another strong weekend for Curlin babies!

Though Terra Promessa has gotten most of the ink for her eye-catching victory in the Honeybee Stakes, a few other Curlin babies have had quite a good time of things, as well.  Though she was the only stakes winner over the weekend, three other sons and daughters of Curlin found their way to the winners’ circle, and two others garnered stakes placings.

Sunset District (America America, by Mister Baileys) broke his maiden at Monmouth in July of 2014, but had a rather tough time of things since then.  In ten starts between that win and Saturday afternoon, he hit the board just once.  That happened in a 1 1/16 mile turf route at Gulfstream almost a year ago, his first time dropping for the tag.  He started once more after that, but then was off from April until December.  $50,000 company proved too tough, $30,000 did as well.

In Saturday’s Gulfstream Park opener, the five-year-old gelding dropped in against the softest set he had faced to date.  $16,000 N2L company, going that same mile and a sixteenth over the South Florida sod, ended up being just the ticket for Sunset District.

He broke from the 10 hole, the outermost gate, and tracked the pace wide going into the turn.  Longshots Iphone Addiction and Britannia’s Moat got away from the pack through that turn, but Sunset District held near the front of the main pack.  The field gradually gained on the leading pair down the backstretch.  Through the far turn, Sunset District was three wide, but bore down on the leading pair.  Though the field looked like a scrum turning for home, one horse was moving best of all: Sunset District.  He kicked clear, outdid the late rallies of Dave Hoeght and Whippo, and got home a length and a half in front.

The company gets saltier from here, since Sunset District has lost his N2L condition.  However, it was a strong performance, and solid proof that Sunset District remains ready, willing, and able to be a racehorse.


 

A little later that day, in Oaklawn’s opener, Star Canyon (Public Dancer, by Elusive Quality) got her chance to shine.  This four-year-old filly had debuted in Februrary of last year at Oaklawn, but found the maiden special weight ranks there to be over her head.  She got the summer off, then struggled in a couple of fall starts at Keeneland and Churchill.

However, Star Canyon began to show some form this winter in the maiden claiming ranks at Oaklawn.  She was fifth against $25,000 company in January, and then second in February when she dropped to $15,000.  She dropped in for $12,500 this past Saturday.  Star Canyon returned to the same dirt mile, but had rain to deal with.  Despite two poor performances in the slop last year, she went off favoured, likely on her second-place finish against a bit tougher last out.

It turns out, the money was right.  Star Canyon could handle slop just fine, as long as she faced the right class of company.

She got a stalking position, three wide into the first turn.  As the field went down the backstretch, the pacesetters were three in a line: longshots Tessies Red Head and You Vow Me, with Star Canyon just a head back on the outside.  Tessies Red Head began to back up.  You Vow Me tried to get away, but Star Canyon continued to press.  She drew even just before the turn for home, and that pair scurried well away from the rest of the pack.  You Vow Me tried, but Star Canyon proved too good.  The daughter of Curlin edged clear to prevail by two and a half lengths.

Star Canyon will face winners for different connections.  Previously trained by Chris Hartman and owned by Jessica C. Kelsey, she was claimed into the barn of Steve Asmussen, for owner Michael Langford.  Perhaps new stablemate Terra Promessa can give Star Canyon a few tips.


 

Jackie K (Casablanca Babe, by Horse Chestnut) struggled in Southern California, winning just one of nine of her starts on that circuit.  That win came in a six-furlong, $30,000 maiden claimer during last July’s Los Alamitos thoroughbred meet.

However, Jackie K has found Arizona to be far more to her liking.  The four-year-old filly made her first start at Turf Paradise on November 27.  Going into her race on Monday, she had hit the board in three of four starts over that track, including a frontrunning turf mile score against N2L allowance company.Even though she was seventh next time out in a N3L allowance, it was not a bad outing all told — she was only beaten a length and three quarters for all of it.

Despite that close call last out, Jackie K stepped back down into the claiming ranks for her next start.  She returned in Monday’s Turf Paradise 7th, a turf mile for $8,500 ($10,000 – Arizona-bred) N3L company.

Impeccably came out of the gate like a rocket, and quickly opened up daylight between her and the rest of the field.  Jackie K got into stride quickly, though.  She got to the rail, and gave the early leader closest chase.  Down the backstretch, Impeccably remained on the engine, but Jackie K inched toward her slowly but surely.

Jackie K had reached the leader’s flank by the time the field proceeded into the far turn.  She drew even, and though Impeccably tried to stay on, she withered in shallow stretch.  The rest of the field swallowed that pacesetter up — but, by then, Jackie K was gone.  Still under a hand ride, she maintained her margin, and crossed the wire a length and three quarters clear of Shoeless Jackson.

