#3: the sixth 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 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
#6: Global Campaign, Standard Deviation, and Curlin Grey Hit the Trifecta
#5 Point of Honor Lives Up to Expectations
#4 Risky Risky Risky Comes Home

#3 Gladiator King Rediscovers His Talent

As the year progressed, and three-year-old sprinters like Hog Creek Hustle and Shancelot came to the fore, it was easy to forget about one of the most intriguing sophomore sprinters from the first half of 2019.

Gladiator King (Golden Dawn, by Hennessy) had tried an impressive range of races before he even turned three. In just six races at two, he had tried dirt and turf, tried distances from five furlongs to a mile and an eighth. The shorter the better, it seemed. His three wins came in a maiden turf dash at Gulfstream Park West, an allowance turf dash there, and then the six-furlong Inaugural Stakes on the Tampa Bay dirt.

Coming into the Texas Glitter Stakes at Gulfstream on February 23, Gladiator King had already raced three times as a three-year-old, all on dirt. None of his races had gone well. He ran last behind Mihos in the one-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes. He ran last behind Win Win Win in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes. He ran last behind Harvey Wallbanger in the one-and-one-sixteenth-mile Holy Bull Stakes (G2).

The Texas Glitter was an acid test for the Jaime Mejia trainee. With all of the things Gladiator King had tried in nine starts so far, he was finally coming home, in a sense. The Texas Glitter was his first try on the grass since his allowance win back in November, and he was cutting back to five furlongs. If he was going to show that he was still a stakes horse, this was as good as spot as he was going to find.

Gladiator King digs in near the end of the 2019 Texas Glitter Stakes.

The public though Gladiator King was finding the right spot…or, at least, a better spot than the last one. He went off at 16/1, the fourth-longest shot in the field of nine. Those odds were positively chalky compared to his 202/1 odds last time out, in the Holy Bull.

Breaking from the outside, jockey Jorge Solorzano nudged Gladiator King to get involved from the outset. Never Have I Ever made the top, but Solorzano got Gladiator King in a cozy spot just to his outside.

A quarter mile in, Gladiator King made it a battle, edging up to join on even terms with Never Have I Ever. They turned for home in a head-and-head-duel, with Gladiator King going slightly the better of the two. Though, the cavalry closed in on both sides.

In midstretch, Gladiator King began to drift out. Yes I Am Free descended to his outside; Jackson sliced on through horses to his inside. Solorzano implored Gladiator King for everything he had. Gladiator King fought on.

In the final sixteenth of a mile,his all wasn’t enough to get him to the wire first. Yes I Am Free got past on the outside, Jackson on the inside. But, Gladiator King still held third over the rallying R Boy Bode, and was beaten only a length for the win. Despite a string of disappointing losses, a racehorse still lived under that chestnut coat.

After that bright spot in the Texas Glitter, Gladiator King made one more attempt going long: he entered the Fountain of Youth (G2), went off at 132/1, and finished last. But then? He cut back to one turn, and we got to see the real Gladiator King once more. In the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (G3), he went off at 12/1, the longest shot in a field of four. He shot to the lead and never gave anyone else a chance. Next he won the Roar Stakes, another seven-furlong sprint, digging in to hold by a nose over the flying Garter and Tie.

He took another road trip, his first race outside of Florida since the Remsen, trying the Chick Lang (G3) at Pimlico on Preakness weekend. He disputed the pace, opened up, and missed by only a head behind the rallying Lexitonian.

His streak of big races ended in the Ocala Stakes on June 1, a six-and-a-half-furlong sprint at Gulfstream, in which Garter and Tie turned the tables and Gladiator King finished fifth. He hasn’t returned to the worktab toward a 2020 campaign…though if he does? Expect to see him shine at one turn.

#6: the sixth 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 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

#6: Global Campaign, Standard Deviation, and Curlin Grey Hit the Trifecta

Early in the year, three-year-old allowance dirt routes at Gulfstream Park draw attention. After all, they often contain a mix of class two-year-olds trying to move forward at three, as well as up-and-coming horses who had only begun to draw attention over the last month or two in Florida. Sometimes they feature Derby contenders; other times, they reveal horses who might not be ready for the Derby but who remain horses to watch through the rest of the year.

One such race on February 9, a mile and a sixteenth N1X with a $75,000 optional tag, drew a field of seven: including three Curlin babies.

