Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2017. Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.
#9: Federal Agent Makes It Five Straight
The very first installment of the very first Twelve Days of Curlin Babies shined the light on Federal Agent. It celebrated a maiden win that was a long-time coming: he was four years old, and finally got his first win picture in his seventeenth start.
With that kind of start on the racetrack, it seemed unlikely that Federal Agent (Gwenjinsky, by Seattle Dancer) would ever reach double-digit wins. Even with a few more wins peppered through his four-, five-, and six-year-old seasons, he entered 2017 with four wins in 42 career starts.
Yet, the first-crop Curlin gelding ends this year with a 10-for-55 career line, ignited by his newfound love for Fonner Park.
Federal Agent began his seven-year-old season there in March, his first start off a three-month lay, and finished third in a $5,000 ($6,500 NE-bred) starter allowance at odds north of 10-1. For it being his first start off the shelf, he showed promise, rallying from last for third behind two horses who had raced more recently.
Starting next out, no one could stop the Marvin Johnson trainee. On March 25 he outdueled Prospero, one of the horses who had beaten him in his previous race, to win that same starter condition by a neck. April 8, he won by a safe length at the same level. April 15, notching up to N4L/$10K allowance-optional company, his rally from last to score by three-and-a-half-lengths brought owners Marvin A. Kohnson LLC, Seven Arms Stable, and Gene McCloud even more taxable income. Back at the starter level eight days later, Federal Agent wasn’t even sent off the favourite — but he once again kicked on from well off the pace to win by a length and a half.
On May 6 — a luxurious thirteen-day break since his previous outing — Federal Agent got to run his starter condition again. It was closing day, his last chance to race over his new favourite course until February. The race was a mile and an eighth: a logical trip for a Curlin baby, but a marked stretch compared to the six- and six-and-a-half-furlong races Federal Agent had been running through the course of the meet. It was also, given the configuration of the course, a three-turn trip.
Even with that stretch out in distance, the public had grown wise to Federal Agent’s dominance of the Nebraska oval, sending him off the 1.1/1 favourite in the field of eight.
He came away awkwardly, but settled into stride soon. As he so often did in routes, Federal Agent dropped out to last through the opening stages of the race. He loped along as Lift Me Up took the initiative and Contour prompted him along.
Three wide near last the first time down the stretch, Federal Agent began to improve position into the second turn. Though hung wide, he improved his spot, and was solidly midpack approaching the second backstretch run. Meanwhile, Contour could no longer push the leader along — but old foe Prospero rallied to take his place, and got dead aim on the leader into the backstretch. Life Me Up caved.
Federal Agent, on the other hand, would not let Prospero go that easily. He came right up to the new leader’s outside, breathing down his neck as they approached the third turn. Federal Agent and Prospero launched into a match race. Prospero bore out wide through the final turn, tired, carrying Federal Agent out even more wide. Undaunted, full of energy, the son of Curlin got his head in front nearing the furlong pole, and left no doubt who was best. He hit the wire two and three quarters lengths clear of a tiring Prospero, who was himself another eleven lengths clear of the trailing pack of overmatched foes.
Federal Agent, a horse who looked for so long like would never win one race, had now won five in a row.
A second-place finish by a nose in his next out, a $10,000 starter allowance at Indiana Grand, snapped his win streak. However, he still proved he could hold his own outside of Grand Island, invading the exotics a few times at Indiana Grand and even winning a $5,000 starter allowance in August at Belterra. That 9/1 upset brought Federal Agent’s career win tally to ten.
Though, one must wonder if Federal Agent is counting down the days until February 23, two months from today, when he can see his new favourite racecourse again.