#8: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

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.

#12: Stellar Wind Wins the First Beholder Mile
#11: Fireball Merlin Carries His Class to Fort Erie
#10: Irish War Cry Rolls Onto the Derby Trail
#9: Federal Agent Makes It Five Straight

#8: Horse-for-Course Captured Slips Under the Radar

Sometimes, a race becomes memorable just because it fell at the right time.  So it was on February 10, when Captured (Alluring, by A. P. Indy) took to the track at Penn National.  Since Penn National runs in the evenings, I usually catch races by the Curlin babies there — him, Traveling Afoot, Scurlin, Measured, even recently Whisper to Curlin — on replay.

But, that evening, I caught him live.

I was in the midst of my yearly sojourn to Tampa Bay Downs.  The races had wound down for the day, and I was in the midst of my ill-advised Friday Night in Tampa tradition of playing in a poker tournament in the card room instead of retiring early to the hotel to get some sleep before Sam F. Davis day.  As befits a card room at a racetrack, all the TVs were tuned to horse racing.  A few mutuel tellers sat, happy to punch tickets for multitasking gamblers.

A flash of orange popped into my peripheral vision, the outside corner of my left eye.  I thought I saw a familiar name on the screen to go with it.  My eyes darted away from yet another pot from which I had folded away, and over to the screen.  Sure enough: Captured.

I knew he was running at some point, as I had recently seen his name in my Virtual Stable, but hadn’t realised he was racing right then.  And, the odds?  I knew nothing about his foes, just about Captured.  For a horse who had won six times the year before, in starter and even allowance company?  Why shouldn’t I take a shot with him in straight claiming company, when his odds matched the number on his saddle towel?

I rushed up from my table, hoping to get my ticket before the next poker hand started.  “$2 to win on the 7, in the Penn National 6th.”  I slipped the scrap in my pocket, and rushed back to my table in time to discard another ante…and then discard another deuce-seven offsuit.

The first five-minute break of the poker tournament fell just as the horses began loading for Captured’s race.  I breathed a sigh of relief: just as looking closely at the horses can give you an advantage when playing a race, looking closely at your opponents can give you an advantage in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em.  I was already distracted enough by the fact that Captured was about to run; I’d have no attention left to give the game.

Captured came awkwardly out of the gate, about half a beat slower than most of the field.  Jockey John Lloyd did not panic.  He guided the Ron Rozell trainee into the clubhouse turn, between horses near the back of the pack, then settled Captured a clear last.

Down the backstretch, Captured remained at the rear, though still in touch with the pack.  He bided his time as Colorado Grandslam set reasonable fractions, prompted by Calzini Rossi.

Approaching the far turn, Captured began to move.  One moment he contentedly sat last; the next, he began to mow down horses like they were standing still.  He made easy work of Trucial State, Jumpin Frac Flash, Van Persie.  He cruised into the gap in the field, toward the frontrunners.  Toward the stretch, he swung three wide around Remembertobreathe and Worthy Lion.  Into the lane, Captured had dead aim on the leaders.

None of them had an answer.  Captured rolled past Colorado Grandslam, Calzini Rossi, Remembertobreathe on the rail.  Van Persie tried to make a race of it late, but his rally cam too late for anything other than a second-place photo.  Captured had found his best, he crossed the wire a length and a half clear, and he carried the silks of owner Kenneth B. Evans into the winners’ circle.

This February evening proved the highlight of Captured’s seven-year-old season, as it was his only win in twelve starts through the year.  Still, if there was one race I was glad I caught live, it was this one.  Captured ran his best, and my little winning ticket meant my hunch play went better than that poker tournament eventually did.

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