back from their layoffs

Over the weekend, three Curlin babies made their first starts off of sizable layoffs.

One of them fell off the Derby trail early, and finally started again for the first time in a year.  Another had a fraught journey down the Oaks trail, tried turf once in August, and then spent six and a half months off the track.  The third had a short two-year-old campaign, and returned to take his first step down the Derby trail since October.

They all finished fourth.

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#5: twelve days of Curlin babies

Welcome back to the twelve days of Curlin babies: a look back on twelve races during 2014 that stand out among races by Curlin’s progeny over the course of the year. They are races I keep returning to in my head, and ones that I am always excited to discuss. They will all have a story, a clear reason why they stand out among the hundreds of races in which I saw Curlin babies race this year.

#12: Federal Agent breaks his maiden
#11: Miss Frost wins the Tenski Stakes
#10: Curly Queen breaks her maiden
#9: Stopshoppingdebbie wins the Washington State Legislators Handicap
#8: J to the Croft, the longest shot on the board, breaks his maiden
#7: Moulin de Mougin wins the John C. Mabee Stakes
#6: She’s Curly, and the ad hoc match race

#5: Please Explain wins the Suncoast Stakes

Early this year, I was trying to make sense of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks pictures.  Derbyologist’s Triple Crown fantasy league was in full swing, and I was trying to dig up interesting horses to claim for my stable.  I spent many late nights earlier this year catching up on stakes races, watching, re-watching, trying to see who I thought had a good chance to make a splash on the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks trails.  If anything, I was a bit more focused on finding interesting Oaks prospects than interesting Derby prospects, only because there seemed to be fewer adversaries in the league who were turning their focus to the fillies.  The first claiming day was at the end of February, and I had one slot I was looking to fill.

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this week in Curlin babies: 8.9.14

Welcome to another installment of this week in Curlin babies: all the news that’s fit to print about Blinkers Off’s favourite sire.  This week, there were several fun highlights in the world of Curlin babies.  Whisper to Curlin earned his first stakes win in his first stakes start, taking the Iowa Breeders’ Derby.  Two-year-old filly La Grange acquitted herself well in her first graded stakes attempt, finishing second in the Sorrento Stakes (GII).  Also, Franklyididitmyway broke his maiden in his eighth career start.  Coming up this week, Moulin de Mougin tries graded stakes company again in the John C. Mabee Stakes (GII) at Del Mar, this time at her preferred distance of nine furlongs.  Miss Frost also tries stakes company for the first time this year, taking a shot in the Tenski Stakes at Saratoga.

Without further ado, let’s see what Curlin’s runners have been doing on the track lately! Read More »

hello Please Explain!

On August 3 at Arlington, Please Explain raced for the first time since the Kentucky Oaks.  This Curlin filly out of the Pine Bluff mare Lizzy’s Bluff was my favourite horse on the Oaks trail this year, and I have been following her for about as long as Blinkers Off has existed.

Please Explain in the paddock walking ring before her first turf race, August 3, 2014.
Please Explain in the paddock walking ring before her first turf race, August 3, 2014.

She got a well-deserved rest after a long and somewhat fraught campaign through the winter and the spring.  She started hot with a maiden win at Gulfstream and then a clear win in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay.  She followed that up with a third place finish in the Honeybee Stakes (GIII), though she was disqualified to 11th after a medication violation.  She returned for a disappointing seventh in the Fantasy Stakes (GIII), and then was a surprise entrant in the Kentucky Oaks.  After that, trainer Tom Proctor gave her a break, but has been breezing her regularly at Arlington since late June.  She finally raced again on Sunday in a 1 1/16 mile allowance optional claiming race at Arlington, trying both turf and older company for the first time.

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this week in Curlin babies: 8.1.14

Welcome to another installment of this week in Curlin babies: all the news that’s fit to print about Blinkers Off’s favourite sire.  The past week featured another Curlin Babies exacta, with Liza Doolittle Day finishing ahead of Une Cherise in a maiden special weight at Delaware Park.  This weekend is exciting: Palace Malice is hoping to make it five-for-five on the year with a run in the Whitney (GI), and Whisper to Curlin (a very close relative to Palace Malice, being by his second dam Whisperifyoudare!) makes his long-awaited stakes debut in the Iowa Breeders’ Derby, facing three-year-old Iowa-breds.  Please Explain also returns to the track for the first time since the Kentucky Oaks; she will try the turf for the first time in an allowance at Arlington, and Blinkers Off will be there to watch in person.

Without further ado, let’s see what Curlin’s runners have been doing on the track lately! Read More »

this week in Curlin babies: 5.15.14

I apologize for there being no update on the Curlin babies last week.  However, it’s not for lack of racing by the sons and daughters of Blinkers Off’s favourite sire.  Highlights of the past two weeks include Palace Malice romping in the Westchester (GIII), as well as Stopshoppingdebbie improving her career mark to six wins in six starts in the Hastings Handicap.  This coming week features Ride On Curlin making his return in the Preakness Stakes, as well as Curlin’s Princess becoming the first member of Curlin’s third crop who I am aware of to set foot on the track.

There are lots of Curlin babies to catch up on, so let’s dive in!

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this week in Curlin babies: 5.1.14

There’s a lot going on in racing, which means there’s a lot going on with Curlin’s runners!  This past week’s highlights include three winners: Curly Queen and Curlin’s Gold filled out a Curlin babies Daily Double at Calder this past Saturday, and Calamondin scored at Penn National today.  There’s an enormous racing week ahead for the Curlin babies, with three racing in Grade I stakes this weekend!  As expected, Ride On Curlin is heading postward in the Kentucky Derby.  However, Please Explain is also racing in the Kentucky Oaks, and Liberated will be trying her hand (hoof?) at the La Troienne.