Standard Deviation (False Impression, by A. P. Indy) was the old, familiar face among the trio in the race. The Chad Brown trainee, owned by Klaravich Stables, was making his first start since running a disappointing 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) the previous November. Though, Standard Deviation was ceding experience that day; it was only his third start. He had romped on debut in an off-turf maiden special weight at Saratoga in August, then come back to run third behind Knicks Go and Signalman in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland.

Global Campaign (Globe Trot, by A. P. Indy) was the hot new face, the talk of the town. Unraced at two, he debuted on January 5 of this year, romping to win a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Gulfstream. Global Campaign was bred to be a good one. His dam, Globe Trot, had produced two other starters: Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro), a multiple G1 winner, and Sonic Mule (Distorted Humor), a multiple stakes winner who is three times graded stakes placed. Globe Trot is also a half-sister to Need: the dam of Recruiting Ready (Algorithms), Global Campaign’s G3-winning stablemate in the Stanley Hough shedrow. That’s not the only link between the two. Sagamore Farm owns Recruiting Ready outright, and owns Global Campaign in partnership with WinStar Farm.

A bit lost in the shadow cast by these two rising stars was Curlin Grey (Surf Light, by Malibu Moon). Trained by Ken McPeek for Fern Circle Stables, he was the most experienced among the three sons of Curlin, with six starts before this February allowance. He had finally broken his maiden in the sixth of those starts. That had come January 9 at Gulfstream, though it had taken a drop into a $50,000 claiming race for him to get off the mark. He still had class to prove, but it was a light-on effort in which he settled well off the pace in a field of six, swept past and drew off by four and three quarters lengths.

Global Campaign, Standard Deviation, and Curlin Grey shine at Gulfstream on February 9.

Global Campaign soon led along the inside, with Standard Deviation attending closest; Curlin Grey, just as he did in his maiden victory, found no reason to hurry. Longshot Blue Steel pulled keen to the lead outside of Global Campaign past the seven-eighths; Global Campaign was briefly keen to follow suit, but Luis Saez kept him under a hold, wrangling him back to track the pace inside of Irad Ortiz and Standard Deviation.

Nearing the five eighths, Global Campaign encroached upon Blue Steel right in, with Standard Deviation advancing in tandem to his outside. Standard Deviation soon settled just behind them, though Global Campaign took the battle to Blue Steel and edged away from the three eighths. Standard Deviation, by then driven, gave chase. Curlin Grey, with just five sixteenths of a mile remaining, remained in last though he was taking closer order.

Global Campaign turned into the lane in the clear, daring Standard Deviation to catch him. Standard Deviation kept on, well behind the leader, but clear of the rest. Curlin Grey, urged by jockey Brian Hernandez to take advantage of the sharp pace that had unfolded before him, was rolling through horses.

Eased up late, Global Campaign crossed the wire two and a quarter lengths clear of the chasing Standard Deviation. Curlin Grey picked off everyone else, crossing the wire another length and a half back, to complete the Curlin trifecta.

Due to some foot issues, Global Campaign made three more starts through the course of the year. Fifth behind Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth (G2), he then went north to New York, won the Peter Pan over eventual Belmont (G1) winner Sir Winston, then ran third behind stalwarts Tax and Tacitus in the Jim Dandy (G2). Plans are to race him in 2020, possibly even at Gulfstream.

Standard Deviation moved forward from that allowance race, going 2-for-7 on the year. Though, all his best form came on the grass, including victories in the Tale of the Cat Stakes and the Jersey Derby. In the Jersey Derby, he topped a Curlin exacta, winning by three quarters of a length over Current. He also added a pair of graded stakes placings to his resume as the year drew to a close, running third in both the Hill Prince Stakes (G1) and the Hollywood Derby (G1).

As for Curlin Grey, his year turned out a little tougher. After running off the board in both the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway and an optional claimer at Keeneland, he sold for $75,000 to Centennial Farms Niagara at the Keeneland April sale. Moved to the barn of Ravendra Raghunath, Curlin Grey struggled in five starts at Woodbine for his new owner, then was claimed to the barn of Martin Drexler for new owner 1569389 Ontario Inc. However, he had his brightest moment since his maiden win for his first start in the Drexler barn: he visited Fort Erie, got back on dirt, and made a smart last-to-first rally to win a N2L allowance there. Though his season ended with an off-the-board finish at Woodbine, the Fort Erie race was encouraging, suggesting Curlin Grey just wanted to be back on the dirt.

