Last summer, Off the Tracks (Harve de Grace, by Boston Harbor) got Curlin’s fourth crop going with a bang. Her maiden win at Gulfstream last June was the first by a member of her crop. She then took her form north to Saratoga, winning the Schuylerville Stakes (GIII) in convincing fashion.
She did not return to the racetrack last year. Out of the Schuylerville with a knee injury, Off the Tracks spent most of the rest of 2015 recovering from surgery. She finally returned to the track in December, and to the worktab the following month. Her first work back was a bullet three-furlong move on January 30. She then posted a four-furlong drill and a five-furlong drill through February.
Those signs boded well for a return to come soon. That return came today in the Margate Handicap at Gulfstream.
The Margate Handicap was a six and a half furlong dirt race. Off the Tracks already had a win over the Gulfstream course, but it was the longest race she had yet tried, half a furlong more than she covered in the Schuylerville.
Though Off the Tracks ran for the first time since last summer, she still entered the starting gate as the co-highweight among the seven sophomore fillies who saw the starter. (Eight entered, but April Gaze scratched.) Off the Tracks, along with Ballet Diva, carried 120 pounds, between two and five more than their rivals.
Despite the layoff, Off the Tracks returned sharp.
As expected, Ballet Diva sent to the front early. In similar style as her previous starts, Off the Tracks got a good stalking spot. She briefly joined Sugar Cone and Daddy’s Great Bay in the second flight, but soon edged ahead to give Ballet Diva some pace pressure. Going into the turn, Off the Tracks was only half a length off the lead. Ballet Diva tried to edge away, and briefly managed to open up some daylight through the turn.
Then Off the Tracks’s rally began in earnest.
Turning for home, she furiously closed the gap. She drew even with Ballet Diva inside the quarter pole, and just kept going. Sugar Cone and Daddy’s Great Bay tried to give chase, but both could only pass the fading Ballet Diva. Off the Tracks hit full steam, and drew off to a four and a quarter length victory.
That race answered some questions. Off the Tracks is back — she matured enough to run strongly against three year olds, many of whom were more experienced than she was. She has her confidence and her form.
From here, the races get longer and the waters get deeper. Her connections have suggested that she is on the Kentucky Oaks trail, with the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) likely next.
The talent is most certainly there.
However, there is a lot of sprint in her pedigree. Her dam Harve de Grace was a sprinter, and out of her five other winning siblings, the only one who won going two turns was Concord Point (Tapit). Full sister Inspired by Grace is a stakes-placed turf sprinter.
Of course, the same mating does not produce the same horse. A Curlin half to Concord Point (winner of both the Iowa Derby (GIII) and the West Virginia Derby (GII)) has every right to turn out as one who likes to go long. With the class Off the Tracks has shown, and with the way she found her next gear in the late going, she merits a try at two turns.
Hopefully, Off the Tracks handles it as well as she had handled her three races so far.