the Doc is in!

The Doc hasn’t been in for a while.

Before today, Doc Curlin (Jasmine Jewel, by Mr. Greeley) hadn’t run since last April.  The five-year-old gelding had raced eight times between ages three and four, earning his diploma in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Belmont in October 2015.  That came for trainer Thomas Bush, though he was claimed for $50,000 out of his next start.  That was the last start of his three-year-old year.  He made two more for new trainer Kristen Mulhall, missing the board in both of them.

All of those starts had come out east.  Today, not only did Doc Curlin emerge ten months older, but he got a change of course.  He still ran under Mulhall’s care.  But, instead of the old familiar strains of New York or Gulfstream, he tried the hill at Santa Anita.

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which Irish War Cry?

Irish War Cry (Irish Sovereign, by Polish Numbers) had two wins in two starts going into today’s Holy Bull (G2).

Even though he had done everything asked of him, the question loomed: which Irish War Cry would show up to face more proven horses like champion Classic Empire and multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera in his graded stakes debut?

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battle of the Curlin babies at Laurel

Yesterday’s Marylander Stakes featured a battle of two of Curlin’s most promising two-year-old sons.

Irish War Cry (Irish Sovereign, by Polish Numbers) had already proven himself once over the Laurel dirt.  He debuted in a maiden special weight, drawn far outside in a six-furlong maiden special weight sprint on November 11.  He rallied from well off the pace, and though he was green, he won with ease.  It was a good enough debut to get him into Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager as the only son of Curlin included.  The Marylander would be his second career start, his first against winners.

Undulated (Polly Alexander, by Foxhound) had run three times.  He made an impressive winning debut on turf at Laurel, finished second in the Laurel Futurity (also on turf) next out, then graduated to the ranks of the stakes winners by taking the Swynford Stakes over Woodbine’s Tapeta.  In the Marylander Stakes, he stretched to seven furlongs for the first time and tried conventional dirt for the first time.  Everyone else came into the race with form over dirt — specifically, the dirt at Laurel — leaving him with something to prove.

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#1: the third 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 2016.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: My Curby makes a winning visit to Arlington
#11: Reversiontothemean finds the wire just in time
#10: Theogony goes long in the Rags to Riches
#9: Barbara’s Smile soars against the boys
#8: Fireball Merlin and Copperplate go clockwise
#7: Undulated debuts without fear
#6 Stellar Wind defeats a champion in the Clement Hirsch
#5 Connect wins the race named after his sire
#4: Exaggerator matches his sire’s feat
#3 Solar Maximus steps up in class
#2 Keen Ice justifies an ambitious spot

#1: Captured fights back

Putting Captured (Alluring, by A. P. Indy) at the head of this list was easy.  Choosing the race was difficult.

In fourteen starts this year, the five-year-old gelding won six times.  He could win by daylight.  He could win by a neck.  As long as Captured got two turns over his beloved Penn National dirt, he would be a force.

His finest hour this year came on July 7.

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#2: the third 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 2016.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: My Curby makes a winning visit to Arlington
#11: Reversiontothemean finds the wire just in time
#10: Theogony goes long in the Rags to Riches
#9: Barbara’s Smile soars against the boys
#8: Fireball Merlin and Copperplate go clockwise
#7: Undulated debuts without fear
#6 Stellar Wind defeats a champion in the Clement Hirsch
#5 Connect wins the race named after his sire
#4: Exaggerator matches his sire’s feat
#3 Solar Maximus steps up in class

#2 Keen Ice justifies an ambitious spot

Most of the time, the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies are devoted to victories.  However…sometimes an unexpected good race can be just as memorable, even if the horse did not find the wire first.

So it was with Keen Ice (Medomak, by Awesome Again) this year, on one of the biggest stages of all.

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#3: the third 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 2016.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: My Curby makes a winning visit to Arlington
#11: Reversiontothemean finds the wire just in time
#10: Theogony goes long in the Rags to Riches
#9: Barbara’s Smile soars against the boys
#8: Fireball Merlin and Copperplate go clockwise
#7: Undulated debuts without fear
#6 Stellar Wind defeats a champion in the Clement Hirsch
#5 Connect wins the race named after his sire
#4: Exaggerator matches his sire’s feat

#3 Solar Maximus steps up in class

So much of Solar Maximus’s racing career has been a gift, the sweetest surprise in the sport.

