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
#8: Fireball Merlin and Copperplate go clockwise
#7: Undulated debuts without fear
Though Curlin babies have a reputation for getting better as they age, for being excellent older horses, some have shown excellence at two. Those precocious Curlin babies shined bright in 2015, with Exaggerator and Off the Tracks both winning graded stakes races. Though Curlin had no juvenile graded stakes winner in 2016, he has a few two-year-olds who earned graded stakes placings this year: Valadorna in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), Bonita Bianca in the Demoiselle (GII). He also has some exciting maiden winners who should make even more of an impact at three.
Chief among them? Undulated (Polly Alexander, by Foxhound).
People expected excellence from Undulated even before he hit the track. He sold for $110,000 to Thoroughbred Champions Training Center at Keeneland September last year, then proved a sharp pinhook when M M G Stables purchased him for $625,000 this April at OBS.
That was quite a gamble, particularly given that his dam has been producing more in the way of durability than black type. Polly Alexander’s progeny to race before this year included A. P. Corsair, a nine-time winner in 39 starts, as well as the indestructible Italian Gemma Dell’Olmo, a fourteen time winner in 167 starts from ages two through eight. Climbing up his family tree revealed some stakes success, like Polly Alexander’s Grade II-winning brother Medici Code, but her branch had not yet passed that class on.
A Curlin baby by Polly Alexander would likely race for years…but at what level?
Undulated made it to the races at two, contesting a five and a half furlong turf dash at Laurel Park. His debut suggested he could grow into the stakes horse his owners hoped he would be.
Undulated came out of the gate with the rest of the field, but soon settled with the rear of the pack. Thanks to Jet Home and Speedy Slew, he got a contested pace to attack. Still, as the field entered the turn, he remained at the rear. The three-horse final flight trailed half a dozen lengths off the pace there — with inexperienced Undulated stuck in the middle.
Smooth in stride, Undulated accelerated through the turn. He had clear sailing…until he didn’t. Turning for home, he regained touch with the bulk of the pack.
To get to the wire first, he would have to find a way through that wall of horses.
He found a slot between Argento and Recoil in shallow stretch. Argento came in, threatening to pinch Undulated, but the juvenile son of Curlin held his ground. He continued his advance. He threaded between Love You Much and faltering frontrunner Jet Home. He tipped out, around Speedy Slew and A True Gentleman. Sleepless rallied from the outside, joining Undulated to take aim at favoured Bronx Sandman.
They looked in tandem, but for only the blink of an eye. Both closers passed the favourite, but Undulated relegated Sleepless to a clear second best. His official winning margin was only half a length, but that said nothing about the congested trip down the stretch, and said nothing about how quickly that half-length was widening.
It did little to capture the fearlessness, the maturity that Undulated showed in his first race.
Sometimes, a scintillating debut leads to the stratosphere. Other times, that one shining moment remains their career highlight. Fortunately for Undulated and his connections, his star continued to rise. He returned September 10 in the Laurel Futurity, another five and a half furlong dash over Laurel’s grass. Forced into a different running style — stalking and pouncing on a loose leader — Undulated finished second just a nose behind beautifully-bred Caribou Club. Despite the defeat, he proved his debut was no aberration, but rather a foundation.
Undulated raced again on November 27, stretching out to six furlongs and trying Tapeta in the Swynford Stakes at Woodbine. He replicated his running style from his debut, dropping far off the early pace despite only facing four other foes. Katalox and Wellabled gave him a fiery speed duel, but Undulated still brought up the rear as the field began its stretch run. But, if Undulated could rally through a phalanx to break his maiden, he could conquer four other horses. He swung to the outside, found his best gear in time, and eased past Uncle B to win by three quarters of a length. Undulated had their measure, and Undulated earned his first stakes win.
Hopefully, it will be the first of many.