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
#6 Stellar Wind defeats a champion in the Clement Hirsch
#5 Connect wins the race named after his sire
#4: Exaggerator matches his sire’s feat
#3 Solar Maximus steps up in class
#2 Keen Ice justifies an ambitious spot
#1: Captured fights back
Putting Captured (Alluring, by A. P. Indy) at the head of this list was easy. Choosing the race was difficult.
In fourteen starts this year, the five-year-old gelding won six times. He could win by daylight. He could win by a neck. As long as Captured got two turns over his beloved Penn National dirt, he would be a force.
His finest hour this year came on July 7.
Captured brought sharp form into that start. He had won three of his last four, trending up the class ladder as he did so. He won an open $4,000 claimer by daylight, then turned around to beat conditioned $6,250-$6,000 company more decisively. Nine days after that victory, he suffered a small setback, finishing third — but that came against even tougher stuff, a $4,000 starter allowance. He got a breath, returned to the same level a little over a month later, and won by a game neck.
Next out, on July 7, Captured stepped up to $8,000 starter company. The public knew what a hike it was, and bet accordingly. Odds-on Worthy Lion was a familiar face in the starter ranks, and made himself known at Laurel, Parx, and Delaware as well as Penn National. Others in the field came in from straight allowances, double-digit claimers, classier groups than the Captured had faced. In a field of five, Captured went off at almost 12/1 — the longest shot on the board.
They underestimated him.
Breaking from the outside in the field of five, Captured tried to settle close to the pace. Everyone had the same idea, which hung Captured five wide going into the clubhouse turn. The pace settled a bit through that curve, but he still exited it three wide and dead last, about two lengths off the pacesetting pair of Monba Mia and Smooth Service.
Captured kept chasing from the rear, though always in touch, down the backstretch. As the field entered the far turn, rider John Lloyd asked, and Captured answered with authority. He quickened, left the chasing flight behind, and fast engaged the leaders.
Captured got his head in front, and it looked like he had put them away. Smooth Service had other plans. He fought back, getting his neck back in front as the field turned for the stretch. Past the quarter pole, the three-sixteenths pole, Captured battled Smooth Service. But, that foe would not fold, and odds-on Worthy Lion had taken flight down the centre of the course.
Captured would have to find more, or he would have to settle for a minor award. Even that would have been a solid testament to his form: five wide into the first turn, three wide through the second, and still fighting.
Captured wanted more than that — he wanted to win.
Passing the furlong pole, Captured found that next gear. In an instant, he opened daylight on the rest of the field. Worthy Lion continued his rally, but Captured was gone for good. The longest shot on the board crossed the wire two lengths clear of his odds-on foe, with Smooth Service another two lengths back in third.
After this valiant effort, Captured continued his good form. He rallied from the clouds to win a $5,000 starter allowance in his next start, giving him five wins in his last six starts. He then moved into straight allowance company. He belonged: he finished third in his first try at the level, then followed up with a gritty last-to-first victory at the level on September 24. Captured continued his solid form in his next start with a second-place finish in a $5,000 starter allowance — where he missed top honours by just a head, but you had to look seventeen lengths back for the show horse.
From April through October, he could do no wrong. Since then, Captured’s form has tailed off a bit; he has been off the board in his last three starts. Still, his form has cycled on and off a few times during his career. He always comes back, as his 15 wins in 38 starts attest. Hopefully he gets a break, takes a breath, and comes back to Penn National with a vengeance next year.