#1: the fourth 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 2017.  Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones that keep reappearing in my mind.

#12: Stellar Wind Wins the First Beholder Mile
#11: Fireball Merlin Carries His Class to Fort Erie
#10: Irish War Cry Rolls Onto the Derby Trail
#9: Federal Agent Makes It Five Straight
#8: Horse-for-Course Captured Slips Under the Radar
#7: Good Magic Gives Curlin a Breeders’ Cup Win — and Solomini, an Exacta
#6: Handsome Franco Weathers Hurricane Maria
#5: Iredell Romps over Majestic Hussar at Laurel
#4: Curlinup and I Try Stakes Company
#3: Volgograd Debuts — Finally
#2: Whisper to Curlin Fights On In Chicago

#1: Keen Ice Upsets the Suburban

Keen Ice (Medomak, by Awesome Again) did not always win, but when he did, he did so when it looked an impossible task.

Even though he went off the favourite in a Churchill Downs maiden race in September 2014, he had eight lengths to make up on Tiznow R J and Starbound with a furlong to go.  Keen Ice got there.

The next year, in the Travers (G1), few thought Triple Crown champion American Pharoah could be beaten.  No one bothered to tell Keen Ice that, and he took command in the final sixteenth.

Antepost, most had already handed this year’s Suburban Stakes (G2) to Shaman Ghost.  The son of Ghostzapper had come closest to Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), then followed that up with victories in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and the Pimlico Special (G3).  He had the form, the stamina, and the tactical ability to shine at a mile and a quarter in a field of five.  Among the few who thought Shaman Ghost could be beat, most of them leaned toward Matt King Coal, figuring he could just wire the field.

Keen Ice, dismissed at 5/1, had other ideas.

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another for the Keen Ice highlight reel

Keen Ice (Medomak, by Awesome Again) hasn’t been the most consistent horse in his four seasons on the racetrack, but the son of Curlin has built a track record of blowing my mind once a year.

In 2014, when he was two, that came in the form of an impossible-looking maiden victory.  The next year, his star performance came at Saratoga, where he ran past Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Travers.  Though he did not win at age four, he amazed me by hitting the board in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, off just an allowance prep.

At five, that “wow” moment from Keen Ice came earlier in the year than ever before: in Saturday’s Suburban Stakes (G2).

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Picks and Ponderings: Pegasus World Cup Point/Counterpoint

This weekend features the richest race in horse racing history: the Pegasus World Cup (G1).  Keen Ice, California Chrome, Arrogate, and nine other horses will go a mile and an eighth for a purse of $12,000,000.

And, as we so often do for the biggest races of the year, Picks and Ponderings takes it on, point/counterpoint.  Paul Mazur and I go horse-by-horse to separate the contenders, the exotic plays, and the pretenders.  We pull no punches, and we let the snark flow.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read our preview of the Pegasus World Cup, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

#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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Curlin babies at the Breeders’ Cup!

The Breeders’ Cup gets underway tomorrow.  Just like every year since 2013, when Palace Malice ran in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Curlin is represented.  In this year’s Breeders’ Cup, scheduled for November 4-5 at Santa Anita, five Curlin babies are slated to run.

Curlin is still looking for his first Breeders’ Cup winner.  He came close last year, when Stellar Wind finished just short of nine-furlong savant Stopchargingmaria in the Distaff.  That was Stellar Wind’s first attempt against older company.  A year later, Stellar Wind has grown better, faster, and stronger…and gives Curlin strong hope for his first Breeders’ Cup victory as a sire.

The following five progeny of Curlin will race in this year’s Breeders’ Cup:

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Keen Ice, moving barns

The big news with Curlin babies today involves one who hasn’t run in a week and a half: Keen Ice has been transferred to the barn of Todd Pletcher.  Plans have not been solidified, but quotes from today suggest that Saratoga and (eventually) the Breeders’ Cup Classic are on the radar.

Crawford stated that this was a move that Donegal had done before, moving a horse in order to try something different.  Donegal has done it — it was a move they did very successfully in 2014 with Finnegans Wake.

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Curlin babies and Eclipse finalists

Eclipse finalists were announced today.  I thought there would be a chance to see three Curlin babies among them.

Only one got the call.

Sure, Keen Ice (Medomak, by Awesome Again) was never going to actually win Champion Three Year Old Male.  American Pharoah locked that up as soon as he crossed the wire in the Belmont.  Still, Keen Ice is a Grade I winner in his own right, and the only horse to get his nose on a wire ahead of American Pharoah this year.  He finished third in the Belmont, second in the Haskell, and was fourth beaten a length for everything against older in the Clark (GI).

In other words, Keen Ice had a strong enough season to deserve consideration for the undersides of Eclipse ballots.  However, the three named finalists this morning make sense, and all have cut-and-dried arguments for garnering that status over Keen Ice.  American Pharoah won the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI)…and the Rebel (GII), and the Arkansas Derby (GI), and the Haskell (GI).  Runhappy crushed the sprint division.  He won three Grade I races, including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and tallied four victories against older.  Dortmund, the third finalist, had a stronger overall season than Keen Ice.  He won the Santa Anita Derby (GI) and finished third in the Kentucky Derby.  He had five stakes wins through the year, including a pair against older.

