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.
#12: Curlina Curlina Finds the Wire
#11: A Pleasant Surprise, Volgograd
#10 Ajaaweed Emerges as a Juvenile to Watch
#9 Lady Apple Trains On
#8 Tenfold and Cordmaker Stretch Out
#7 Chaos Theory Defies His Inexperience
Curlin’s progeny haven’t been limited by surface. Curlin himself raced mainly on dirt, of course, though his second-place finish in the 2008 Man o’ War (G1) showed he had talent on the grass as well, and his progeny have included Moulin de Mougin, a G2 winner on the lawn, and Dixie Moon, who is a stakes winner on both grass and synthetic, and Grade 1-placed on the lawn.
Even so, across surfaces, one thing seems consistent across most of Curlin’s best: distance. As a runner Curlin shined over the Classic distance, and as a whole his progeny have been best at route distances.
When you think of Curlin, you don’t think of five-and-a-half-furlong dashes.
No one told Chaos Theory (Chaotic Cat, by Tale of the Cat) that.
Perhaps he takes a bit more after his dam, whose wins both came at five and a half furlongs on the dirt. Perhaps he was just trying a little something short on debut, to ease into racing. Whatever it was, Chaos Theory made his first start in a five-and-a-half-furlong dash at Fair Grounds in February of 2018, closed mightily, and won by a length and a half. Did Curlin have a promising turf sprinter on his hands?
His next two starts came at six furlongs on dirt; the chestnut gelding finished off the board in both, then went through the sales ring at Keeneland November. Sold for just $42,000, Chaos Theory returned the next month in a first-level allowance for new trainer Brendan Walsh and new owners Marc Detampel and Sunshine State Racing LLC. They went back to what worked on debut, five and a half furlongs on the Fair Grounds grass.
Chaos Theory found the kick. He didn’t win, but he ran fourth of fourteen, only a length beaten. On January 20, 2019, making his second start for his new connections, he flew in the final furlong to win by a neck.
On February 16, things got a lot tougher for Chaos Theory. He was home, lining up to go five and a half furlongs at Fair Grounds. However, instead of facing a group of horses fresh out of maiden races or stepping up from claiming races, or even a second-level allowance? He entered the Colonel Power Stakes.
His foes included Hogy, ten years old, who set a still-standing track record in the same race two years before. Hogy had been running in graded stakes since before Chaos Theory was born. He faced Latent Revenge, who broke his maiden over five and a half furlongs on the Fair Grounds grass just a week after Chaos Theory was born, whose shining moment came when he chased Green Mask home in the 2017 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill. He faced Kid Perfect, also battle-tested, behind only Will Call (and a neck ahead of Bucchero) in the 2018 Twin Spires Turf Sprint. Chaos Theory, making only his fifth start, had to face a field forged in the fires of the toughest turf sprinters in the country.
The public knew it was a lot to ask, sending him off at 9.9/1, the second-longest shot in the field of seven.
No one told Chaos Theory that.
He chased between horses early, letting Latent Revenge and Kid Perfect dispute the early terms. Into the turn, others began to edge closer, but Tyler Gaffalione waited. He didn’t need to sit in third or fourth — after all, he never had before. Why change things now? Past the three eighths, Chaos Theory had been shuffled back to sixth, a more familiar spot.
Into the lane, Gaffalione shifted Chaos Theory out, and began to shake him up for run. He dropped his head, ready to pounce. Driven from the three sixteenths, he fought his way along: past Wings Locked up and Adonis Creed, then past turf sprint division elders Hogy and Kid Perfect. At the furlong he only had two more to pass: longtime leader Latent Revenge, and his most pressing threat, Savage Battle.
In the final sixteenth, Chaos Theory descended three wide and muscled past, getting up by a length over Savage Battle. In that moment, inexperience mattered little, nor did his sire’s long-winded tendencies. Chaos Theory was at home going five and a half furlongs on the Fair Grounds grass, and now he was a stakes winner.
He raced just twice more in 2019, both times in graded stakes company, and both times proving he belonged. He rallied for fourth behind Imprimis in the Shakertown (G2) in May at Keeneland, then for third behind World of Trouble in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill. He returned to the worktab on December 18. In a division that has been home to so many grand old geldings in recent years, Chaos Theory will only be five years old in 2020; his best may still be ahead of him.