First time out was not exactly a charm for Curlin Rules (Awe That, by Boundary).
He debuted on December 26, in a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita. A bit slow early, he chased near the back of the pack, never really got involved, and finished ninth beaten 18 3/4 lengths behind Danzing Candy.
Though it was hardly a whiz-bang first outing, the three-year-old colt’s immediate pedigree suggested he would need at least a start under him before he got rolling. Curlin babies do not tend to the precocious, and none of Awe That’s babies had won first out.
Five of her six other starters had won. Three of those had gotten their pictures taken after their second start, but none won on debut. That record included even his three-quarter sister Bel Air Beauty, a graded stakes winner at two. Still, that most precocious of Awe That’s progeny fell short first time out — and then graduated in the 2007 Alcibiades (GII), her second start.
This gave Curlin Rules some hope to improve on Sunday.
Curlin Rules returned in a 1 1/16 mile maiden special weight over the Santa Anita dirt. The public had faith that he would get it together second time around, sending him off as the 7/5 favourite in a field of eight. Fortunately, things did go better for Curlin Rules on Sunday.
Curlin Rules broke well enough, and rider Victor Espinoza wasted no time getting him going. He urged his steed on to the front, and Curlin Rules had a clearly defined lead going into the clubhouse turn. Latest Craze and Stardust Moon settled to his outside, and Latest Craze turned up the pressure as the field travelled down the backstretch. Curlin Rules handled it, however, and took a half-length lead into the far turn.
Turning for home, Latest Craze had had enough, and Curlin Rules opened up daylight on the field. However, he had a new challenge to face. 2/1 second choice Uninvited was rallying on the outside, and swallowing up the deficit with every stride.
Curlin Rules dug in. He found enough in reserve, crossing the wire three quarters of a length clear of that challenger. The top pair was clearly best, as third-place Prince of Arabia checked in another three and a quarter lengths back.
It was a workmanlike victory. But, it was a clear step forward from his debut, and he showed grit to hold on in the late stages. Though the John Sadler trainee has a long way to go in order to match another Curlin baby on his shedrow, he is headed in the right direction.