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fantasy stable: week 14 (Derby week!) update

It’s finally here: Derby week!  In a sense, the entire Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league has been building up to this season.  There have been tons of points races over the last few months, but the biggest ones are still to come.  The horses in my stable have changed a bit since my last update, though they’re ready to hit the ground running: one of my new horses has already won a race, and two more are in the starting gate for the Kentucky Oaks this Friday.

I am still stressing out about how I ordered Please Explain, Stopchargingmaria, and Conquest Titan in my drops, which ended up meaning something because I only ended up getting three of my five claims.  I kept Stopchargingmaria and Conquest Titan, since I am so leery of Please Explain after the medication violation and then the poor run in the Fantasy that I thought Stopchargingmaria and Conquest Titan were less of a risk should either point to a minor race for the league.  I knew Please Explain was working at Churchill Downs.  However, I misunderstood how the points system worked, and thought points were required to enter a horse in the Derby or Oaks.  However, that isn’t the case: they’re preferred.  If not enough horses with points enter the race, anyone can.  If I had understood that, I’d have interpreted Please Explain’s Churchill works for what they ended up being: crumbs leading toward a surprise entry in the Kentucky Oaks.

For Please Explain’s sake, I’m still worried about this move.  I hope whatever was hurting her, whatever led to her being medicated, has been healed.  I hope she runs well, and strikes a long-shot blow for the awesomeness of Curlin babies.  For my fantasy stable’s stake, I feel really dumb for not understanding the points rule correctly, and may have ranked differently had I understood the rule.  That said, I feel I made the best ranking decision I could have at the time, given my assessment of the situation.

With that out of the way, let’s check in on my stable:

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fantasy stable: week 13.5 update

We had a claiming day this Thursday, and I had to get busy, since so many of my horses were off the Derby or Oaks trails.  I had Ride On Curlin and General a Rod who are in the Derby starting gate, and She’s a Tiger pointing toward the Eight Belles, but that was it as far as horses of mine who were clearly pointing toward races that could advance my standing.  I had to get my hands on at least a few horses who would be in some more points races, since my current point total in the league is nothing if not middling.  Fortunately, I had the most money left out of anyone: $468 out of the $500 in Monopoly money that we got at the beginning of the season for claims.

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fantasy stable: week 13 postmortem

Things were a little slow for my stable in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league, but it’s the calm before the storm.  The big Derby and Oaks preps have wound down, and everyone is bearing down for the Derby and the Oaks in a week and a half.  Still, big things are afoot, and the April claiming date is this Thursday.  So, here’s one last look at how my stable stands, before a probable personnel (horsonnel?) shake-up later this week.

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this week in Curlin babies: 4.17.14

Welcome to another installment of this week in Curlin babies: all the news that’s fit to print about Blinkers Off’s favourite sire.  This week’s banner achievement is, of course, Ride On Curlin finishing second in the Arkansas Derby (GI), and punching his ticket to the Kentucky Derby as a result.  Coming up this week, Moulin de Mougin faces a tough challenge: she returns in the Santa Lucia stakes at Santa Anita, where she will face a couple of high-profile horses.

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fantasy stable: week 12 postmortem

We are now 12 weeks into the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league, and the pictures for the Derby and the Oaks are getting clearer and clearer.  There are still a few points available in the Lexington Stakes this Saturday at Keeneland, though so far it does not sound like any of the horses on the Kentucky Derby bubble within ten points of Cairo Prince’s 24 will be running in it.  Even if they did, it would not change whether any of the horses in my stable were in or out of the Derby starting gate.

That said, let’s dive in and see how my horses are doing.  There is a hodgepodge of good news, bad news, and confusing news.

