#7: the fifth 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 2018. Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones to which my mind keeps wandering back.

#12: Timeless Curls Marks Herself a Rising Star
#11: Secret Passage Comes Into His Own

#10: Legit Proves Aptly Named in His Gulfstream Unveiling
#9: Bishop’s Pond Proves She Is a Dirt Horse, After All
#8: Good Magic Reasserts His Class in the Blue Grass

#7: Dixie Moon Never Quits in the Carotene

High hopes have always followed Dixie Moon (Dixie Chicken, by Rahy). The odds-on favourite in her debut at Woodbine in August of 2017, she won comfortably over another first-time starter named Avie’s Mineshaft.

Dixie Moon and Avie’s Mineshaft would not meet again at two. Dixie Moon, Catherine Day Phillips trainee who races as a homebred for Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry, went on to become one of Canada’s leading juvenile fillies. She finished second in the Natalma (G1), beat males in the Cup and Saucer, finished a troubled yet competitive sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), and ended her first season with a gutsy triumph in the Ontario Lassie.

But, the Ontario-bred pair would trade blows through their three-year-old season. Dixie Moon and Avie’s Mineshaft crossed paths again in the Selene (G3) in May, where both made their second start of the year. Though neither won, Dixie Moon was second by a neck to Miss Mo Mentum, whereas Avie’s Mineshaft chased home fourth.

Their paths diverged again through Oaks and Plate season. As Avie’s Mineshaft pursued other targets, Dixie Moon outslugged Wonder Gadot to prevail in the Woodbine Oaks, though it was Wonder Gadot who had her day three weeks later in the Queen’s Plate.

After a midsummer freshening, Dixie Moon and Avie’s Mineshaft took to the grass and crossed paths again in the Wonder Where Stakes. The pair formed the exacta — but that day, Avie’s Mineshaft drove past Dixie Moon to capture the top spot.

Leading into the Carotene Stakes on October 20, each filly had started one more time, and each filly was coming in off a September outing that wasn’t her best. Dixie Moon had flattened to sixth in the Ontario Damsel; Avie’s Mineshaft had tired to eighth in the La Lorgnette. They both sought to find their best when they renewed their rivalry, and they fought to the best finish of any of their races to date.

Dixie Moon wears down Avie’s Mineshaft in the 2018 Carotene Stakes.

Despite her class, Dixie Moon went off only the joint second choice in the field of five, behind Avie’s Mineshaft. Behind Avie’s Mineshaft is where she sat most off the race, too: the favourite came away sharply, with Dixie Moon settled just behind her, outside of the keen Desert Isle. Avie’s Mineshaft set a modest pace up front — neither slow nor fast, though the closest she had to comepetition came as jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva ensured that Dixie Moon’s nose never got too far away from the leader’s outside rear hip.

Through Woodbine’s sweeping far turn, still outside, Dixie Moon inched closer. Avie’s Mineshaft’s advantage became three quarters of a length, half a length, a neck.

Into the lane, Avie’s Mineshaft dug in. Her advantage had dwindled to a head, but she channeled everything she could not to let Dixie Moon go by. Dixie Moon pressed on, even as more competition descended. Line of Vision and Desert Isle, settled further back through the turn, loomed in striking range to her outside.

Just past the furlong pole, the stamina that saturated Dixie Moon’s blood rushed to the surface. She turned back the foes to her outside, willed her head in front of Avie’s Mineshaft, and edged away to beat her by half a length.

The story of Dixie Moon’s career still unfolds. She has raced just once since the Carotene, finishing ninth in the My Charmer Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. It was a new frontier for her, her first try against older fillies and mares. But, knowing her heart, her stamina, and the durability in her pedigree, the odds are good that we still haven’t seen the best of Dixie Moon yet.

And, assuming Avie’s Mineshaft also returns at four, she’ll have to come with her best to take on Dixie Moon.

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