A strong summer for the Curlin babies continued today, as two more achieved their first graded stakes placings of their career. One was trying stakes company for the first time. Another, already a stakes winner last year, had tried graded company several times before, but not quite risen to the occasion yet.
Neither won, but both proved they belonged.
Three-year-old filly Tejana (Tia, by Giant’s Causeway) came into today’s Monmouth Oaks (GIII) with only two starts behind her. She romped on debut at Pimlico on May 15. She followed that up with an allowance win at Belmont. The allowance victory was particularly impressive: she faced older for the first time, stretched to a mile for the first time, was rushed to the lead after a slow start, yet still drew off late.
That race made her look like a stakes-quality filly. Tejana got the chance to test that thought in today’s Monmouth Park Oaks (GIII).
Despite her relative inexperience, her strong pair of races were enough for the public to send Tejana off as the 8/5 favourite in a field of six. She broke well, unlike last out. Though it took until the field hit the clubhouse turn, Tejana did wrest the rail and the lead from quick-breaking Mo’ Green. She lead the field through reasonable early fractions of 24.06 for the quarter and 47.92 for the half, settled nicely despite Unbridled Mo sitting on her outside flank.
So things remained as the field turned for home. Unbridled Mo was asked. Tejana, asked as well, edged ahead to lead by about a length. Unbridled Mo kept coming. Tejana dug in, but Unbridled Mo found a bit more in the final sixteenth. She caught Tejana, and hit the wire a neck in front. Tejana still held safe for second, three quarters of a length in front of the rallying Mo d’Amour.
Though Tejana is no longer undefeated, she made good account of herself in the Monmouth Oaks. Both of her previous victory have been romps. Here, Tejana was tested. Though she did not get all the way to the wire first, she did not fold when Unbridled Mo headed her. She did the one thing you can’t teach: she kept trying, which bodes well for her chances to get a stakes win of her own in the futre.
Texas Ryano (Blending Element, by Great Commotion), a five-year-old intact son of Curlin, has been solid enough in the allowance ranks out west. He stepped forward in stakes company last year when he won the King Pellinore Stakes at Santa Anita. But, in all three graded stakes attempts before today, Texas Ryano had finished midpack. He never trailed in last, but never looked anything like a winner, either.
But, he tried again in the Del Mar Handicap (GII) today. Though class was the question, the mile and three eighths distance was one he could handle. The one other time he went eleven panels, he finished second in an allowance last year behind Wanstead Gardens, another runner in the Del Mar Handicap today. His stakes victory last year came going ten furlongs. Perhaps his best showing to date in graded company had come going twelve furlongs, when he was beaten four and three quarters lengths by The Pizza Man in last year’s Hollywood Turf Cup.
Texas Ryano was going to have to step it up to have a shot, but there were some suggestions that this would be the right place. Most of the public seemed to think he had no shot. He went off at 42/1, the third longest shot in the field of twelve. In the Del Mar Handicap, Texas Ryano proved better than the public thought.
Texas Ryano had shown some versatility. Though he typically rallied from well off the pace, his second-place finish two starts back showed that he could be effective from closer to the pace. Joe Talamo, who had been aboard for that ride, reverted to that tactic in the Del Mar Handicap. With little speed in the race, Ashleyluvssugar asserted himself on the lead, opening up about half a dozen lengths on the chasing El Huerfano, and a dozen lengths on the vanguard of the main pack: Wanstead Gardens and Texas Ryano.
The field began to encroach the speeds as the third turn approached. Texas Ryano and Wanstead Gardens caught up with El Huerfano, and the daylight behind Ashleyluvssugar shrunk. Texas Ryano fanned four wide turning for home. Though he lost a bit of position there, he kept on fighting despite the ground loss. He edged ahead of the horses who passed him on the turn for home. He pushed past Wanstead Gardens, past El Huerfano. He could not quite match the rally of Metaboss on the far outside, a rally that missed Ashleyluvssugar by just a nose. But, Texas Ryano hit the wire third, just a length behind the top two.
He proved his stamina and class in an ambitious spot. And, though Texas Ryano fell just short? It was enough to think that at age five, this son of Curlin may be at his best yet.