  • Ride On Curlin – Ride On Curlin needed to finish at least fourth in the Arkansas Derby to keep his Derby dreams realistically alive, and this consistent Curlin baby did not disappoint.  Jockey Jon Court kept him off the pace set by Bayern and Thundergram — exactly what I was hoping to see.  He made a wide move to get around the leaders and Tapiture, the same time as Danza was coming through on the inside.  He couldn’t catch Danza (who finished 4 3/4 lengths in front), but he came down the middle of the track and caught everyone else to claim second.  This put him at 55 points — more than good enough to punch his ticket to Kentucky!  In fact, he has already shipped to Kentucky, and will get some works over the Churchill track.  However, there is one slightly less exciting bit of news to go along with this.  Today, trainer Billy Gowan announced that Calvin Borel was getting the mount on Ride On Curlin.  It’s logical in a sense, since Borel has ridden him in five of his nine career starts, including both career wins.  However, after the nice ride Jon Court gave him in Hot Springs, it’s a disappointment that he will not maintain the mount in Louisville.
  • Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan needed at least a third place finish to advance on the road to the Kentucky Derby, but sadly, it did not happen for him.  He settled in the rear early, as he normally does, and tried to make a run coming into the stretch.  He improved his position approaching the stretch, passing Commissioner as well as the tiring Thundergram and Strong Mandate.  He couldn’t sustain his run, though, and finished fifth beaten 10 1/4 lengths.  There is no clear indication about where (if anywhere) he is heading next, but it will not be the Kentucky Derby.
  • General a Rod – General a Rod did not race last weekend.  General a Rod did not hit the worktab last week.  However, there is still news about him, and it’s the best news possible: he is officially Derby bound!  He sits at 40 points, seventeenth in the standings.  Even if the horses immediately below him were to actually run in the Lexington Stakes and claim points, he is still a mathematical lock for the starting gate.
  • Please Explain – The news about Conquest Titan was disappointing.  The news about Please Explain was even more disappointing.  Last week, Please Explain was disqualified from third place in the Honeybee, and her trainer Tom Proctor fined $1,000 for a medication positive.  The medication involved was methylprednisolone, a synthesized adrenal steroid.  This information posted by Robert Yates, the horse racing reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is all I know.  There seems to be a dearth of information about this, which is distressing since it involves a drug violation in a significant Oaks prep.  I feel awful for Please Explain, I’m disappointed in the barn, and I hope my further efforts to find information about this don’t come up empty.
  • Stopchargingmaria – Stopchargingmaria ended the Oaks prep season with 22 points, after her fourth place finish in the Fantasy Stakes.  This would not be enough to qualify her outright for the Oaks, but would place her in eighteenth place.  Since fourteen horses get into the Oaks gate, only four ahead of her would have to scratch (or decide they were not pointing for the Oaks) for her not to get in.  However, she is stricken through in the official Oaks standings list.  This came as a surprise, as I had not seen any announcements or even scuttlebutt that she was being taken off the Oaks trail, officially.  Hopefully, information will come out soon as to why she is off the list, and where (if anywhere) she is pointing next.
  • She’s a Tiger – On April 10, She’s a Tiger fired a bullet at Santa Anita, working six furlongs in 1:13.20 in the Santa Anita dirt.  There hasn’t been any news over the last week to contradict previous reports that she is pointing toward the Eight Belles Stakes (GIII), which is on the Kentucky Oaks undercard this year.
  • Tamarando – On April 12, Tamarando returned to the worktab.  He’s still at Santa Anita, and he worked five furlongs in 1:01.80.  However, this was on dirt.  His last workout, on April 6, was on turf.  This leaves me a bit confused.  The Derby is almost certainly out, since his twelve points put him thirty-first on the list, and I doubt Hollendorfer will be shipping him to Churchill in case of an opening like Giant Finish had last year.  There’s no good word on where he is heading next, and the workout pattern is puzzling.
  • Shared BeliefLast Friday, Jerry Hollendorfer said that Shared Belief will work at Golden Gate Fields on Tuesday, for the first time since January 3rd.  He also stated that a comeback race in June or July was a possible time frame.  However, this is not the first time that Hollendorfer has said Shared Belief would work, so I am not holding my breath until I actually see him on the worktab.  I’m looking forward to his return — Shared Belief was my #1 draft pick for a reason.  His two-year-old season was dazzling, and I just want to see him running again if he is sound.

At this point, there is a lot to think about between now and April 24, which is the next claiming date.  I can guarantee there will be claiming attempts, though their structure will of course depend on what information I can glean between now and then about who is pointed where, and how I can get the best Derby-month bang for my buck.

this week in Curlin babies: 4.10.14

Welcome to another installment of this week in Curlin babies: all the news that’s fit to print about Blinkers Off’s favourite sire.  This week’s highlights include Shiva Curlin breaking his maiden at Calder, and stakes placings for a couple of fillies, Diversy Harbor and Flash Forward.  This week we have Ride On Curlin’s run in the Grade I Arkansas Derby to look forward to, as well as some information about where Palace Malice will be racing next.  As always, there’s plenty of news on the Curlin Babies front, so let’s get started!

