another excellent week for Curlin babies!

Connect (Bullville Belle, by Holy Bull) carried the banner for Curlin Babies Saturday, winning a loaded edition of the Pennsylvania Derby (GII).  Already a stakes winner after winning the Curlin at Saratoga, he rebounded from a sixth-place finish in the Travers Stakes (GI).  He tracked inside and midpack through much of the race, was finally asked approaching the turn for home, and stoutly held Gun Runner at bay.  It was Connect’s fourth win in six starts, and his first graded victory.

Still, since Thursday, Connect is not the only Curlin baby who has made his mark.  He is one of eight winners by Curlin over that time, in addition to three more stakes placings.

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Picks and Ponderings: 2016 Pennsylvania Derby Day Stakes Preview

This Saturday is the biggest day of the year at Parx: Pennsylvania Derby Day!

The day’s card features a trio of graded stakes for three-year-old horses, all of which I preview at Picks and Ponderings.  The GII Pennsylvania Derby, at $1.25 million the richest race of the year at Parx, drew a field of twelve — including the winners of both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.  The GI Cotillion drew just six, but several are proven GI horses, including the reigning queen of the three-year-olds: Songbird.  The GIII Gallant Bob, which kicks off the graded stakes portion of the card, features an eclectic group of sprinters including King’s Bishop third Noholdingback Bear.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s graded stakes trio at Parx, and let me know what you think in the comments!

just keep trying.

Racing has not come the most naturally to five-year-old gelding Prince Curlin (No Small Wonder, by Capote).  He debuted in December of his two-year-old year, but it took him seventeen tries to break his maiden.  On April 1 of last year, he finally hit the wire first.  In a $10,000 maiden claiming race at Parx, he duelled early and then pulled away to prevail by three and a half lengths.

N2L proved tough.  Over the next year, Prince Curlin raced seventeen more times without a win.  He hit the board just once in that stretch, finishing third in as a 95/1 shot at Parx last October.  He had started three times in 2015, most recently on April 6th.  That had been his first start in two months, and he finished a flat eighth in a $7,500 N2L going six furlongs on the dirt.

Prince Curlin wheeled back six days later at the same level, and stretched out to six and a half panels.  Things went a little differently.

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the greatest three minutes in sports

Today at 3:34 EST, the gates flung open for the 7th race at Mahoning Valley Racecourse, a $5,000 N3L claiming race at a mile over the dirt.

Solar Maximus (Solar Colony, by Pleasant Colony) raced wide into the clubhouse turn after breaking from the 8 hole.  Despite being hung wide, the five-year-old gelding got to the front and entered into a three-way pace battle with Sonerford and Burst of Fire.  50/1 outsider Sonerford tried to get away midway through the backstretch, but could not sustain that run.  As he was dropping back past Burst of Fire, Solar Maximus was decoupling as well — but in the other direction.  Midway through the far turn, Solar Maximus opened a three-length lead in push-button fashion.  Early-money darling Montbrook Storm tried to give chase, but could get nowhere near.  Retaliator made a late closing run, but could only contend for place.  Solar Maximus stayed decisively in front, crossing the wire five lengths clear of Retaliator.

Just as Solar Maximus crossed the wire at Mahoning Valley, the field broke at Parx for the 8th race, a one-mile N1X allowance.

Waynesborough (Bloomy, by Polish Numbers) had shown two starts back that he could splash home nicely in the mud at Parx, so the sloppy track today hardly seemed a worry.  Odds-on Chad Brown trainee Bond Vigilante and 12/1 outsider He’s a Slam Dunk shot out of the gate early, taking the front end.  Waynesborough was more than happy to take back early.  He usually comes from off the pace, but this time he dropped over a dozen lengths back.  He got the rail in early back stretch, and loped along as the leading pair duelled.  Waynesborough started making up ground through the far turn, angled off the rail to evade Behr in the Woods, and came right back inside to run at the leaders.  The five-year-old gelding rolled by easily, prevailing by a widening length over Bond Vigilante.

Waynesborough crossed the wire at 3:37 EST.

Multiple Curlin babies have won on the same day before, but within three minutes of each other?  This is a new one.

To make this even sweeter, Solar Maximus set a track record with his win, stopping the clock in 1:41.44 for a mile.  When I started researching all of the Curlin babies, I feared Solar Maximus might not even still be alive.  He had broken his maiden at Indiana Grand in June of 2013, and returned a month later.  He trailed early, and was eventually pulled up and vanned off the course.  I could find no further information about him…until September 1, 2014, when he returned to the worktab.  I wondered how well he would take to racing again, but was already over the moon that he was still alive and running.  He won second off that layoff, back on November 26.  After a sixth-place outing in allowance company on December 29, he stepped back into claiming company today…won by daylight, and set a new track record.  Even in light of the fact that Mahoning Valley is such a new racetrack?  The fact that Solar Maximus raced again was exciting enough, but the fact that he is racing where he is competitive and winning makes his return all the more fulfilling.

Picks and Ponderings: Pennsylvania Derby Day Stakes Preview

This week the racing world focuses on three-year-olds, and focuses on Parx.  So does Picks and Ponderings.  Saturday marks the Pennsylvania Derby (GII) and the Cotillion Stakes (GI), two million-dollar races for the sophomore set.  California Chrome races for the first time since the Belmont Stakes, Untapable returns for her first start since facing the boys in the Haskell, and all eyes are on the Philadelphia oval for one day.  These races ended up being very live Breeders’ Cup preps last year, with 2013 winner Will Take Charge coming up just a nose short in the Classic, and 2013 Cotillion winner Close Hatches finishing second in the Distaff behind Beholder, on Beholder’s home course.

In addition to the dirt routes, three-year-old sprinters also have their day in the Gallant Bob (GIII).  The older grass route set also gets a chance to shine, at least for those among the grass routers who have been bred in Pennsylvania; the stakes portion of the card kicks off with the Alphabet Soup Handicap.

Picks and Ponderings heads over there this week on a figurative road trip.  The entry features my analysis of the Cotillion and the Gallant Bob, and Paul Mazur‘s take on the Pennsylvania Derby and the Alphabet Soup.  Take a look, see what we have to say, and let us know in the comments there if you think we’re really right or really wrong about something!