The Doc hasn’t been in for a while.
Before today, Doc Curlin (Jasmine Jewel, by Mr. Greeley) hadn’t run since last April. The five-year-old gelding had raced eight times between ages three and four, earning his diploma in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Belmont in October 2015. That came for trainer Thomas Bush, though he was claimed for $50,000 out of his next start. That was the last start of his three-year-old year. He made two more for new trainer Kristen Mulhall, missing the board in both of them.
All of those starts had come out east. Today, not only did Doc Curlin emerge ten months older, but he got a change of course. He still ran under Mulhall’s care. But, instead of the old familiar strains of New York or Gulfstream, he tried the hill at Santa Anita.
Doc Curlin returned in a shrewd spot: an N2L starter allowance with a $40K condition for open company, or $50K for California-breds. Doc Curlin fit as cozily as a Kentucky-bred could have; his only qualifying start resulted in his maiden victory. And, that victory had come over grass, albeit at a mile.
The hill was a question. However, given that Doc Curlin had won at a mile, the six and a half furlong distance made good sense for a first start off an extended lay. He had two months of workouts under his hooves; that fitness showed today.
Though not the fastest out of the gate, Doc Curlin broke in touch with the field, and settled midpack early. Through the turn he hugged the rail, but as the field moved toward the dirt crossing, he began to angle out. He did so just in time; he had ridden the rail just behind Nat’s Nation, who pulled up shortly after Doc Curlin went looking for space.
Turning for home, Doc Curlin swung three wide, around Foolish to Deceive and leader A New Trend. Doc Curlin had clear aim, and found his best stride. He rolled ahead of the main pack, right past the pacesetter. By the time the field hit the furlong pole, Doc Curlin had a sliver of daylight on the rest of the field. By the wire? He had two and a quarter lengths.
This bodes well for Doc Curlin going into his five-year-old year. He still likes to run, and he still thrives on the grass. He has the versatility to go not only long but also short, and has shown affinity for the unique downhill course at Santa Anita.
The Doc is in.