Race Results

  • Curlin N Twirlin (Bluff for Bluff, by Pine Bluff) – On April 7, Curlin N Twirlin finished ninth and last, beaten 15 3/4 lengths, in an N1X allowance at six furlongs on the Parx dirt.  She chased a few lengths back early, steadily dropped back into the far turn, and never fired to make up any ground.  It was the four-year-old filly’s first race back after a four-month layoff; hopefully that knocked the dust off, and she’ll be back in better form next time out.
  • Curlin’s Kid (Lucette, by Dayjur) – On April 6, Curlin’s Kid finished sixth and last, beaten 13 3/4 lengths, in a maiden special weight at a mile and a sixteenth on the Pimlico dirt.  Breaking from the rail, the three-year-old gelding set the early fractions, and dueled with Mr. Ticker Talker (the eventual winner) going into the far turn.  He started to fade coming out into the stretch, though, and tired out coming down the stretch.  This was his first time at Pimlico and his eighth career race.
  • Diversy Harbor (Motokiks, by Storm Cat) – On April 5th, Diversy Harbor finished 2nd by a length in the Providencia Stakes (GIII) at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita turf.  The three-year-old filly finished behind Nashoba’s Gold, the horse she beat by half a length in the one-mile China Doll stakes last time out.  She bumped into Margot Machance coming out of the gate, settled near the back of the pack, and started making up distance into the far turn.  As they approached the stretch, she and Nashoba’s Gold were on even terms, just two or three lengths off the lead.  Diversy Harbor had just a little trouble finding a place to come through horses into the stretch; Nashoba’s Gold had a clearer path on the outside, and started her stretch dash a little earlier.  That made the difference, and Diversy Harbor was beaten for the first time in her three-race career.  It looks like there’s a nice little rivalry brewing between these two turf fillies; I’m looking forward to seeing where they turn up next.
  • Flash Forward (Magical Flash, by Miswaki) – On April 6, Flash Forward finished third in the Cat Cay stakes, 7 1/2 lengths behind winner Princess of Sylmar.  The race was at a mile on the Aqueduct outer dirt.  She raced in last most of the race, four or five lengths from the lead.  She didn’t have a big closing kick, and never really challenged either Princess of Sylmar or second-place Wedding Toast, but ran steadily enough late to pick off both Highestmaintenance and Montana Native, who were fading down the stretch.  She has still only won one stakes, the My Flag Stakes at Saratoga last August.  However, the four-year-old filly has now hit the board in eight stakes races, including a show in the Top Flight Handicap (GII) at Aqueduct last month.
  • Lady of Luck (Lunarlady, by Yes It’s True) – On April 5, Lady of Luck finished 4th, just 1/2 length behind winner Hard to Resist, in the Czaria Stakes at six furlongs on the Sunland Park dirt.  The four-year-old filly hung back five or six lengths early, biding her time through a three-way speed duel, and started making up distance through the far turn.  She gained on the front through the stretch all the way to the wire — but the other two horses coming in from off the pace fired well, and one of the three from the early duel was able to hang on near the front as well.  The race is worth watching just for the tough finish: Hard to Resist and Cottagecupcake hit the wire just about together, with both Challenging and Lady of Luck just behind them in that pack.  Even though she didn’t extend her win streak to three races, she has nothing to be ashamed of, and contended well in this company.
  • Moulin de Mougin (Cambiocorsa, by Avenue of Flags) – On April 4, Moulin de Mougin finished third, 2 lengths behind post-time favourite Theatre Star, in an allowance optional claimer, at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita turf.  The four-year-old filly did not run for a tag; she qualified under the N2X condition.  She stalked a couple of lengths off the pace, and came three wide into the stretch; she was unable to catch Theatre Star or match the late run of Rhagori, but had enough in the tank to repel Lady Asano’s late run and hold the show.  This was her second attempt at 1 1/18 miles; she won an allowance at the distance by 1 1/4 lengths on February 9, also on the Santa Anita turf.  This looks to be the right level and distance for her.
  • Oxford Babes (Spring Awakening, by In Excess (IRE)) – On April 10, Oxford Babes finished 5th beaten 9 3/4 lengths in an N1X allowance at six and a half furlongs on the Keeneland polytrack, as a 41.6-1 long shot.  It was the four-year-old filly’s third career start and first race against winners; on March 15 she won a six-furlong maiden special weight at Turfway.  She settled about half a dozen lengths back down the backstretch, but lacked the late kick of winner Dauphine Russe or second-place horse Similu.  She did have enough left down the stretch to pass several tiring horses, however.  It wasn’t an amazing race, but it wasn’t a bad shot against a tougher company than she ever faced at Indiana Downs or Turfway.
  • Please Explain (Lizzy’s Bluff, by Pine Bluff) – I already discussed this race in some detail in my fantasy recap earlier this week, so I’ll try to avoid repeating too much here.  Please Explain went out in the Fantasy Stakes as the 2.9-1 favourite, and came back with her first career off-the-b0ard finish.  Drayden Van Dyke had her in last early, about half a dozen back, and she just never fired.  She crossed the wire in seventh place out of the field of eight, ten lengths behind winner Sugar Shock.  She garnered no Kentucky Oaks points here, so it remains to be seen what her next race will be.
  • Shiva Curlin (Cavan Thunder, by Jump Start) – On April 6, Shiva Curlin won a maiden special weight at a mile on the Calder dirt.  This was the three-year-old colt’s third career start, and his first start off of a seven-month layoff.  He broke well, and settled into a stalking position about a length off the early pace set by Supreme Privilege and Dreaming of Dayna.  He looked like he wanted to go earlier, but was boxed in along the rail all the way through the far turn.  However, coming into the stretch, Supreme Privilege came off the rail far enough to give Shiva Curlin a hole.  As soon as that happened, he was gone; he accelerated down the stretch, and finished six lengths in front of the second-place Royal Signature.  His connections clearly saw talent in him last year; Shiva Curlin’s first career start was in the Seacliff Stakes at Calder last August, in which he finished fourth.  He made one more start, finishing second in a maiden special at Calder last September by a neck, but fourteen lengths in front of the third-place horse.  He clearly came back ready to go from the winter lay; hopefully we’ll see him in allowance company soon.
  • Skydeck (Thiscatsforcaryl, by Storm Cat) – On April 10, Skydeck finished second beaten a head by longshot First Freedom in a $20,000 maiden claimer, at six furlongs on the Keeneland poly.  The three-year-old filly was in her fifth career start, and in her first race in the claiming ranks after four attempts in maiden special company at Turfway.  Breaking from the 10 gate in a field of 12, she stalked a couple lengths back from First Freedom’s lead down the backstretch.  She made a move through the far turn; it was only around two horses, but ended up being about five wide, distancewise.  Skydeck gained ground in the last sixteenth, but just barely ran out of room — First Freedom held on by a narrowing head.  At post time, Skydeck was owned by J. Armando Rodriguez and trained by Mike Maker: the same connections as General a Rod.  She was, however, claimed out of the race; now she is owned by William Hart, and trained by Wayne Catalano.  Hopefully this means I will get to see her run at Arlington this summer, a pretty likely plan for a horse who has only ever run on the polytrack, and is now trained by Catalano.
  • Wise Minister (Take a Check, by Touch Gold) – On April 6, Wise Minister finished second in an N1X allowance race at a mile and a sixteenth on the Pimlico dirt.  He stalked a handful of lengths off the pace early, and never was able to challenge the lead of Ghareeb.  He did, however, get ahead of the pack at large, along with Canal Street.  The three-year-old colt didn’t have quite as much left at the end as the six-year-old Canal Street, and crossed the wire third: a length behind the adversary to his immediate outside, but 14 1/4 behind the runaway Ghareeb.  However, Ghareeb was disqualified.  Coming into the stretch, he had borne out sharply into Tooth N Claw, leading the latter to clip heels and drop right out of the race.  After a stewards’ inquiry and jockey objection, Ghareeb was placed last, elevating Wise Minister to second.  There was actually an objection lodged by the jockey of Tru Greek against Wise Minister, alleging interference going into the first turn; that claim was denied, and Wise Minister held second.  This was Wise Minister’s first time stretching past a mile, and his first attempt against older horses.  He acquitted himself well given that, and I expect to see him in more allowances on the Maryland circuit as the spring progresses.

