The last few days have featured two big wins for Curlin babies: one by a filly rounding back into form at age four, and another by a three-year-old colt who is just getting started.
Terra Promessa (Missile Bay, by Yes It’s True) caught fire last winter at Oaklawn. She started the meet with the easiest victory in N1X company, then scored in both graded Kentucky Oaks preps in Hot Springs, the Honeybee (GIII) and the Fantasy (GIII). Though she had broken her maiden at Churchill in November of her two-year-old year, she did not return to that form in the Kentucky Oaks — instead, she finished a disappointing tenth behind Cathryn Sophia.
Instead of pressing on through the summer, she spent most of the rest of 2016 on the shelf. She finally returned in December, in the She’s All In Handicap at Remington. Despite not having raced in seven months, the public sent her off the even-money choice in her first try against older horses. Terra Promessa raced like a filly who needed a start, fading to seventh behind Miss Mo Kelly.
Terra Promessa returned in Saturday’s Pippin Stakes, the first of Oaklawn’s series of stakes races for older two-turn fillies and mares. Despite the disappointing outing at Remington, the public trusted that she would return to form when coming back to the course over which she was a perfect three-for-three last year. She went off the favourite in a field of six, over last year’s Pippin winner Streamline.
Terra Promessa loved being back at Oaklawn. She won the Pippin as easily as she pleased.
Terra Promessa got to the lead in the field of six, and that was that. Streamline tracked her pace, but faded in the late stages. Ready to Confess tracked from midpack, found a rally, but could only get up for second over Streamline. It was the confidence-building return to Hot Springs that Terra Promessa needed: she made every call a winner, and crossed the wire two and a quarter lengths in the clear.
The road to the Apple Blossom (GI) will only get tougher from here, but Terra Promessa remembers and loves Oaklawn.
Dabster (On a Roll, by A. P. Indy) turned heads last year at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March sale of two-year-olds in training, selling for a cool million dollars to Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum. He warded off Apollo’s curse just in time, debuting in a two-year-old maiden special weight at Santa Anita on December 26.
Despite being under siege for the entire stretch run in that seven-furlong debut, Dabster dug in and crossed the wire first. However, he drifted out badly enough during that stretch run that he caused Seau to steady. Seau crossed the wire fourth, so Dabster was disqualified to fourth. He got his debut out of the way, but he would have to shed his maiden label another day.
Today, he returned to the races. He entered at the same level, a maiden special weight, but stretched out from seven furlongs to a mile. Given his breeding, the extra furlong stood to suit him.
Despite being disqualified, Dabster showed guts in his debut. He would need every bit of that to get home in his second start.
Dabster did not goof around in his second start. Instead of biding his time off the pace, he took front-end initiative. He broke from the two-hole. By the time the field curved into the clubhouse turn, Dabster had the lead. Harrovian, donning the familiar Moss silks but off at triple-digit odds, tried to stalk through the early stages. Stone Hands, in the Reddam purple and white, joined Harrovian down the backstretch. They pressed, but Dabster confidently kept Sheikh Mohammed’s yellow and blue on the front.
Turning for home, Dabster looked in trouble. First-timer Reach the World threatened along the rail, and Camino de Estrella bore down on the outside. Though both loomed a threat, Dabster had more. He refused to lose. He kept his neck in front, crossing the wire half a length in front of Camino de Estrella and a length clear of Reach the World.
Just as in his debut, the inquiry light came on. However, the stewards’ question had nothing to do with Dabster, but rather the trouble Stone Hands had. But, his trouble had nothing to do with Dabster this time, and no one in the race could be held responsible in any race-altering sense for why he took up and faded to last.
His tasks will become more difficult later, but this time, Dabster scored his maiden win. He will have to take a step forward to become a preeminent three-year-old. But, for right now he has shown the guts, the desire, the things no one can teach.
Hopefully, Dabster can build from here.