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.
#9 Lady Apple Trains On
Through the early part of the 2018 two-year-old season, Lady Apple (Miss Mary Apples, by Clever Trick) was as good a filly as Curlin had. On debut, in a four-and-a-half-furlong baby race at Keeneland, she ran second behind Dragic, an odds-on favorite for the king of the Keeneland baby races, Wesley Ward. It was still a good enough effort for trainer Steve Asmussen and owners Phoenix Thoroughbred III and KatieRich Stables to route her into stakes company next out. She moved forward in the Astoria. She was always in range; she even led midstretch. But, Athens Queen came home just a neck better, and Wesley Ward carried another day.
After off-the-board finishes in the Schuylerville Stakes (G3) and a maiden special at Saratoga in August, both at one turn, Lady Apple went on the shelf. Despite her first flash of precocity, maybe it was once again time to let her grow up a bit.
After all, she is a Curlin baby. Her dam, Miss Mary Apples, won a Keeneland baby race and ran second in the Schuylerville, but held form at age three. Her close family is replete with horses who were like that, horses with two-year-old form who were able to train on: Miss Red Delicious, Dr. Diamond’s Prize, Parlor, even Euprhates — a Curlin half to Miss Mary Apples who ran in Turkey.
Lady Apple returned six months after that second Saratoga try, on February 7, in a maiden special weight at six furlongs over the Oaklawn dirt. One of only two experienced runners among the seven who went to the post, Lady Apple sparked the faith of the bettors, going off as the 1.1/1 favorite.
Longshot Listen Up settled on the lead, but Lady Apple did not let her slip far away. Handling the sloppy footing well, she settled just to the outside, nose at the leader’s outside flank.
Into the turn she still moved comfortably. Moving outside the leader, she drew steadily closer to even with each step. At the quarter, she drew even. Coming toward the three sixteenths, she began to separate herself. Only Summer Delivery — the only other experienced horse, and a Twirling Candy half to the dam of Promises Fulfilled, Marquee Miss, and Marquee Cal Gal — could keep pace. Even so, Lady Apple kept giving what jockey Ricardo Santana asked of her, holding a length and a half on Summer Delivery from the furlong to the wire.
Lady Apple had returned.
With the class she showed at two, the win was enough to suggest that she could be a stakes horse again at three. She ran to those hopes. After an allowance win in March at Oaklawn, her first attempt at two turns, she secured her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with a 9/1 upset in the Fantasy (G3). She proved she belonged, running third behind Serengeti Empress. Lady Apple made three more starts after the Oaks, winning two of them: the Iowa Oaks (G3) and the Remington Park Oaks (G3).
All of that graded stakes glory had to start somewhere. Every precocious two-year-old who stays in training at three has to answer the question of whether they’ve progressed with their class. Lady Apple’s affirmative answer to that question began with victory on a sloppy February day at Oaklawn.