Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies: a look back on twelve races during 2015 that stand out. Among hundreds of races by Curlin’s progeny through the course of the year, they are the ones I keep returning to in my head, the ones that I am always ready and excited to discuss.
Diversy Harbor (Motokiks, by Storm Cat) burst onto the scene early last year, at age three. She rallied from the back of the pack to break her maiden first out at Santa Anita, and followed that with another off-pace triumph in the China Doll Stakes.
She had been knocking on the door in graded stakes company ever since.
I have followed Diversy Harbor since her the beginning of her racing career, and she appeared in the very first “This Week In Curlin Babies” I ever wrote. She always stood out as one of my favourites among the Curlin babies. Despite a clerical error in the spelling, she was named after a place here in Chicago. Her deep closing running style made her fun to watch. Being out of Motokiks, half to the likes of Keertana and Snow Top Mountain, she was bred to run all day. And, as she proved with her strong second-place finish in the ten-furlong American Oaks (GI) last year, she very much could.
If anyone asks where my horse racing attentions fall most, I answer that they lie in two places: Curlin babies and Chicago racing. Those realms overlapped twice over the weekend.
Out west at Santa Anita, Diversy Harbor had entered the Grade III Santa Barbara Handicap. Despite the mangled spelling, her name refers to the place in Chicago where Lincoln Park meets the lake. A four-year-old daughter of Curlin, Diversy Harbor could not have been bred better to run long. In addition to her father’s distance prowess, her dam Motokiks (by Storm Cat) had produced both Keertana and Snow Top Mountain. Snow Top Mountain won a pair of graded stakes going nine furlongs on the dirt; Keertana beat males going a mile and a half in the 2011 Louisville Handicap (GIII). Diversy Harbor herself had looked sharp finishing second in last year’s American Oaks (GI), and the Santa Barbara would be her first time trying ten furlongs since that race. A daughter of Curlin, named after a place in Chicago, and bred to run all day? She had all the makings of a horse crush, and I have been smitten since she started running last year.
Back east at Hawthorne, Conquest Curlinate had been entered in Saturday’s Illinois Derby. An Ontario-bred, he had only raced previously at Woodbine and Oaklawn. But his owners, Conquest Stables, call the suburbs of Chicago home. Conquest Curlinate would be the first horse they would run in a stakes race nearby. In addition to the Curlin connection and the Chicago connection, he had more characteristics I love in a horse. A registered grey or roan, he looked far more roan even in his single start at two, but has started to grey out significantly at three. He had broken his maiden two starts back, showing a thrilling closing kick. I also make no secret of my love for the tanks; out of all of the horses in the paddock for the Illinois Derby, only Cross the Line rivaled him in size. A son of Curlin, racing in Chicago for local connections, a confirmed closer, and a big, grey tank? I had it bad for Conquest Curlinate, and could not wait to see him race in my backyard.