Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2016. Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.
#10: Theogony goes long in the Rags to Riches
In June of 2007, Rags to Riches outgamed Curlin in the Belmont Stakes (GI), taking the mile and a half race by a head.
Nine years later, over the same course and distance, a first-crop daughter of Curlin would try to win the first running of a race named for the filly who vanquished her sire there.
Theogony (Upcoming Story, by Tale of the Cat) was a good younger horse, but like so many of her sire’s babies, she improved with age. She ran well enough earlier in her career. Theogony broke her maiden at three and cleared her first two allowance conditions at four. She got even better at five, winning the 2015 Belle Mahone Stakes and placing in the Falls City Handicap (GII).
At six, Theogony remained in training. She contested Oaklawn’s series of filly and mare stakes races, with her best finish there being a second behind Streamline in the Pippin. In between, she also ventured out to Sam Houston, although she didn’t fire there. After Oaklawn she went to Pimlico, and looked like she was getting things back on track with a close second behind Ahh Chocolate in the Allaire DuPont Distaff (GIII).
Theogony returned three weeks later in the Rags to Riches Invitational Stakes. She would face a field of just four other horses there, a suboptimal setup given her usual off-pace running style. Still, there was hope. She had shown some capacity to stay a bit more forward in a small field, as evidenced in her Belle Mahone win. Could the Curlin blood on top carry her past that sprinter/miler breeding underneath? After all, she had already proven more durable than her dam’s three other foals to race, including her retired full brother Harvey.
Perhaps Theogony sensed she had something to avenge.
Favoured Mei Ling, so often a frontrunner, dropped off the pace. Instead, Milaya took the initiative. Theogony, showing the same adaptability that won her the Belle Mahone the year before, tracked Milaya in second. Rider Julien Leparoux encouraged Theogony — he did not push hard early, but urged her just enough to keep Milaya from escaping her sights. Theogony sat about two lengths off the early pace coming into the backstretch — with almost ten more lengths back to Mei Ling and the rest.
Into Belmont’s sweeping far turn, Leparoux asked Theogony to go. She slowly eclipsed the daylight between her and Milaya. But, would it be enough? The rest of the pack was coming, and that gulf between them had evaporated to just a length or two.
Theogony had their measure.
Turning into the stretch, she swept past Milaya. She shifted smoothly into her next gear and cleared the field with flair. Mei Ling, so atypically rated, won a four-horse race for second. But, eight lengths ahead, Theogony floated past the wire.
After Rags to Riches beat him in the Belmont, Curlin would return to Big Sandy to win the 2007 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He won that ten-furlong race again the next year. He burnished his legacy at Belmont, just as he did so many other places.
But, at twelve furlongs? It took Theogony, a daughter of Curlin, to make her mark over the trip at which Rags to Riches defeated her sire.