Racing Soon

  • Calamondin (Redaspen, by Bianconi) – Calamondin drew the 2 gate in a seven furlong N1x allowance at Aqueduct on Saturday, April 12.  The four-year-old gelding makes his first start since March 19, when he broke his maiden by 10 3/4 lengths in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Laurel.  This will be his first time racing at Aqueduct, and his first career attempt against winners.
  • Ride On Curlin (Magical Ride, by Storm Cat) – On April 12, Ride On Curlin will head postward in the Arkansas Derby (GI); he drew the 4th gate.  At 1 1/8 miles, it will be the longest race of his career by half a furlong; last out he finished third behind Hoppertunity and Tapiture in the hard-knocking Rebel Stakes (GII).  The Pride of Ellis put in a strong seven-furlong work this week, and looks ready to put up a good effort.  Jon Court has the mount for the first time; Court has won the Arkansas Derby twice (Line of David in 2010, Archarcharch in 2011).  He has a good shot of punching his ticket to the Kentucky Derby if he manages to hit the board.  He currently has 15 points — 10 points for fourth will mean a few things have to fall his way, but the 100 or 50 points for first or second put him in for sure, and even the third-place 20 points should give him a good shot to make his next stop the Run for the Roses.
  • Shesacurlinmytoes (Cafe Concerto, by Trempolino) – April 13, Shesacurlinmytoes breaks from the 2 gate in a $40,000 starter allowance at Golden Gate Fields, at a mile on the turf.  The three-year-old filly last raced at the same level and distance, but on the Golden Gate Tapeta, on March 16; she finished second beaten just half a length that last time out.  She has only raced once on the turf in her eight starts to date: a January 3, 2014 win in a $20,000-$18,000 maiden claimer, at a mile on the Golden Gate turf.  It’s good to see her return there.
  • Smart Number (Star Number, by Polish Numbers) – Smart Number has the 4 post in a $40,000 allowance optional claimer at Pimlico on April 13, at 1 1/16 miles over the dirt.  The three-year-old filly is not up for the tag, and races under the N2L condition.  This is her first race at Pimlico; she raced through the winter at Laurel.  Last out, on March 1, she finished a well-beaten third in a one-mile allowance optional claiming race at Laurel.  This is only her second race at a mile and a sixteenth; she has done most of her races, including her maiden win, at a mile.

Other News

  • Palace Malice (Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem) – Dogwood Stable issued a release this week, announcing Palace Malice’s plans for the next few races.  It’s looking like he’s cutting back to a mile for the next few races: next on his calendar is the Westchester Stakes (GIII), a mile at Belmont on May 11.  If that race goes well, the goal is the Met Mile (GI) on Belmont day.  If a mile at Belmont isn’t to his liking, they may consider something longer like the Brooklyn Handicap (GII), but the main goal looks to be mile races for the immediate future.  I’m not quite as worried about the distance as I was going into the Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII), given that he took on horses more accustomed to a mile and won, but that stretch run in the New Orleans Handicap (GII) still underscored my thought that he’s a distance horse.
  • An as-yet-unnamed two-year-old colt by the Tale of the Cat mare Upcoming Story had been announced as hip 58 in the Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds in Training sale, but was declared out.  I will keep an eye on him to see if he pops up in another sale eventually, or ends up just hitting the worktab later in the next year or two.

That’s it for this week.  If there’s a Curlin baby at any level of racing who you think I missed, leave a comment and let me know so I can add them to my list and cover them in future installments of this week in Curlin babies!

fantasy stable: week 11 postmortem

Week 11 of the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league has come and gone, and it was a tough one on the distaff side for Iron Bard Stable, with two horses — and two off-the-board finishes.  Despite there being six league points races this past Saturday, they were the only two horses in my stable running, and my stable’s status has plummeted as a result.

Things are looking a bit more promising at the moment on the colts’ side, with a couple of promising works leading to the Arkansas Derby.  No matter what, I’m going to have a lot to think about in a couple of weeks, come the April claiming day.  It’ll be the last claim before the Kentucky Oaks, the Kentucky Derby, the Black Eyed Susan, and the Preakness, so I’ll have to use my bankroll to score some late-emerging stars if I’m to have any shot at sniping my competition.