Big Race Showdown: Week 5

Season 1 of the 2019 Big Race Showdown continues this Saturday with The Fountain of Youth (G2), Gulfstream’s local prep for the Florida Derby!

Joining me on the panel are Candice HareEmily GulliksonBrian ZipseDan TordjmanMike McCormickMegan Devine, and Dan Cronin. Read on for our top picks, and who we think can run into the money for some nice exacta and trifecta payouts.

See who we like in the Fountain of Youth!

Picks and Ponderings: 2019 Fountain of Youth Stakes Preview

Saturday’s card at Gulfstream Park is headlined by the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Here at Picks and Ponderings, we have a full preview of the Fountain of Youth, a race which offers a purse of $400,000 as well as Road to the Kentucky Derby points (50-20-10-5) to its top four finishers.

We also provide selections for the day’s eight other stakes races in a spreadsheet at the bottom of this post.

Read on in my latest at Picks and Ponderings!

Big Race Showdown: Week 1

I’m thrilled to return to the panel for the Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing this year! Also on the panel are Candice Hare, Emily Gullikson, Brian Zipse, Dan Tordjman, Mike McCormick, Megan Devine, and Dan Cronin. Each week we’ll zoom in on a few of the biggest races, share our top picks, and have a little friendly competition to see who can get the most winners, as well as the sweetest exacta and trifecta payouts.

We get underway with the Pegasus World Cup and the Pegasus World Cup Turf, and you can see all the panel’s picks right here!

#10: 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

When you pay $125,000 for a yearling, you hope he is going to be good. When you go on to name that horse Legit, you’re making a public proclamation that he will be.

Though the eyes of the racing world stopped focusing so sharply on Gulfstream after the Florida Derby on March 30, the season of promising three-year-olds wasn’t over in South Florida quite yet. On April 19, sophomore colt Legit (Logalina Pompina, by Corinthian) made his first start, debuting in a maiden special weight dirt mile.

Given the challenging rail draw for his debut, Legit lined up at the inside of a field of seven. At 8/5, the Todd Pletcher trainee carrying the Repole Stable silks was the second choice in the field, behind fifth-time starter Crafty Jack. He ceded experience to every foe in the field except for Our Honor, a son of Union Rags who didn’t follow trainer Chad Brown back to the Empire State.

Legit sparkles on debut at Gulfstream Park.

Down the chute, he settled kindly in the second flight, inside of Diplomatic Shaft, as the favourite vied for the lead inside of Our Honor and Glass Bridge. The chestnut son of Curlin chased, pushed along by jockey Tyler Gaffalione to keep in range of the battling trio.

Through the turn, Glass Bridge faded out, leaving Crafty Jack and Our Honor to fight up front. Legit drew closer through the turn, passing outside of the fading Glass Bridge, and reeled in that leading pair near the quarter pole. Crafty Jack stayed in close range until the three sixteenths pole — but from there, he only proved second best. Legit drove clear into the final furlong, and with Gaffalione only waving the whip a few times from there, he came home seven and a quarter lengths clear of the favourite.

Legit returned less than a month later, on May 17, in an allowance at Pimlico. Unlike in his debut, the public expected a dazzling effort, sending him off at 1/2 odds in the sloppy dirt route one-other-than. He lived up to his name by settling well off the pace, kicking on into the lane, and drawing away to win by four lengths.

Unfortunately, that is the last we have seen from Legit on the track. He has yet to race since that May allowance win. But, if we see him again, he will be a welcome presence…and if we don’t, we have these two dazzling efforts to remember, a month during which he looked like a legitimate rising star in the three-year-old ranks.

America’s Best Racing: Big Race Showdown, Florida Derby and UAE Derby

This is week nine of Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing: where I clash heads with six awesome handicappers (Emily GulliksonCandice HareDan TordjmanBrian ZipseEric Bialek, and Mark DiLorenzo) to see who can stay the hottest through Derby prep season.

This week, we tackle one prep overseas and one prep stateside: the UAE Derby starts the day, and the Florida Derby caps it off.  I have strong opinions on top in both races — but see what the whole panel of handicappers has to say, right over here at ABR!