Breeding horses isn’t an exact science. After all, the adage involves breeding the best to the best and hoping for the best, not knowing you’ll get the best. But, if one stallion keeps providing solid horses when bred to a mare or her family, why not stick with what works?
Curlin’s Image (Image of Mom, by Halo’s Image) already has a few close relatives by Curlin.
Curlin’s Approval (Withmom’sapproval, by With Approval), herself half to Image of Mom, has been the best so far, winning a stakes race at Gulfstream last summer, and finishing a gritty second in the Rampart (GIII) last out. Withmom’sapproval has also produced two other Curlin babies, though neither have raced. Curlin’s Daughter is five years old; Curlin’s Mistress is three.
In addition to Curlin’s Image, Image of Mom has also produced Curlin’s Princess. She was the first of Curlin’s third crop to start, and the first of that crop to win. Now five years old, she has won three times at Gulfstream, including a nine-length victory in her most recent start, an allowance back in September.
But, back to Curlin’s Image. She debuted last July, the summer of her three-year-old year. In four starts at three, she came in midpack each time: three fourth-place finishes and a third. All were sprints, three tries at six furlongs and one at six and a half.
For her four-year-old debut on January 12, Curlin’s Image stretched out to seven furlongs. An extended sprint makes sense, given her breeding: full sister Curlin’s Princess has won at both six and a half furlongs and the one-turn mile, and close relative Curlin’s Approval won a stakes race going seven furlongs. Martin Wolfson, who trains Curlin’s Image, would be in a perfect position to know this — he also trains the other two closely related Happy Alter homebreds, Curlin’s Princess and Curlin’s Approval.
The stretch to seven furlongs worked for Curlin’s Image.
It took a few strides, but when the pace settled, white-blazed chestnut Curlin’s Image settled on the lead. Slipper Orchid tried to press, but Curlin’s Image kept herself comfortable about a length in front.
Through the far turn, Curlin’s Image faced two challengers. Slipper Orchid advanced from the rail. Majestic Maiara, the 4/5 favourite, mounted her bid from the outside. However, rider Nik Juarez got Curlin’s Image away from that pair. Slipper Orchid dropped back suddenly. Majestic Maiara kept chasing, but failed to match the late pace of Curlin’s Image. She got loose again.
Last Kiss made an outside rally down the stretch, and it proved enough to run down Majestic Maiara for second. But, she never threatened Curlin’s Image, who strolled home an easy three and a half length winner.
Curlin’s Image did have to survive an inquiry and an objection from Slipper Orchid’s rider, Corey Lanerie. Slipper Orchid had fallen back on the turn, and alleged that Curlin’s Image and Nik Juarez had interfered. The footage is inconclusive — Slipper Orchid did drop back, but there was no clear visual evidence that Curlin’s Image moved in to cut her off. The stewards made no change; Curlin’s Image officially broke her maiden.
From here on out — given her breeding and her connections, it would make sense to see her go forward in allowance company at Gulfstream, likely back at an extended sprint distance. With her maiden win out of the way, it’s onward and upward for Curlin’s Image.