Here’s how my stable is doing as of this week:

  • Please Explain – The Fantasy was not what I was hoping to see from Please Explain, simple as that.  She started far back early, and she never made up much.  She was eighth of eight most of it, and only managed to overtake the fading, straggling Haveyougoneaway to finish seventh.  There was no clear excuse for this, especially since she hadn’t shipped out for the race or even raced all that recently.  I am not sure whether she needs a new jockey or easier company.  Either way, she failed to get any much-needed points, and my hopes of seeing her there come Oaks day are pretty well dashed.  I haven’t given up on her, since maybe she will improve late like her sire Curlin or her sire’s currently most prominent offspring, the excellent Palace Malice, but things aren’t looking good for the spring segment of her three-year-old year.
  • Stopchargingmaria – Her Fantasy was slightly better than Please Explain’s, but not particularly good.  She was fairly far back early, though not quite as far as Please Explain was, and steadily made up some ground.  Stopchargingmaria broke slowly, and was wide the whole way through.  That said, she was not so far wide that she couldn’t (or shouldn’t have been able to) make a move.  Stopchargingmaria just never fired much, though, and crossed the wire fourth.  I am still a bit confused that she didn’t run the Gazelle instead, given her love for the New York tracks (including Aqueduct!), but what’s done is done, and Repole and Pletcher sent her to Oaklawn.  We’ll see what she does next.
  • Ride On CurlinAs expected based on Billy Gowan’s previous comments, Ride On Curlin returned to the worktab for a long one this week.  On April 6, he worked 7 furlongs in 1:26.80 at Oaklawn.  Other than that, there has been nothing new, which looks to be for the best.  All systems are go for the Arkansas Derby.  Ride On Curlin currently sits at 15 Kentucky Derby points, 23rd in the standings.  First or second place will get him in the starting gate.  Third will give him a good chance.  Fourth place will mean a few things will have to fall his way to get him in.  Off the board, and he has to hope he’s as lucky as Golden Soul and Giant Finish were last year.
  • Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan is still pointing toward the Arkansas Derby.  He shipped out to Kentucky, and on April 7th worked a bullet 4 furlongs in 47.40 at his dearly beloved Churchill Downs.  Today it was confirmed by Mary Rampellini of the Daily Racing Form that he has shipped down to Oaklawn for the race.  He will need a big effort there, since he’s still sitting in 36th place with only nine points.  First or second gets him in the Derby.  Third, he hopes.  Fourth, he hopes against hope.  Fifth or worse?  He’s out.
  • Tamarando – Tamarando has shown back up on the worktab for the first time since his disappointing finish in the Spiral.  He has shipped back to California, and worked five furlongs on April 6 in 1:02.40.  What’s interesting about this work is that, for the first time since I’ve been following him closely (in other words, since January), the work happened over the turf.  This suggests Hollendorfer may be considering Tamarando for the green stuff, and suggests he is probably not going to run in any further points races for the league.
  • She’s a Tiger -April 3, She’s a Tiger returned to the worktab with an honest, long workout: 6 furlongs in 1:12.80 along the Santa Anita dirt.  There was some suggestion that she may run in this Friday’s Santa Paula Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs over the Santa Anita dirt, and the official press feed from Santa Anita noted that she was nominated, but the draw came out without her in there.  There has been no further word about what prep, if any, she may be running before the Eight Belles.
  • General a Rod – General a Rod still hasn’t returned to the worktab yet after his third-place finish in the Florida Derby.  The General hasn’t lost any ground practically speaking; Wicked Strong leapfrogged ahead of him on the points list, but Toast of New York declared himself off the Derby trail for sure, so he’s still sitting at 14th on the official list.  Other than Wicked Strong, the other big-point horses from the weekend already sat ahead of him on the standings: California Chrome, Hoppertunity, and Samraat.  Barring an injury or a freakish amount of new horses who leapfrog him (combined with no drops from the Derby trail), The General should be in the starting gate on Derby day.
  • Shared Belief – The biggest news about Shared Belief this week is that Derbyologist will offload his future wager ticket to one lucky sap on Twitter who makes him an offer.  I offered him a song for it.  He still hasn’t responded.  I’m pretty sure that’s the best offer he’s going to get for that slip of scratch paper, since Shared Belief still hasn’t shown up on the worktab yet.

That’s how things are going for my horses this week.  So ends this week’s recap — and good luck to Ride On Curlin and Conquest Titan in the Arkansas Derby!

this week in Curlin babies: 4.3.14

Welcome to another installment of this week in Curlin babies: all the news that’s fit to print about Blinkers Off’s favourite sire.  Last week’s highlights include Palace Malice winning the Grade II New Orleans Handicap in dazzling fashion, as well as J to the Croft breaking his maiden at first asking as the longest shot in the field.  Big races this coming week includes Please Explain trying to punch her ticket to the Oaks in the Fantasy Stakes (GIII), the undefeated Diversy Harbor taking her first shot at graded company in the Providencia (GIII), and Flash Forward facing none other than the fabulous Princess of Sylmar (not a Curlin baby, but another personal favourite of Blinkers Off…) in the Cat Cay!

