
Though Curlin does not yet have his Breeders’ Cup champion yet, he had a pair of excellent performers this year in Stellar Wind and Curalina. Hopefully they both stay healthy at four — and perhaps they meet again in next year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff! It will be run at Stellar Wind’s home track, Santa Anita…but Curalina has run her race at enough different ovals that she should be able to bring a challenge out west, too.