#7: 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

Curlin’s progeny haven’t been limited by surface. Curlin himself raced mainly on dirt, of course, though his second-place finish in the 2008 Man o’ War (G1) showed he had talent on the grass as well, and his progeny have included Moulin de Mougin, a G2 winner on the lawn, and Dixie Moon, who is a stakes winner on both grass and synthetic, and Grade 1-placed on the lawn.

Even so, across surfaces, one thing seems consistent across most of Curlin’s best: distance. As a runner Curlin shined over the Classic distance, and as a whole his progeny have been best at route distances.

When you think of Curlin, you don’t think of five-and-a-half-furlong dashes.

No one told Chaos Theory (Chaotic Cat, by Tale of the Cat) that.

Perhaps he takes a bit more after his dam, whose wins both came at five and a half furlongs on the dirt. Perhaps he was just trying a little something short on debut, to ease into racing. Whatever it was, Chaos Theory made his first start in a five-and-a-half-furlong dash at Fair Grounds in February of 2018, closed mightily, and won by a length and a half. Did Curlin have a promising turf sprinter on his hands?

His next two starts came at six furlongs on dirt; the chestnut gelding finished off the board in both, then went through the sales ring at Keeneland November. Sold for just $42,000, Chaos Theory returned the next month in a first-level allowance for new trainer Brendan Walsh and new owners Marc Detampel and Sunshine State Racing LLC. They went back to what worked on debut, five and a half furlongs on the Fair Grounds grass.

Chaos Theory found the kick. He didn’t win, but he ran fourth of fourteen, only a length beaten. On January 20, 2019, making his second start for his new connections, he flew in the final furlong to win by a neck.

On February 16, things got a lot tougher for Chaos Theory. He was home, lining up to go five and a half furlongs at Fair Grounds. However, instead of facing a group of horses fresh out of maiden races or stepping up from claiming races, or even a second-level allowance? He entered the Colonel Power Stakes.

His foes included Hogy, ten years old, who set a still-standing track record in the same race two years before. Hogy had been running in graded stakes since before Chaos Theory was born. He faced Latent Revenge, who broke his maiden over five and a half furlongs on the Fair Grounds grass just a week after Chaos Theory was born, whose shining moment came when he chased Green Mask home in the 2017 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill. He faced Kid Perfect, also battle-tested, behind only Will Call (and a neck ahead of Bucchero) in the 2018 Twin Spires Turf Sprint. Chaos Theory, making only his fifth start, had to face a field forged in the fires of the toughest turf sprinters in the country.

The public knew it was a lot to ask, sending him off at 9.9/1, the second-longest shot in the field of seven.

No one told Chaos Theory that.

He chased between horses early, letting Latent Revenge and Kid Perfect dispute the early terms. Into the turn, others began to edge closer, but Tyler Gaffalione waited. He didn’t need to sit in third or fourth — after all, he never had before. Why change things now? Past the three eighths, Chaos Theory had been shuffled back to sixth, a more familiar spot.

Into the lane, Gaffalione shifted Chaos Theory out, and began to shake him up for run. He dropped his head, ready to pounce. Driven from the three sixteenths, he fought his way along: past Wings Locked up and Adonis Creed, then past turf sprint division elders Hogy and Kid Perfect. At the furlong he only had two more to pass: longtime leader Latent Revenge, and his most pressing threat, Savage Battle.

In the final sixteenth, Chaos Theory descended three wide and muscled past, getting up by a length over Savage Battle. In that moment, inexperience mattered little, nor did his sire’s long-winded tendencies. Chaos Theory was at home going five and a half furlongs on the Fair Grounds grass, and now he was a stakes winner.

He raced just twice more in 2019, both times in graded stakes company, and both times proving he belonged. He rallied for fourth behind Imprimis in the Shakertown (G2) in May at Keeneland, then for third behind World of Trouble in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill. He returned to the worktab on December 18. In a division that has been home to so many grand old geldings in recent years, Chaos Theory will only be five years old in 2020; his best may still be ahead of him.

America’s Best Racing: Big Race Showdown, Louisiana Derby

This is week eight 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.

Though I seem to be getting a little too cute on top, my exotics are doing rather well, especially after being the only one in the bunch to have both Blended Citizen and Pony Up in my top three in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) last week.  This week we tackle the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds — head over, and see what we all think!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Louisiana Derby and Fair Grounds Oaks Preview

Saturday at Fair Grounds features the first of the 100-point Derby and Oaks preps, down in the Big Easy: the Louisiana Derby (G2) for open company, and the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) for fillies. Both races drew solid, competitive fields: ten horses in the Louisiana Derby, and nine in the Fair Grounds Oaks.  This piece delves into both of those races in detail.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s points races at Fair Grounds, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

America’s Best Racing: Big Race Showdown, El Camino Real Derby and Risen Star Stakes

It’s time for the fourth week 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.

