#2: the fifth 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 2018. Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones to which my mind keeps wandering back.

#12: Timeless Curls Marks Herself a Rising Star
#11: Secret Passage Comes Into His Own

#10: Legit Proves Aptly Named in His Gulfstream Unveiling
#9: Bishop’s Pond Proves She Is a Dirt Horse, After All
#8: Good Magic Reasserts His Class in the Blue Grass
#7: Dixie Moon Never Quits in the Carotene
#6: Amiral Rallies, Stuns, and Begins a Banner Day for His Sire
#5: Dabster Gives His All Against Battle of Midway
#4: Campaign Wins Twice at Kentucky Downs
#3: Vino Rosso Rediscovers His Best in the Wood

#2: Bam Bam Blu Rewards the Patience of His Connections

Even though Curlin’s progeny can shine as older horses, most of them — like most racehorses in general — tend to debut at two or three. Most don’t wait until the sprint of their six-year-old year to feel the dirt under their hooves and the roar of the ground in their ears for the very first time.

Bam Bam Blu (Bam Bam Bull, by Holy Bull) isn’t most horses.

The six-year-old gelding made his racetrack debut on April 7 at Gulfstream Park, in a maiden race for three-year-olds and up. Though he had years on all his foes — everyone else in the eight-horse field was either three or four — his lack of racing experience showed. Everything indicated that the Jason Servis trainee needed the race, from the fractious behaviour in the gate to the fact that he tired to fifth in the lane.

He returned the next month in the logical place: Monmouth. Logical, because Bam Bam Blu is a homebred for Dennis Drazin, CEO of Darby Developments LLC, which operates Monmouth Park. However, as much pull as Drazin may have inside the Oceanport grandstand’s walls, he can’t make everything perfect for his late-blooming colt. The $30,000-$40,000 maiden claimer, originally scheduled for five furlongs on the grass, had to be run over a sloppy main track instead. Still, Bam Bam Blu remained in the field, as did six of his eight foes.

Ten and a half years before, Curlin dominated the Monmouth mud. On May 27, his son Bam Bam Blu did.

Bam Bam Blu breaks his maiden at Monmouth as easily as he wants.

Bam Bam Blu came out of the gate well, but so did Rough Night, the only horse drawn to his inside. Skillful speed rider Paco Lopez asked Bam Bam Blu for just enough to pass that foe and clear to the inside, something the gelding willingly gave.

The outjumped Rough Night settled well back along the fence after those first few jumps, but Bam Bam Blu wasn’t alone. Win With Character ranged up, prompting just to Bam Bam Blu’s outside into the far turn, with The Forty Factor tucked in behind.

At the farthest point of the bend, the field began to lose ground. Still in hand, Bam Bam Blu strengthened his advantage with every stride: a length, a length and a half, three lengths by the time he turned for the wire.

Lopez waved the stick in upper stretch, but Bam Bam Blu never felt it. In hand he continued to draw away, skipping over the Monmouth slop as easily as his sire had a decade before, and crossed the wire ten and a half lengths clear of The Forty Factor.

Bam Bam Blu held his form into the summer. He returned July 22 at Saratoga in a conditioned $50,000 starter allowance; that day, the race stayed on the grass. He proved he could handle that, too, stalking and pouncing to win by a length. From there it was on to another turf sprint, a straight N1X at the Spa on August 27. Prompting a torrid pace, he gamely held on for second, beaten only a neck. Since he scratched from an allowance on October 11 at Belmont, that race in August was his most recent.

Good things can be worth waiting for, and so it was with the beginning of Bam Bam Blu’s career. Hopefully he returns in 2019, at seven, ready to continue the racetrack story it took him so long to start.

Big Race Showdown: Bing Crosby, Haskell, and Clement Hirsch

Season Two of this year’s Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing continues this weekend: 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.

We tackle a trio of Win and You’re In races this week: the Bing Crosby (G1), the Haskell (G1), and the Clement Hirsch (G1).  See who we like right here!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Haskell Invitational Preview

In news that surprised virtually no one, Justify has been retired — making the question of which sophomore will rise to the top during the second half of the season a pressing as well as interesting one.

The first of the summer’s top races for the sophomore dirt route set happens this Sunday, and it’s also the marquee race for the entire Monmouth Park meet: the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational Stakes.  In addition to the biggest share of that seven-figure purse, the winner of the Haskell also gets a Win and You’re In berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be run November 4 at Del Mar.  It is the only automatic Breeders’ Cup Classic berth offered in a race limited to three-year-olds.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Haskell, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

a good weekend for the old folks

This weekend was a great weekend for the grand old horses.  It seemed like all over the continent, older horses were showing the younger ones just what they could aspire to someday.