Race Results

  • Air Squadron (Air France, by French Deputy) – March 29, Air Squadron finished 5th beaten 9 lengths in a 1 mile 70 yard N1X allowance at Fair Grounds.  The four-year-old colt had been on the main track only list, and got into the gate since the race was pulled off the turf.  He spent most of the race amid the pack chasing Coneyo Fontova’s pace, though that 12 post he drew ended up leading him to be very wide through the turns.  He wasn’t able to find a late kick, and though he faded less than some others, he couldn’t contend with the late closing kick of winner Eriugena (IRE), or even third-place longshot Purgenality.  It’s his second-straight fifth place finish after breaking his maiden in his ninth start.
  • Charlie A (Seresa’s Spirit, by Rahy) and Danalin (Danaway, by Giant’s Causeway) – Both of these horses raced in an N1X allowance optional claimer at Gulfstream on March 29, over seven and a half furlongs on the turf.  They were both near the back early: Danalin down along the rail, and Charlie A outside a bit.  Charlie A made a wide move through the far turn but could not sustain it; she finished 9th beaten 8 3/4 lengths.  This was her third career race, and her second at this level after a first-out maiden win at this distance in January.  Danalin was caught in traffic coming down into the stretch, but finally found racing room.  She was flying up the rail as the wire approached, but it was too little too late; Danalin crossed the wire 4th, 3 3/4 lengths behind winner Daring Kathy.  This was Danalin’s fifth straight finish at either third or fourth after breaking her maiden at first asking.
  • Inmyfathersimage (Friendly Michelle, by Artax) – On April 2, Inmyfathersimage ran 3rd in a $25,000 claiming race at Aqueduct, at a mile over the outer dirt.  He broke a step slow, settled back, but started making a wide move through the far turn.  He was unable to catch Beeliner, who made a beeline to the front and led wire to wire.  He did make it up far enough for a short duel with second-place Saturday Appeal before checking in third.  The four-year-old gelding finished 3 1/2 lengths behind Beeliner, and 1/2 length behind the slightly re-rallying Saturday Appeal.  He was trained by Rudy Rodriguez and owned by MAT Stables, Inc. going into the race, but was also the only horse claimed out of it.  He is now trained by Yvon Belsoeur, and owned by Bruno Schickedanz.
  • J to the Croft (A to the Croft, by Menifee) – This three-year-old colt raced for the first time on April 2, in a six-furlong maiden special at Aqueduct.  5-1 on the morning line, he slipped to 16.6-1 by post time.  This made him the longest shot in a field of six — but, no matter.  He won at first asking.  He bolted along the rail to battle for the lead, fought head and head with Cashmere Cat and (briefly) Vona, and shook clear coming into the stretch.  Cost Affective came flying on the outside with a closing run, but J to the Croft had enough to keep his head in front at the wire.
  • Larrymoeandcurlin (Sally Bowles (SAF), by London News (SAF)) – Just a week after his last start, Larrymoeandcurlin returned in a 1 1/16 mile maiden special weight at Turfway; he finished 7th beaten 15 1/2 lengths.  His start was terrible; coming out of the gate, Sin Cara bumped into him so hard that Sin Cara’s jockey lost an iron, though managed to stay on the horse.  He settled about a dozen lengths behind the field, but didn’t fire to make up ground.  The three-year-old gelding has now made five starts, three in the last month.  He has never hit the board.  I expect at least another shot in maiden special company at a route distance, given the absolutely dismal start he had here, but if something doesn’t change soon he may need a new surface or some class relief.
  • Lynx (Silver Bird, by Lit de Justice) – In his first time on the track in almost two months, Lynx finished 6th beaten 21 1/2 lengths in a 1 1/16 mile maiden special weight on the Gulfstream dirt.  As has been the story at Gulfstream this meet, early speed was good; the same three closely packed horses traded first, second, and third positions the entire race.  Lynx was in the pack, which chased the three leaders from almost half a dozen lengths behind, but never could muster a move to distinguish himself and challenge the front.  The pack fell to over a dozen back from the leading three, and Lynx stayed with it to the wire.  This was Lynx’s second race at Gulfstream at this distance; before that the Ontario-bred had only raced at Woodbine.  I was hoping to see a little better from him given how close he was to Ring Weekend his last out (which was also off another approximately two-month lay), but he just didn’t have it compared to that top echelon.
  • Oso Smart (Duchess Zea, by Ascot Knight) – On his March 30 return to maiden special weight company from two tries in maiden claimers, Oso Smart finished 3rd beaten 3/4 length at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita turf.  He stalked the leaders from a few lengths back going into the backstretch, and took the lead from them as they tired approaching the far turn.  Pantera Rojo moved up to challenge through the far turn, and down the stretch Oso Smart grudgingly gave way.  Life’s Journey’s closing run was enough to get his neck in front of Pantera Rojo and win the race, but Oso Smart was able to continue on gamely enough to repel the rest of the field and hang onto the show.  This wasn’t a win, but it was tougher, grittier, and better than I was expecting to see on a return to maiden specials from two losses in the claiming ranks.
  • Palace Malice (Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem) – This race was already discussed here on Sunday, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.  He came, he saw, he conquered Normandy Invasion and the rest of the field in the New Orleans Handicap (GII).  He has started his four-year-old year with a gritty win in the mile-long Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII), and followed it up with this win by daylight at a mile and an eighth.  Things are looking fantastic for him so far; it’s hard to imagine a better standard-bearer for the Curlin babies on the racetrack.
  • Sheikinator (Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union) – On April 3, Sheikinator finished 6th beaten 7 1/4 lengths in an N2L allowance at 1 1/16 miles on the Oaklawn dirt.  It was his second race off his post-CashCall Futurity layoff.  He was back early, six or eight lengths behind the pace being set by Mysterious Circle and Chairman Crooks, but never made a huge dent in that.  He remained a handful of lengths off the lead throughout.  He never made any serious challenge against the lead, though he was able to pass the tiring leaders and a couple of other tiring horses.  It was a somewhat even run, when he needed a kick — similar in that regard to his fifth place finish three weeks ago in his first race off the lay.  It does seem from his maiden win that he likes to have one late run, but he just hasn’t fired at all in these last three races.  It’s hard to tell whether he needs to try a different style, or find some class relief.
  • Woelf Den (Gorgeous Goose, by Mongoose) – On April 3, Woelf Den returned to Aqueduct after two races down at Laurel, in an N1X allowance optional claimer at a mile in the dirt.  The three-year-old colt finished fourth, beaten five lengths.  He stalked along the rail a couple lengths back early, and then went outside to make a move toward the leaders through the far turn.  (Moving out like that seemed baffling — he had the rail, and it would have probably made more sense to stay on that rail and make the move on the stretch instead.)  That being done, he challenged briefly, bore out into the closing Peter Island on the stretch, and didn’t have enough left to challenge the winner, Life In Shambles.  In fact, his bump may have cost Peter Island the win; Peter Island only missed Life In Shambles by a neck.  As for Woelf Den, I’m hoping to see a better ride, with possibly a different jockey, next out.  That seems a questionable proposition, though, as Eddie Castro rode him all three times at Aqueduct before his move to Laurel for the winter.

