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
#6: Handsome Franco Weathers Hurricane Maria
#5: Iredell Romps over Majestic Hussar at Laurel
Early in his career, Majestic Hussar got into a little habit of defeating Curlin babies. When he debuted at Saratoga in August of 2012, he romped; Air Squadron, who also debuted in that spot, finished fourth, eight and three quarters lengths adrift. His next victory came in January at Gulfstream. The race was Palace Malice’s first since a maiden win at Saratoga; despite the lay, the public sent the promising son of Curlin away at odds-on. Yet, Majestic Hussar got the jump, got the lead, and made every call a winning one. Palace Malice chased him home second, two and a quarter lengths back: a prelude to his prep season that had him finding underneath shares all spring, and only getting his own day in the sun when he won the Belmont.
Four and a half years later, it would be a different son of Curlin — Iredell (Plenty, by Boundary) — who would dance home as easily over Majestic Hussar as Majestic Hussar had once defeated Palace Malice.
Iredell did not quickly find his best. Though he broke his maiden early in his three-year-old year, in just his third start, that was his only win in his first 21 starts. He was a competitive runner — after all, he had eight seconds and two thirds in that 1-21 spree — but only that first-time drop to the claiming ranks was enough to shake him out of that underneath streak and get him to the wire first.
As his four-year-old year progressed, things came together for Iredell. On January 7 of this year, he was claimed for $5,000 out of original trainer Cathal Lynch’s barn by new owner/trainer Jose Rodriguez. Though that was the lowest level at which Iredell had run so far, he still managed to finish second at odds-on; he got locked up in a speed duel and Slews Love ran him down.
In Iredell’s first five starts for his new barn, things looked like more of the same. Though the races came against classier company than before, he was up to the challenge just about as well as he had been up to any challenges in his career, racking up two seconds, a third, and a fourth.
Then, Iredell started to win.
On April 22, Iredell got up by a nose to upset a $25K/$20K starter-optional claimer at Laurel. Two starts later, on May 27, he romped in a $16K N3L claimer, and was taken by new trainer Kieron Magee and owner Helen Marshall.
He went on the shelf for about two months after that victory, returning in a five-and-a-half-furlong dirt sprint at Laurel on August 6. Perplexingly, he returned at the $5K level. The public found that suspicious for a horse who had so recently beaten better. They didn’t send him off as the favourite. Instead, they favoured an even steeper class-dropper, one who hadn’t run in eight and a half months. They favoured Majestic Hussar.
Four and a half years ago, it was Majestic Hussar who bounced out of the gate, quickly took control of the running, and left Curlin’s favoured son Palace Malice chasing him home. This time, Iredell did so to a favoured Majestic Hussar. Though Tradfest bounced out of the gate sharply and briefly led from the rail, Iredell soon pushed in front to his outside, and had his head in front leading into the far turn. Majestic Hussar chased, in close touch.
Past the five-sixteenths Tradfest was caving, giving Iredell the lead. Majestic Hussar descended on Iredell’s outside flank.
When jockey Gerald Almodovar asked Iredell near the quarter pole, Iredell took command. He edged clear of Majestic Hussar, sailed for home, and proved too good. Majestic Hussar did hold second over a rallying C V Eis, but his luck against Curlin babies had run nine and three quarters lengths short.
Iredell’s winning ways continued. In five more starts through the year to date, Iredell has won twice more, bringing his win tally for the year to five. He has a chance to make it six: Iredell has been entered for an open $12,500 claimer going six furlongs at Parx on December 30, the same distance, level, and course over which he won on November 6.