Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny through 2019. Among all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones to which my mind keeps wandering back.
#10 Ajaaweed Emerges as a Juvenile to Watch
Though Curlin has such a strong reputation as a sire of three-year-olds and older horses, the likes of Good Magic, Exaggerator, Off the Tracks, Solomini, and Valadorna have made clear that he can produce classy juveniles, as well. As soon as Curlin’s two-year-olds make it to the track, the question bubbles up: who will be the first one to make me throw my caution to the wind, if only for a moment, and envision their future at the highest levels?
This year, Ajaaweed (Asiya, by Daaher) earned that honour.
Ajaaweed debuted in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga, always chasing midfield and running fifth behind Tumbling Sky. Perhaps it was good that he had more of a prep race than a grand unveiling that day. It may have gotten lost in the shuffle: that debut came on August 10, the same day as the Arlington Million.
But, it gave Ajaaweed exactly what he needed to move forward a month later.
He stretched out to a mile in the first race at Belmont on September 11. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee faced a field of seven and he wore the same #3 saddle towel he did on debut, the same blue and white colours that matched his Shadwell silks so well.
He got away more cleanly in start number two; though his start on debut wasn’t truly poor, it showed signs of roughness, inexperience. This time he came out smoothly.
He settled inside, a couple of lengths off the pace. Jockey Joel Rosario made no rush to challenge Brewmeister, half of the favored Chad Brown entry, though made sure not to drop him too far behind as Ox Bridge and briefly even Brewmeister’s stablemate Basie encroached to the leader’s outside.
Rosario pushed Ajaaweed along through the far turn, asking him to pounce. But, as the field approached the quarter pole, Ajaaweed searched for a hole. By that point Ox Bridge had capitulated, but Brewmeister, Starting Over, and Basie all lined up directly between Ajaaweed and the long Belmont stretch.
Approaching the three sixteenths, Ajaaweed got three wide and descended on Starting Over, the one going the best of the leading flight. He wasn’t the only one who loomed; 31/1 first-timer Forza Di Oro, despite dwelling at the start, had come rolling around the turn and sustained his run on the outside.
In the eighth and final furlong, Ajaaweed had the most. Forza Di Oro and Starting Over quibbled for the place, but Ajaaweed drove clear to win by four and a quarter gaping lengths over Forza Di Oro.
On a late-summer Wednesday, Ajaaweed looked like a Saturday afternoon horse. And, in two starts since, he has only raced on Saturday afternoons. He jumped straight from the maiden win to the top level, trying two turns for the first time in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. Though he never looked a threat to Maxfield, he was passing horses late, and checked in fourth. Next out, in the Remsen (G2), he did even better. On a day when speed was so good, he closed from well out of it to get within half a length of the always-forward Shotski.
And, being by Curlin out of a Daaher mare who won at two but was able to hold good form into her three-year-old year? Ajaaweed remains a horse to watch.