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
#7: Good Magic Gives Curlin a Breeders’ Cup Win — and Solomini, an Exacta
Curlin himself became a Breeders’ Cup champion on a sloppy day at Monmouth, winning the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic. His progeny had made eleven Breeders’ Cup starts before 2017. Several had found the podium. Stellar Wind and Curalina finished 2-3 behind Stopchargingmaria in the 2015 Distaff. Last year Valadorna finished second behind Champagne Room in the Juvenile Fillies, and Keen Ice rallied for third behind Arrogate and California Chrome in the Classic.
Though Keen Ice’s ankle injury leading into the Classic robbed him of a chance to do his 2016 finish two better, five sons and daughters of Curlin carried the mantle at Del Mar. Oddly for a sire whose babies get so much better with age, just two of the five were older horses: Stellar Wind in the Distaff, and Curlin’s Approval in the Filly and Mare Sprint. Three were juveniles. Dixie Moon tried the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and both Good Magic and Solomini lined up for the Juvenile.
It was the latter pair, Good Magic (Glinda the Good, by Hard Spun) and Solomini (Surf Song, by Storm Cat), who would make Breeders’ Cup Saturday a banner day for Curlin.
Leading into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Bolt d’Oro loomed large. Off a comfortable debut maiden win in August at Del Mar, Bolt d’Oro fired off a pair of victories in Grade 1 company. He ran down Zatter in the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity. Two turns looked to suit the son of Medaglia d’Oro even better, as he danced to an easy score in the FrontRunner (G1) at Santa Anita.
Both sons of Curlin looked up against it.
Though Good Magic had already achieved a Grade 1 placing in the Champagne at Belmont, he arrived at Del Mar without a win to his name. Trainer Chad Brown doesn’t fly a horse west unless he thinks they are live, but no maiden had ever shed that label in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
And, Solomini? Unlike Good Magic, Solomini had seen a winners’ circle before. But, he had tables to turn on Bolt d’Oro, who had beaten him by seven and three-quarters lengths in the FrontRunner (G1) about a month before the Breeders’ Cup. Though trainer Bob Baffert was confident Solomini could take a step forward, it would be no easy feat for him to find the wire in front of such a clear leader of the juvenile division.
As they say, though, that’s why they run the race.
Irish invader U S Navy Flag, trying dirt for the first time, broke from the one-hole and sent to the lead. Solomini, drawn just one gate outside the pacesetter, clung to his outside flank. Good Magic tracked in the next flight, alongside Chicago longshot The Tabulator. Meanwhile their chief rival, Bolt d’Oro, was hung wide near the rear early.
So the complexion remained until the field reached the far turn. U S Navy Flag surrendered, giving Solomini the lead. The Tabulator launched a bid to Solomini’s outside. Though Good Magic waited a few more strides to make his run, he still found space to thread between Solomini and The Tabulator as the field passed the quarter pole.
At the three-sixteenths, it looked a two-horse race, between the two sons of Curlin. Solomini still led; Good Magic had dead aim. Bolt d’Oro, so imposing on paper, was gaining ground — but had been hung wide both turns, and it would take a herculean effort for him to find the front before the wire.
Approaching the furlong pole, Good Magic got his head in front, then his neck. Solomini tried, but he could not match strides with his challenger. Good Magic cruised away to a four-and-a-quarter-length victory. He tasted victory for the first time on the biggest stage there was for a two-year-old dirt horse. He became the first Curlin baby to win a Breeders’ Cup race, and the first maiden to take the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Solomini didn’t win, but he wasn’t done. He had enough in reserve to hold by a length over a rallying Bolt d’Oro — not winning the race, but still turning the tables on the foe who had so definitively beaten him a month earlier.
Curlin now has a Breeders’ Cup winner, a Breeders’ Cup exacta…and, at least two horses who should be formidable on the Derby trail next year should they stay healthy and sound into the new year.