#1: the fourth 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 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
#4: Curlinup and I Try Stakes Company
#3: Volgograd Debuts — Finally
#2: Whisper to Curlin Fights On In Chicago

#1: Keen Ice Upsets the Suburban

Keen Ice (Medomak, by Awesome Again) did not always win, but when he did, he did so when it looked an impossible task.

Even though he went off the favourite in a Churchill Downs maiden race in September 2014, he had eight lengths to make up on Tiznow R J and Starbound with a furlong to go.  Keen Ice got there.

The next year, in the Travers (G1), few thought Triple Crown champion American Pharoah could be beaten.  No one bothered to tell Keen Ice that, and he took command in the final sixteenth.

Antepost, most had already handed this year’s Suburban Stakes (G2) to Shaman Ghost.  The son of Ghostzapper had come closest to Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), then followed that up with victories in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and the Pimlico Special (G3).  He had the form, the stamina, and the tactical ability to shine at a mile and a quarter in a field of five.  Among the few who thought Shaman Ghost could be beat, most of them leaned toward Matt King Coal, figuring he could just wire the field.

Keen Ice, dismissed at 5/1, had other ideas.

Continue reading “#1: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#2: the fourth 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 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
#4: Curlinup and I Try Stakes Company
#3: Volgograd Debuts — Finally

#2: Whisper to Curlin Fights On In Chicago

I’ve loved Whisper to Curlin (Whisperifyoudare, by Red Ransom) as long as I’ve known who he was — and, why wouldn’t I?  After all, Palace Malice got me into Curlin’s progeny in the first place, and there’s no Curlin baby so closely related to him as this Iowa-bred bay.  Whisper to Curlin’s dam, Whisperifyoudare, also produced Palace Malice’s dam Palace Rumor.

It took a while for him to break his maiden, but once he did, he had an excellent three-year-old summer culminating with a win in the 2014 Iowa Breeders’ Derby.  After one more start that year, however, he dropped off the map for over a year and a half.  He struggled in allowance and stakes ranks last year, but during his seven-year-old year he showed some moments of form in the claiming ranks, including a win and a second at Prairie Meadows.

This fall, he came to my home track.

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Whisper to Curlin in the paddock before his race on October 18, 2017

Continue reading “#2: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#3: the fourth 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 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
#4: Curlinup and I Try Stakes Company

#3: Volgograd Debuts — Finally

To say I had been looking forward to Volgograd’s debut for a while is an understatement.  Back in 2013, I stumbled across a picture on Facebook of a Curlin foal.  I did a little sleuthing about the dam, and found out she was someone I could get excited about, too.  Though she raced before I began to follow the races, Magnetic Miss was a local: an Illinois-bred who made 24 of her 36 lifetime starts in the state of Illinois.  She was also a good one, a six-time stakes winner.  Finally, she was an interesting match for Curlin: as Curlin had classic stamina, Magnetic Miss (like her sire Artax) did her best work going around one turn.

I waited, and waited, and waited for Volgograd to appear in the entry box, and hoped that would happen here.  His two-year-old year passed quietly.  His three-year-old year passed quietly.

In September of his four-year-old year, closing week at Arlington, he finally passed the entry box.

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Up close with Volgograd after a third-place finish at Hawthorne.

Continue reading “#3: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#4: the fourth 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 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

#4: Curlinup and I Try Stakes Company

Races I feature in the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies range from races of national interest to races of personal interest.  Curlinup’s run in the Avers Wexler Memorial Stakes falls as squarely in the latter category as a race ever can.

For one, I’ve always taken a special interest in her due to her breeding.  I’ve followed Curlinup (Almost Sma, by Cure the Blues) since first she showed up on the worktab.  After all, she is an Illinois-bred Curlin baby, and you can still count the Curlin babies born here on one hand.  Secondly, she played a role in a career milestone of mine: she saw the starter in the first stakes race for which I ever wrote chart notes.

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Curlinup heads back to the barns after finishing second at Hawthorne on April 9, 2016.

Continue reading “#4: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#5: the fourth 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 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.

Continue reading “#5: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#6: the fourth 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 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

This summer, things looked great for Handsome Franco (Overnightsensation, by Bertrando).  After being beaten by wire-to-wire winner Tensas Secret on his June 30 debut, his fortunes reversed on his second start.  Though he crossed the wire second once again on July 15, he was impeded by Son Son Son — to the advantage of Son Son Son’s stablemate Sykologist.  Sykologist was belatedly disqualified as a result, giving Handsome Franco his maiden win.  Handsome Franco followed that up with an allowance win the next month, no disqualification needed.

September 3, Handsome Franco became the first of Curlin’s sixth two-year-old crop to win a graded stakes.  In the Clásico José Coll Vidal (G3) Handsome Franco relished the sloppy conditions, rallied from last along the rail, and forged clear to beat longshot Mi Amigo Pablo home by a length and a half.

Later that month, Hurricane Maria made landfall.  The storm devastated the island of Puerto Rico.  Hipódromo Camarero was not spared: the storm ripped roofs from the barns, and left hundreds of horses stabled on the premises without clean water or hay.  I hoped for the best of all the horses…but I wondered most intently about the son of Curlin.  How was Handsome Franco doing?  Did he make it?

Continue reading “#6: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”

#7: the fourth 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 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.

Continue reading “#7: the fourth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies”