it’s a Curlin baby in the Curlin Stakes!

Trainer Chad Brown has taken his time with Connect (Bullville Belle, by Holy Bull).  He debuted in December, finished a solid third in a maiden special weight at Aqueduct, then got another five months to grow into himself.  He returned in May at Belmont, and came back a comfortable winner at the same level.  On the Belmont undercard, facing allowance company, he stretched from six and a half furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth.  Once again, Connect connected.  He pressed Wake Up in Malibu early, took over, and again crossed the wire clear by daylight.

Today, he tried stakes company for the first time — in a race named after his sire.

Connect’s toughest competition was widely regarded to be his more experienced competition, Gift Box.  However, the others in the field brought some solid resumes.  Star two-year-old Swipe was trying to get his three-year-old season on the rails.  Majesto was making his first start since the Kentucky Derby, Forever d’Oro was returning after trying the Belmont, and Ready Dancer was coming off a sharp allowance score.  Dolphus had not been seen since the early stages of the Fair Grounds prep season…but even he, like everyone but Connect, had some stakes-level experience under his girth.

Connect may have been the new face, but there was no question he belonged.

Out of the gate, it took a while for the field to settle.  But Connect, with his early speed and his cozy rail draw, saved early ground and settled on the front end into the clubhouse turn.  Dolphus pressed him early, but Connect dictated terms comfortably.  Dolphus gradually lost ground on the outside, but someone came inside to continue the pressure: Connect’s stablemate, Gift Box.  Connect kept going — though Gift Box kept on close behind into and through the far turn, Connect continued to assert himself at the head of the pack.

Turning for home, the Chad Brown stablemates had left the rest of the field well behind them, running a match race of their own.  Gift Box kept trying along the rail, but Connect always had just a little bit more.  Past the sixteenth pole, it was clear: Connect was the better horse today.  He edged clear, crossing the wire a length to the good.  Behind Gift Box, it was another three lengths back to Forever d’Oro, who had closed from last.  The rest trailed in behind.

The day of the Curlin Stakes belonged to the son of Curlin: Connect.  He stepped up to stakes company beautifully, turned back a very talented horse, and has a bright future ahead of him.

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