So far…I’m holding my own, mostly.  I must be getting a bit cute for cute’s sake on top: three weeks in my top picks are 0/4, but my exacta and trifecta winnings are solid.

This week, we take on a pair of Derby preps: the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds, as well as the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.  Head over to ABR, and see who we like!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Louisiana Derby and Fair Grounds Oaks Preview

The Louisiana spurs of the Derby trail and the Oaks Trails reach their culmination this weekend with the Louisiana Derby (G2) and the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2).  Over at Picks and Ponderings, I preview both.

Farrell has owned the fillies’ preps — can anyone beat her?  Guest Suite and Girvin have won the two open-company preps so far — will one of them repeat, or will a new face make it three different points race winners in the Big Easy?

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s three-year-old preps at Fair Grounds, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Risen Star and Rachel Alexandra Preview

This weekend, the Derby Trail and the Oaks Trail revisit the Big Easy, just in time for Mardi Gras!

The stakes are higher this weekend, with 50 points (instead of 10) now going to the winners.  And, for the Derby-bound, that brought out the cavalcade: fourteen three-year-old males will line up to contest the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes.  The Rachel Alexandra (G2) drew a field of just seven, but those seven include the top two sophomore fillies on the grounds, Valadorna and Farrell.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s three-year-old preps at Fair Grounds, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Southwest Stakes and Razorback Handicap Preview

The Derby trail does not usually get active on Mondays — but with the national holiday, Oaklawn will not only run this Monday, but will host a pair of graded stakes.

Sophomores will clash in the Southwest Stakes (G3), in which Smarty Jones Stakes winner Uncontested will face twelve foes.  The race is the second of Oaklawn’s four points preps.  Older horses will also have their moment in the sun — or, under the rain clouds, as suggested by the forecast — in the Razorback Handicap (G3).  The field of eight features Gun Runner, who will make his four-year-old bow after the Fair Grounds quarantine sidelined his Pegasus plans.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Monday’s stakes action at Oaklawn, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Guest Suite, Farrell Splash Farther Down the Road to Kentucky

Today featured the first Louisiana-based steps on the roads to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.  Guest Suite made the grade in a sloppy renewal of the Lecomte, and Farrell took another step forward in the Silverbulletday.

In addition to the three-year-old preps, the card featured four more stakes races, including thrilling late battles in both turf races.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my recap of today’s stakes action, and let me know your thoughts on Guest Suite, Farrell, or any of the other horses who ran today in the comments!

hello, Narvaez.

Today, I saw a horse who raced in my favourite horse race ever.

No, I didn’t see the winner of the 2014 Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII).  After all, this weekend I am making my first foray to Fair Grounds — not Three Chimneys Farm.

But, I did get to see Narvaez in person.  He finished fifth behind Palace Malice in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII) almost three years ago…perhaps an ambitious placing on the stretch to a mile, but he was coming right off a surprise second-place finish as a 139/1 outsider in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (GIII).  Strike while the iron is hot, right?

narvaezpaddock.jpg

Though the seven-year-old gelding now runs in the claiming ranks and not graded stakes, the son of Holy Bull is still a gorgeous grey.

Read More »

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Lecomte S. and Silverbulletday S. Preview

This weekend, I’m heading to New Orleans for the Lecomte Stakes and the Silverbulletday Stakes, the first of the three-year-old prep races at Fair Grounds.

At Picks and Ponderings I preview those two races in detail, and will have picks for all four other stakes on the schedule.  I will also be tweeting live from New Orleans all weekend long — Saturday race notes from @picksponderings, and other pictures, comments, and miscellany from @rogueclown.  They have some great races carded — it looks like I picked the right weekend to make my first foray to Fair Grounds.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s three-year-old stakes action in Louisiana, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Risen Star Stakes: Point/Counterpoint!

Over at By the Furlong, Casey Laughter and I tackled the entire field of the Risen Star (GII), going point/counterpoint on each horse.

For my part, given that it’s a field of thirteen, it has been a long while since I have had as strong an opinion for a horse on top than I have here.  This is a horse with not only a solid future down the Derby Trail — but a strong case to be made for him right now.

Head over to By the Furlong, and see what we think about the first fifty-point Derby prep of the year: this Saturday’s Risen Star.

Thank you, Casey, for having me as a guest this week!