Yesterday’s Marylander Stakes featured a battle of two of Curlin’s most promising two-year-old sons.
Irish War Cry (Irish Sovereign, by Polish Numbers) had already proven himself once over the Laurel dirt. He debuted in a maiden special weight, drawn far outside in a six-furlong maiden special weight sprint on November 11. He rallied from well off the pace, and though he was green, he won with ease. It was a good enough debut to get him into Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager as the only son of Curlin included. The Marylander would be his second career start, his first against winners.
Undulated (Polly Alexander, by Foxhound) had run three times. He made an impressive winning debut on turf at Laurel, finished second in the Laurel Futurity (also on turf) next out, then graduated to the ranks of the stakes winners by taking the Swynford Stakes over Woodbine’s Tapeta. In the Marylander Stakes, he stretched to seven furlongs for the first time and tried conventional dirt for the first time. Everyone else came into the race with form over dirt — specifically, the dirt at Laurel — leaving him with something to prove.
They drew right next to each other in the Marylander: Undulated on the rail, Irish War Cry in the 2 gate. Just three others saw the starter, after the scratches of Always a Suspect and Cape Lookout. O Dionysus had won the Christopher Elser Memorial Stakes, a six and a half furlong race on the Parx dirt, and had broken his maiden at Laurel. Two Charley’s had also graduated over the Laurel main, and finished second behind promising El Areeb in the James F. Lewis Stakes. Alive rounded out the five; a maiden, he had hit the board twice in maiden special weights over the course.
Irish War Cry changed his style from his debut. Instead of rallying from off the pace in a large field, he took the initiative up front. Undulated, who had done his best from well off the pace, sent from the rail as well. The pair of Curlin sons dueled down the backstretch, with the others tracking behind. Irish War Cry flung his head around as he ran, but kept pace with the other son of Curlin.
Coming into the far turn, Irish War Cry settled down and got serious. Trevor McCarthy implored Undulated to keep pace, but they lost ground. Irish War Cry cruised ahead, but had not gotten home free.
O Dionysus ranged up on the outside. He drew even with Irish War Cry at the five-sixteenths pole, and poked his head in front. Irish War Cry, on the rail, fought back. By the three-sixteenths pole, he got his neck in front, and tried to pull away into the final furling. O Dionysus pushed forward once more. He inched back up on Irish War Cry with one final surge.
They hit the line together.
The stewards looked. Irish War Cry just held.
Undulated could not keep pace with that pair, and crossed the wire ten lengths back. Still, he held for third, a length in front of Two Charley’s.
Irish War Cry did not win by the flashy margin one might expect from a 1/5 shot, but he proved his quality. Off the pace in his first start, he proved he could be effective on the front. Under siege for seven furlongs, by two different foes, he still made it to the wire first. In just two starts, Irish War Cry has proven himself versatile, gritty, and strong on the dirt. Once he learns to settle, he will grow even better.
And, Undulated? Don’t count him out yet. The Marylander was the worst of his four starts, but it was worth trying in order for his connections to learn more about who they had. Undulated has a great mind, and he still has upside. Watch out for when Undulated returns to the grass. Watch out for when he can return to his closing style.
Two promising Curlin babies entered the Marylander Stakes, and two promising Curlin babies move forward.