Ten-year-old Four Left Feet won at Arlington on Monday.  (Go here, make sure you’ve allowed Flash for this website, and watch Monday, May 28, Race 1.  You won’t be sorry.)  His female family excels in terms of durability, and his Memorial Day victory was Four Left Feet’s second in three starts this year — and his twelfth win in 78 career starts.

War Diamond, a daughter of War Front (a sire with so many good younger runners), didn’t make her first start until she was five.  In Monday’s Arlington 7th, only her third lifetime start, she fought gamely and shed her maiden label.  It sounds like she takes a bit more from her female family.  After all, War Front didn’t race past age four.  But, her dam Snow Diamond is a full sister to Fort Prado: 18-for-59 in a career that ran from ages two through eight, a multiple graded stakes winner at five, and a multiple stakes winner at eight.  The only other Snow Diamond to race didn’t emerge until rather late as well: Snow Mesa (Sky Mesa) debuted at three and graduated second-out at four.  (The third, Sister Mary Cletus, is a Declaration of War two-year-old who isn’t on the worktab yet.)  But, if War Diamond continues to follow in her sister’s late-blooming footsteps, she may have a thing to say in the allowance ranks in the next year or two.

At Woodbine, even though seven-year-old Melmich and five-year-old Gigantic Breeze (that whippersnapper!) tried their hardest, eight-year-old Are You Kidding Me fought them off and won the Eclipse Stakes (G2) for the third time in his career.  He has now won twelve times in thirty-eight career starts — and when his career winds down, he will hopefully get a chance to pass his durability on to the next generation.  After all, unlike so many horses who race in graded stakes through age eight, he is still a stud horse!

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/aNnvzUQTTWM?rel=0

At Monmouth, eight-year-old Page McKenney wore down an in-form Shaft of Light to achieve his second career graded stakes victory in the Salvator Mile (G3) at Monmouth.  He had won in Grade 3 company once before, a head score in the 2016 General George (G3), but he had been competitive over and over again in stakes company (graded and not!) since the summer of 2014.  A maiden winner in $16,000 claiming company in 2013, and claimed for that sum out of an N2L later that year, his stakes success from ages four through eight is a perfect testament to having patience and letting a horse grow into himself.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/j_fxc1RHHk8?rel=0

I’m often asked how old horses are when they retire.  As I discussed a year and a half ago when another grand old man retired at the age of eleven, it depends.  I steadfastly hold that older horses who continue to make a race of it against company against whom they’ve been competitive for years have every right to keep running.  This past weekend was a shining example of that.

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Haskell Invitational Preview

The breather after the Triple Crown season is over.  The first of the summer’s top races for the sophomore dirt route set happens this Sunday, and it’s also the marquee race for the entire Monmouth Park meet: the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Haskell Invitational Stakes.  In addition to the biggest share of that seven-figure purse, the winner of the Haskell also gets a Win and You’re In berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be run November 4 at Del Mar.  It is the only automatic Breeders’ Cup Classic berth offered in a race limited to three-year-olds.

This year’s edition drew a field of seven.  Though none of the Classic winners will contend the Haskell, a pair of Classic-placed horses will: BATTLE OF MIDWAY finished third in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and IRISH WAR CRY was second in the Belmont Stakes (G1).  This space likes one of these Classic-placed horses, and advises taking a stand against another.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of this year’s competitive renewal of the Haskell, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

what just happened?

This past weekend I was doing the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt, which is one of the few things in life with strong enough allure to keep me (mostly) away from the races.  I say mostly, because even though I missed going out to the track for the first time since the Hawthorne meet began in February, I couldn’t stay completely away.  I frittered away at least an hour watching Tom Durkin race calls instead of scavenging when it was announced he’d be retiring this summer.  I watched the Laz Barrera live, and shook my head at the bettors who let Top Fortitude go off at 30-1 second off the lay after such an impressive debut last year.  (In a somewhat related note, I was also cursing the fact that I haven’t boarded the ADW train yet…).

Also, I took my usual weekly stab at Public Handicapper.  It felt bizarre not to spend a long evening delving into the past performances, writing copious notes, and writing my picks.  However, I decided to at least read over the PPs, sketch out the pace scenario in my head, and make at least an educated guess at each of the races.  I had nothing to lose, right?

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