When I first added Solar Maximus (Solar Colony, by Pleasant Colony) to my virtual stable, his last line was DNF, pulled up, vanned off.  But, he returned to the worktab.  He lost at Churchill…then got his picture taken in his first try at Mahoning Valley.

That began his love affair with the Youngstown oval.  He won four times in the 2014-2015 meet, twice in claiming company and twice against starters.  Thistledown did not treat him as well in the summer, but once he got back to Mahoning he returned to his winning ways.  It took a few starts for him to get going.  But, he hit the board in his first three starts…then in his fourth start of the meet, Solar Maximus won emphatically against beaten $7,500 company.  He returned to beat similar last out, then notched back up to starter company.  He rolled by six.

February 22, it came time for Solar Maximus to face allowance company again.

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#4: the third 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 2016.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: My Curby makes a winning visit to Arlington
#11: Reversiontothemean finds the wire just in time
#10: Theogony goes long in the Rags to Riches
#9: Barbara’s Smile soars against the boys
#8: Fireball Merlin and Copperplate go clockwise
#7: Undulated debuts without fear
#6 Stellar Wind defeats a champion in the Clement Hirsch
#5 Connect wins the race named after his sire

#4: Exaggerator matches his sire’s feat

From his first crop on, Curlin’s babies have had success in the Classic races.  Palace Malice got Curlin on the board in his very first crop, winning the 2013 Belmont Stakes.  The next year, Ride On Curlin started in all three Triple Crown races, with his best finish a second behind California Chrome in the Preakness.  Last year, Keen Ice continued Curlin’s streak of having a horse in every crop hit the board in a Classic, finishing third behind American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes.

This year, Curlin had one representative in the Triple Crown series: Exaggerator (Dawn Raid, by Vindication).

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#5: the third 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 2016.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: My Curby makes a winning visit to Arlington
#11: Reversiontothemean finds the wire just in time
#10: Theogony goes long in the Rags to Riches
#9: Barbara’s Smile soars against the boys
#8: Fireball Merlin and Copperplate go clockwise
#7: Undulated debuts without fear
#6 Stellar Wind defeats a champion in the Clement Hirsch

#5 Connect wins the race named after his sire

In most years, the three-year-old glory rains on the Classic winners.  This year was a bit different, as focus on Nyquist, Exaggerator, and Creator earlier in the year shifted elsewhere through the summer and the fall.

Gun Runner was consistently good in stakes company from the beginning of the year to the end, but did not capture his top-level win until the Clark Handicap (GI) in November.  Arrogate debuted in April, ran through his allowance conditions in California, and proved an elite ten-furlong horse in the Travers (GI) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI).

And then, there was Connect (Bullville Belle, by Holy Bull).  The three-year-old colt broke his maiden at Belmont on Kentucky Derby Day, and cleared his first-level allowance condition on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Connect finally made his stakes debut in August, becoming the first Curlin foal to start in the Curlin Stakes.

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#6: the third 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 2016.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: My Curby makes a winning visit to Arlington
#11: Reversiontothemean finds the wire just in time
#10: Theogony goes long in the Rags to Riches
#9: Barbara’s Smile soars against the boys
#8: Fireball Merlin and Copperplate go clockwise
#7: Undulated debuts without fear

#6 Stellar Wind defeats a champion in the Clement Hirsch

Last year in California, Stellar Wind (Evening Star, by Malibu Moon) ruled the sophomore fillies’ division while Beholder ruled the distaffers.  Both won Eclipse awards in their respective divisions.  However, they never crossed paths on race day.  Stellar Wind remained against her own age group until the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI), a race Beholder did not contest.

This year, the gloves were off.  If they both stayed on the west coast circuit, they would have no choice but to clash.

Their first match came on June 4 in the Vanity Mile (GI).  Beholder had gotten an easy prep in the Adoration (GIII) a month earlier.  Stellar Wind had not seen the starter since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff the previous October.  Beholder pressed the early pace set by sprinter Lost Bus, drew off, and held by daylight.  Stellar Wind tried all the way to the wire, but could only muster second.  Still, it was just her first race of the year.  She had room to improve.

Almost two months later, in the Clement L. Hirsch, Stellar Wind got another chance at Beholder.  The Vanity, billed as a battle of champions, proved a mere prelude.

The Clement Hirsch featured the true showdown.

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