This victory serves as more proof that Jackie K belongs at Turf Paradise.  As easily as she won that race, it bodes well for her ability to get the hang of N4L at Turf Paradise sooner rather than later.


 

In addition to Curlin’s trio of winners over the last several days, he also sired a pair of horses who placed in stakes company.

One got no shortage of attention, of course.  Exaggerator (Dawn Raid, by Vindication) made his second start of his three-year-old season in the San Felipe (GII).  After finishing a gritty second behind Nyquist in the San Vicente (GII) last out, he stretched back out to two turns for that start.

The race went so quickly from nerve-racking to thrilling to disappointing.  Exaggerator lagged well off the pace early as Danzing Candy winged it on the front end — almost ten lengths off the leader, and half a dozen behind any of the other five horses.  That is never exciting to see in a field of six, with one horse unpressured on the front end.  Even so, approaching the far turn, Exaggerator began to inhale ground.  He cut through horses, and took aim.  His head drew even with Danzing Candy’s flank just before the field turned for home.

Then, Danzing Candy got away.  Exaggerator had no answer.  He kept grinding away, but “grinding” proved the key word.  He lost ground to Danzing Candy, and Mor Spirit even found another gear and gained the place in the final sixteenth.

Perhaps he was a little too far off the pace, and Saturday’s rally from the clouds was not his best running style.  He has run some strong efforts closer to the pace, and that style may suit him better next out.  But, with as strong a move as Exaggerator made from off the pace, he should have been able to hold second if he were a true long-distance horse.  Losing only to lone speed (Danzing Candy) in a six-horse field may have been an excuse.  Getting nailed for the place, however, was the worrisome part.

To be fair, Exaggerator still finished third.  He still got ten more Kentucky Derby points — putting him at 26, historically more than enough points to get him into the gate on the first Saturday in May.  However, he will have to show far more in the Santa Anita Derby to mark himself as a legitimate threat to win the Roses.


 

Curlin’s other stakes placing happened a bit further under the radar.

Absolute Honour (In My Glory, by Honour and Glory) was perhaps the last Curlin baby I would have expected to see in stakes company of any magnitude.  A winner once at Golden Gate and once at Turf Paradise, the five-year-old gelding had recently moved a couple hours

south from Phoenix to Tucson.  He finished second in a $2,000 beaten claimer there in February, the lowest claiming tag for which a son or daughter of Curlin had yet run.  It was a solid enough second — he closed with interest, but the runaway leader was too far gone.  He returned in an allowance at Rillito, and finished fourth.  Again, the story was the same: he kicked on to close, but fell short.

Saturday, Absolute Honour was one of eight to see the starter in the Mr. Ed Stakes at Rillito, run at seven furlongs over the dirt.  The favourite was Brady Blue Eyes: last year’s Mr. Ed winner, and a four-time stakes winner over the course.  My T Quick, winner of two stakes races earlier in the Rillito meet, also saw the starter, and took some money at the windows.  Absolute Honour, on the other hand, was the longest shot of the bunch.

Coming out of the chute, Absolute Honour had a bit of speed, but he settled near the back by the time the field approached the clubhouse turn.  Grant, who broke from the rail, settled quickly in front.  Through that tight turn and into the backstretch, Absolute Honour settled about half a dozen lengths from the pace, right along the rail.

The field compacted a bit approaching the far turn.  Grant began to get some pressure from his closest stalkers, Right Idea and Devious Chuchu.  Absolute Honour had yet to kick on; he continued to race inside with the main pack.  He was a few lengths behind favoured Brady Blue Eyes, and slightly ahead of My T Quick.

Approaching the turn into the short bullring stretch, Absolute Honour made his rally.  He saved ground along the rail, as so many of the other pursuers flung wide.  By then, Grant was gone, and Right Idea still had plenty of gas in the tank.  However: Devious Chuchu, a fading third, was well off the rail.  This allowed Absolute Honour plenty of room to sustain his rally and get up into third.  He crossed the wire four and a half lengths behind Grant, but well exceeded the expectations of most of the public who dismissed him at 37/1.  He finished well ahead of Rillito’s “now” stakes horse My T Quick, and of their old class horse Brady Blue Eyes.

Though Absolute Honour has all the hallmarks of a horse whose closing run never quite gets there, the Rillito meet has proven to be a good one for him.  He has been competitive in all three of his tries, and he made solid account of himself in his stakes debut.  Rillito’s winter meet draws to a close this weekend, but hopefully he comes back when they reopen their doors.

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