Racing Soon

  • Curlin’s Kid (Lucette, by Dayjur) – Curlin’s Kid is slated to run a maiden special weight at Pimlico on April 6.  He drew the rail in a field of six.  The race is a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt.  This three-year-old colt has run a mile and a sixteenth once before; he finished a well-beaten second.  That race was a maiden special at Laurel back in December.  This will be Curlin’s Kid’s first race at Pimlico.
  • Diversy Harbor (Motokiks, by Storm Cat) – The undefeated Diversy Harbor takes her first shot at a graded stakes — and her first past a mile — on April 5.  She drew the 8 slot of 10 in the nine-furlong Providencia (GIII) on the Santa Anita turf.  She has raced twice before, a maiden win at 6.5 furlongs and a win in the China Doll at a mile.  This will be the smallest field this three-year-old filly has faced to date, though the gate draw will be nothing new.  She has drawn similarly outside gates in both of her previous races: the 9 in her maiden win, and the 8 in the China Doll.  Diversy Harbor will be a rematch in the Providencia with the second- and third-place horses from the China Doll, Nashoba’s Gold and Tiz Kissable.
  • Flash Forward (Magical Flash, by Miswaki) – This four-year-old filly makes her third start of the year in the Cat Cay stakes at Aqueduct on April 6.  She breaks from the rail.  Her last time out, she finished third in the Top Flight Handicap on March 1, 2 1/2 lengths behind Teen Pauline and just a nose behind Centring.  That race was at a mile and a sixteenth; Flash Forward dials back to a mile on the Aqueduct outer dirt here.  This field is particularly notable because of the horse breaking from the 3 gate: Princess of Sylmar, making her four-year-old debut.  Flash Forward has never faced her before, though she also faces a couple of her nemeses from the New York stakes circuit last year, Wedding Toast and Montana Native.
  • Lady of Luck (Lunarlady, by Yes It’s True) – Lady of Luck drew the 5 gate in the field of 7 for the Czaria Stakes.  This race is 6 furlongs over the Sunland dirt on April 5.  This four-year-old filly comes into this race on a two-race win streak: a neck win in a 6.5 furlong AOC at Sunland on February 1, as well as a 2 length win in a 6 furlong N3L allowance at Sunland on December 14.
  • Moulin de Mougin (Cambiocorsa, by Avenue of Flags) – April 4, Moulin de Mougin races in an Allowance Optional Claiming at a mile and an eighth on the Santa Anita turf.  With one scratch already inside of her, she will break from the 7 gate as the 8 horse.  This is her first time out since February 9, when she won a 1 1/8 mile N1$X AOC at the same distance over the Santa Anita turf by 1 1/4 lengths.  This four-year-old filly changes from one high-profile jockey to another: Gary Stevens rode her last out, and Mike Smith has the mount this time.
  • Please Explain (Lizzy’s Bluff, by Pine Bluff) – Please Explain heads to the post in the Fantasy Stakes (GIII) on April 5, trying to punch her ticket to the Kentucky Oaks.  She only has ten points from her third-place finish in the Fantasy, so she needs to hit the board here.  The Fantasy is 1 1/16 miles: the same as the Honeybee (GIII) where she finished 3rd last out, and just longer than the 1 mile 40 yd. Suncoast which she won at Tampa.  Bug Drayden Van Dyke, who shipped out to ride her in the Honeybee as well, has the mount.
  • Wise Minister (Take a Check, by Touch Gold) – Wise Minister drew the 4th post of 7 in an April 6 N1X/N2L allowance, 1 1/16 miles over the Pimlico dirt.  This is the longest distance over which this three-year-old colt has raced so far; his maiden win and his most recent allowance attempt were at a mile, and his other three career starts were at sprint distances.  His last time out, he was fourth beaten 9 1/2 lengths at a mile at Laurel, in a field that featured fellow Curlin baby Woelf Den in second.

Other News

  • Ride On Curlin (Magical Ride, by Storm Cat) – Ride On Curlin remains on track for the Arkansas Derby.  He changes jockeys yet again, this time to Jon Court who rode him in his latest workout.  His five-time previous jockey, Calvin Borel, has the mount on Conquest Titan instead.

That’s it for this week.  If there’s a Curlin baby at any level of racing who you think I missed, leave a comment and let me know so I can add them to my list and cover them in future installments of this week in Curlin babies!