Curlin babies have made eleven Breeders’ Cup starts so far. All eleven of those starts have come in two-turn races: the Classic, Distaff, Turf, Juvenile, and Juvenile Fillies.
But, Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Curlin’s Approval (Withmom’sapproval, by With Approval) secured her ticket to the end-of-year championships — specifically, the Filly and Mare Sprint — with a resounding score in the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Stakes.
Though squeezed tightly in a line of horses soon after the break, rider Luis Saez got Curlin’s Approval into gear, and quickly settled her in the second flight — behind leader Kinsley Kisses, and just to the outside of Dearest. She chased comfortably down the backstretch.
Approaching the half-mile pole, Curlin’s Approval began inching up on the leader’s outside. Through the far turn the lead became three quarters of a length, half a length, a neck…until they were head-and-head. Kinsley Kisses tried for several strides, but she had run against a better horse. At the quarter pole, Curlin’s Approval led by a head. Dearest and Distinta rallied to her outside, looming a threat. Turning for home, Saez told Curlin’s Approval it was time for business — and she responded by clearing off. Distinta kept chasing…but Curlin’s Approval was gone. She crossed the wire four and a half lengths clear of that foe, leaving no doubt about who was punching their ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.
Of course…a bid is one thing. Making it to Del Mar this November will require her to stay healthy and fit over the next four months. Doing well, much less winning, will require a combination of shrewd management and good racing luck
It will also require Curlin’s Approval to answer the biggest question that remains about her form: can she replicate her best form outside of Hallandale Beach? So far she has run eleven times…all six of her wins have come at Gulfstream, and she finished off the board in tries at Keeneland and Churchill.
But, if she can take her form outside of Florida? She has repeatedly proven her love for the extended one-turn trip, so the specialist distance of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (seven furlongs) should suit Curlin’s Approval better than most. It will be interesting to see how she prepares…though if she stays healthy, she has her chance to become Curlin’s first one-turn Breeders’ Cup starter.
And, if she takes to Del Mar? She could become Curlin’s first ever Breeders’ Cup winner, in an unexpected division for such a stamina merchant of a sire.