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.
#12: My Curby makes a winning visit to Arlington
#11: Reversiontothemean finds the wire just in time
#10: Theogony goes long in the Rags to Riches
#9: Barbara’s Smile soars against the boys
Barbara’s Smile (Credenza, by Lord Carlos) broke her maiden at first asking in May of 2014, rallying to win a seven-furlong turf sprint at Belmont over $40,000 maiden claimers. After going winless in her next ten starts through that three-year-old year, she was off the track until September of 2015.
In that return she tried something new: jumps.
Even if a horse has won on the flat, they can start back in maiden company if they have not yet won a jumps race. Barbara’s Smile figured out that new style of racing almost as quickly as she her first, prevailing at Aiken in her second try over hurdles. After that victory she stepped right into stakes company a month later, finished eighth, and went on the shelf for the winter.
Barbara’s Smile made her five-year-old debut in March of 2016 at Aiken, the same course over which she broke her jumps maiden. She entered a handicap against males, and finished a well-beaten third in a field of five. A month later, against N2L fillies and mares at Atlanta, she finished a better and closer third.
Barbara’s Smile returned July 12. She went back on the hurdle, though instead of running at a dedicated jumps meet like Aiken, Camden, or Atlanta, she entered a two and one sixteenth mile race over the turf course at Parx. In a seven-horse N2L allowance, against males, Barbara’s Smile went off the second longest shot in the group at 10/1.
She ran like anything but a longshot.
King Ting asserted himself on the front end early. Rider Mark Watts had Barbara’s Smile tracking a clear second in the early stages: not pressing King Ting, but staying in close range as she jumped.
Coming into the far turn for the first time, the field took closer order. Barbara’s Smile kept tracking: into the stretch she settled on the outside of the second flight, up and over both hurdles comfortably.
The field went through the clubhouse turn and into the backstretch: two fences to go. King Ting, still on the fence, made it over both. Barbara’s Smile did, too, with the rest of the field landing behind.
After the last fence, Barbara’s Smile quickened as soon as her hooves returned to the grass. Approaching the far turn, King Ting’s lead shrunk to half a length, a neck, a head…and halfway through the turn, Barbara’s Smile struck the front.
King Ting chased doggedly, but could not match her. No one had an answer for the late foot Barbara’s Smile showed. She crossed the wire two and three quarters lengths clear of the longtime leader. She beat the boys, and scored her second victory over jumps.
Barbara’s Smile raced twice more this year. She finished fourth behind Get Ready Set Goes in the Mrs. Ogden Phipps Handicap at Saratoga in August, then fifth behind the same mare in the Peapack Hurdle Stakes at Far Hills in October. Hopefully Barbara’s Smile returns in 2017 at age six: a year better, a year stronger, and able to conquer stakes company in her third season over jumps.