No, the real bafflement comes in the three-year-old fillies’ division.

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#1: the second annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

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.

#12: Theogony wins the Belle Mahone Stakes
#11: Stellar Wind and Curalina finish 2-3 in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff
#10: Jess’s Dream is a reality!
#9: Danette graduates — finally!
#8: Copperplate finds his place
#7: Curalina wins the Acorn…right in front of me
#6: Union Jackson breaks his maiden
#5: Charismata helps introduce a new voice to Emerald Downs
#4: Solar Maximus goes long…really long
#3: Diversy Harbor wins the Buena Vista Stakes
#2: Conquest Curlinate almost gets there in the Illinois Derby

#1: Keen Ice wins his (Midsummer) Derby

I have never been one for having an early Derby horse, an early Breeders’ Cup horse, an early anything horse.  Still, there was just something special about how Keen Ice (Medomak, by Awesome Again) broke his maiden last year.  The way he ran down those pacesetters, even though he had eight lengths to make up at the stretch call?  His maiden win dazzled.  Keen Ice was my Derby Horse.

Then, he ducked through all of those horses late in the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) — though he finished just fifth, he showed maturity.  Next out, on a heavily speed biased  day, he still rallied from the clouds for third in the Remsen (GII).  These only galvanized my opinion that with a little extra time and distance, Keen Ice would be the winner of the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

It took a bit longer than hoped, but Keen Ice indeed found his way to Grade I glory at the Classic distance.

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go Keen Ice!

Earlier this month, Romans Racing did a Keen Ice selfie contest.  The rules were pretty simple: print out one of the #GoKeenIce signs, post selfies with the sign, and share them on social media with the hashtag.

This was, of course, right up my alley.  Keen Ice is not only a Curlin baby, but became my Derby horse last September after his improbable maiden win.  I have been a huge Keen Ice fan ever since, and it has been a thrill to watch him grow, mature, and finally win his first Grade I race.

I took a few selfies for the contest, but one of them entertained me the most by far.  I was walking down the Hawthorne backstretch, on the way to go visit Lucky Lindy, and saw a sign that just begged to be in a Keen Ice picture:


Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Turns out, I was not the only one entertained by this picture.  I found out a few days ago that this picture had won second place in the contest!  The awesome folks over at Romans Racing sent me some fun prizes, just in time to cheer Keen Ice on in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Of course, this meant time for more Keen Ice selfies.


Thank you so much — and good luck to Keen Ice!  It would be such a thrill to see him win the Classic on Saturday.

paint the canoe green and gold!

On September 6 of last year, a horse named Keen Ice had a improbable task ahead of him.  Turning for home, Starbound and Tiznow R J were in a race of their own.  Keen Ice had found his best stride, but may have left himself too much to do.

Yet, Keen Ice kept going.  He closed the gap, ran them down, and got his nose on the wire first.

Today, Keen Ice had another improbable task ahead.

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Picks and Ponderings: Travers Day!

The biggest day of the Saratoga meet is almost upon us: Travers Day.

Over at Picks and Ponderings, we dive into all the stakes on the card: six Grade I events and a Grade II.  I handicap the Travers Stakes (GI), the Forego Stakes (GI), the Personal Ensign (GI), and the Ballston Spa (GII).  Paul Mazur takes on the Sword Dancer (GI), the Ballerina (GI), and the King’s Bishop (GI).

(And, yes, I am taking a swing against American Pharoah in the Travers.)

In addition to the written previews, we also have a grid of all of our selections for all seven stakes.  If you have any questions about my logic on the Sword Dancer, the Ballerina, or the King’s Bishop, feel free to ask me in the comments either here or there.

Good luck on Travers Day!

Picks and Ponderings: 2015 Belmont Stakes Point/Counterpoint

Eight horses have entered Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.  American Pharoah hopes to complete a Triple Crown…and after the prep season and the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, just seven horses stand between him and history.

As we did for the Preakness, Paul Mazur and I have gone horse by horse, point-counterpoint style, through the Belmont Stakes field.  It turns out we see the race just differently enough to keep it interesting…yet there’s one very long shot who we both think has a good chance Saturday.

Head on over to Picks and Ponderings, see who Paul and I like in the Belmont, and let us know in the comments what you think we got right — or wrong.

Kentucky Derby Day!

Two weeks ago, I went to the Kentucky Derby with Candice.

Despite my pleas to detour for just a little while at Stonestreet, we ended up at Churchill Downs bright and early.
Despite my pleas to detour for just a little while at Stonestreet, we ended up at Churchill Downs bright and early.

It was my first trip to the Derby (though not my first to Churchill Downs), and my first to any Triple Crown race.  It was a bit different than I expected, mainly because I am so used to being a railbird, and yet general admission tickets did not cover access to the apron.  We could get to the paddock or the infield.  From the paddock, we could see the horses before the races, but would have to watch the races on the screen.  From the infield, we would be in the midst of a huge party…but only be able to see the horses when they ran by our section of rail, assuming we were lucky enough to get a rail spot.

We spent the day in the paddock.

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