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
When a horse wins impressively on debut, you never quite know what you have until you test them against tougher company. That adage carries particular weight when a horse wins so impressively in a dirt race that was originally carded for the lawn.
Hence the cautious enthusiasm when Point of Honor (Zayanna, by Bernardini) romped by six lengths in a maiden special weight at Gulfstream on December 18, 2018. It was a good first step, and her $825,000 RNA at Keeneland September suggested that she came to the track with expectations. She was well bet, and no one looked a real threat to her as she drove clear.
But, not only would she have to answer how she would do against winners, but also how she would do against company originally intended for the dirt.
Even with that caveat, plenty of people believed she was the real deal.
Some new owners believed. Point of Honor was owned by Stetson Racing LLC for her maiden win, but Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners had bought in by the time she entered her next race.
Her trainer George Weaver believed. He had not placed Point of Honor in an easy slot for that next race. Instead, she resurfaced February 9 at Tampa Bay Downs, in the Suncoast Stakes, a race in its second year as a Kentucky Oaks points prep.
Even the wagering public believed. On the strength of that one off-turf victory, they sent her off the 5/2 choice in a field of eight. Standing at the rail at Tampa Bay Downs that afternoon, I felt like the only one whose caution overwhelmed their optimism.
They were right, and I was wrong.
Jockey Javier Castellano settled her off the pace, two wide at the rear through the clubhouse turn. Though she brought up the rear, she was hardly far from the lead; she sat in eighth, but still only four lengths off the pace a quarter of a mile in, the field was so compact.
Passing the half-mile pole, Point of Honor was still near last, but beginning to improve. She was three wide heading into the turn: certain to lose ground, but also out of the kickback and unlikely to get caught in a traffic jam. Ridden along, she responded, and she hit the quarter pole in third position: behind only pacesetter Lady Kate and the stalking Sweet Diane.
She loomed in upper stretch, already going better than Sweet Diane, though Lady Kate wouldn’t give in without a fight. At the furlong mark, Point of Honor shifted into her next gear. She drove clear of Lady Kate, daring anyone to doubt anymore that she was for real, crossing the finish two and three quarters lengths clear, announcing herself as a three-year-old filly to watch.
Though any whiff of lilies in the air proved premature — she ran fourth behind Champagne Anyone in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) next out, and did not race at Churchill on the first Friday in May — she returned for the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico, overhauling Ulele to win by half a length. That made her part of a banner day for Curlin babies at Pimlico. By the time she won the Black-Eyed Susan Tenfold and Cordmaker had already finished 1-3 in the Pimlico Special (G3), and later that day Mylady Curlin won the Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3).
Her year concluded with a pair of second-place finishes at the very top level at Saratoga: behind Guarana in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) in July, then behind Dunbar Road in the Alabama (G1) in August.