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.
#9: Danette graduates — finally!
Danette (Sugar Britches, by Dixieland Band) did a lot at age two. She finished a clear third in the 2014 Chandelier Stakes (GI), and followed that up with a strong performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She finished the year more accomplished than so many other fillies in her class, except for one small matter.
Danette had not yet broken her maiden.
The first half of her three-year-old season brought more of the same. She started her season with a pair of maiden special weights at Santa Anita, finishing second once. Her only foray into stakes company came during a trip to New Orleans for the Fair Grounds Oaks in March. Off slowly, she rallied for fourth. Though she never threatened, the three horses ahead of her all turned out to be good ones going forward: I’m a Chatterbox, Shook Up, and Forever Unbridled.
After that, she returned for another pair of maiden special weights at Santa Anita. She tallied another second-place finish, filling out a Curlin babies exacta underneath Conquest Curlgirl. Still, twelve starts into her career, her first win continued to elude her.
Texas Red shipped west for the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont on July 4. Perhaps he needed a flying buddy. Perhaps a $75,000 maiden special weight purse appealed. It may have been a bit of both. Trainer Keith Desormeaux sent Danette east with her stablemate, and entered her in a mile and a sixteenth maiden special weight over the Belmont main. It would be her first race at Belmont, and her first race in New York.
The race drew a field of just six. Blame Dixie set unpressured though solid early fractions. Though Danette settled near the back of the pack, that group was compact. She was only about three lengths off the lead down much of the backstretch.
Danette commenced an outside rally as the field entered the turn. She edged toward Blame Dixie and stalking longshot Moonlit Bay, with only those two still to pass as the field passed the midpoint of that turn.
She kept coming. Entering the stretch, Danette had drawn on even terms with Blame Dixie. Moonlit Bay could not keep up. Then, Blame Dixie started to fold. Danette had her nose in front, and had to keep it there for three sixteenths of a mile.
Regia Marina did not make it easy for her. She commenced an outside move, and went right with Danette as she galloped clear of the rest. Yet, Danette dug in. Down the stretch that day, Danette looked like neither a hard-luck filly nor a perpetual bridesmaid. She dug in, held Regia Marina at bay, and crossed the wire a length and three quarters in front.
After she broke her maiden, Danette stayed in New York for two starts at the Spa. Right in line with her racing history, both came in stakes. She finished fourth in the Coaching Club American Oaks (GI); Include Betty just nipped her for the show. It was enough for Desormeaux to send her back out against Grade I company in the Alabama Stakes. There, she finished fourth again. She improved position somewhat from midpack, but had no answer that day for lone speed Embellish the Lace.
Danette has been away from the racetrack, away from the worktab, since that fourth-place finish in the Alabama. The next phase of her career hinges on what happens next month. She has been entered in the Keeneland January sale. Danette is hip 32, a racing or broodmare prospect. It will be up to her new connections to decide whether she gets to keep trying for that elusive stakes win…or whether to leave that part of her legacy for her foals to avenge.