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.
#12: Theogony wins the Belle Mahone Stakes
#11: Stellar Wind and Curalina finish 2-3 in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff
#10: Jess’s Dream is a reality!
#9: Danette graduates — finally!
#8: Copperplate finds his place
#7: Curalina wins the Acorn…right in front of me
#6: Union Jackson breaks his maiden
#5: Charismata helps introduce a new voice to Emerald Downs
#4: Solar Maximus goes long…really long
When I was beginning to gather my full group of Curlin babies for my virtual stable, I put everyone in there. That included unraced horses and familiar faces at the track, claimers and graded stakes horses. If they were by Curlin, they were on my list of horses to watch.
When I added Solar Maximus (Solar Colony, by Pleasant Colony) to my list, I was not sure whether he was still alive.
Solar Maximus had raced four times in 2013, at age three. After a pair of fourth-place finishes at Mountaineer and Presque Isle Downs, he won a $15,000 maiden claiming race at Indiana Grand by open lengths. In his next start, he tried a $25,000 N2L on the grass. He got away a bit awkwardly, and lagged through the clubhouse turn. Going into the backstretch, he looked to be moving a bit awkwardly, and rider Orlando Mojica pulled him up. He was vanned off.
Most of the time, information comes out about horses who were vanned off in stakes races. This happens far less often with races such as a $25,000 non-winners of two. Cold-asking connections I do not know for information about their horse merely because I am a fan of their sire seemed invasive, so I put Solar Maximus in my virtual stable…just in case he was alive, just in case he ever worked again, just in case he ever raced again.
In September of 2014, Solar Maximus resurfaced on the worktab at The Thoroughbred Center. I had never been so happy to see a horse on the worktab. It meant he was still alive.
Two months later, he raced again. He finished fifth in a $7,500 N2L at Churchill Downs, not a bad outing for a horse who had not raced in almost a year and a half. Next out, he won a $5,000 N2L at Mahoning Valley.
It has turned out that Solar Maximus likes Mahoning Valley Race Course a lot.
A next-out try against allowance company there proved ambitious, but a return to the claiming ranks resulted in an authoritative win. After that, he graduated to the starter ranks, where he remained all spring. He won a $5,000 starter allowance by open lengths. That race covered a mile and an eighth, providing the first suggestion that Solar Maximus had the stamina one would hope to see from a son of Curlin, out of a Pleasant Colony mare.
After a defeat in a one-mile starter allowance, Solar Maximus got the chance to truly test his stamina. On March 28, he raced in a one and a half mile starter allowance at Mahoning Valley.
Twelve furlongs agreed with Solar Maximus.
Odds-on Brite Sabbeth took the lead early, though Angelic Mia pressed on his flank. Entering the first of three turns, Solar Maximus stalked cozily in third. Down the stretch for the first time, Solar Maximus edged closer to the pacesetter.
Going into the far turn, Solar Maximus slipped past Angelic Mia and took on Brite Sabbeth. Into the backstretch, Solar Maximus had the lead. Brite Sabbeth pursued from the inside, with Freud’s Vale on his outside flank. It was Freud’s Vale who dogged Solar Maximus closely, pressuring him all the way down the backstretch.
Into the far turn for the second time, Freud’s Vale began to fall away. Brite Sabbeth accelerated for a second run, trying to make good on his 3/5 odds, but Solar Maximus had command. Brite Sabbath emptied out. Freud’s Vale had no more to give. Solar Maximus poured it on, coming home 7 3/4 lengths clear of Brite Sabbath, with another two lengths back to Freud’s Vale.
The way Solar Maximus’s stamina carried the day at a mile and a half, the way he had blossomed through the winter and spring at Mahoning…this boded well for an even longer starter allowance. April 25, closing day of the meet, featured a two-mile affair. That day, Solar Maximus would get his crack at Feodor, who had won a two and a quarter mile starter allowance at Mountaineer by almost fifty lengths the previous September.
Their clash would prove anticlimactic. Feodor won the two-miler by 46 1/2 lengths. Solar Maximus was eased late, finishing fifth of six. That would set the tone for his summer, which saw him struggle through six starts at ThistleDown.
Fortunately, the return of the Mahoning Valley winter meet has meant a return to good form for Solar Maximus. He finished third in his first two starts on the meet. He crossed the wire first on December 9 against $7,500 non-winners in six months, but was disqualified to second for some interference.
Today, for the first time since that dazzling victory at a mile and a half, Solar Maximus won.
Perhaps this bodes well for the rest of the meet. The condition books are not out for the late spring races, yet. But, hopefully they bring back the series of marathon starter allowances, and hopefully Solar Maximus can shine there once more.