#3: 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

So much of Solar Maximus’s racing career has been a gift, the sweetest surprise in the sport.

When I first added Solar Maximus (Solar Colony, by Pleasant Colony) to my virtual stable, his last line was DNF, pulled up, vanned off.  But, he returned to the worktab.  He lost at Churchill…then got his picture taken in his first try at Mahoning Valley.

That began his love affair with the Youngstown oval.  He won four times in the 2014-2015 meet, twice in claiming company and twice against starters.  Thistledown did not treat him as well in the summer, but once he got back to Mahoning he returned to his winning ways.  It took a few starts for him to get going.  But, he hit the board in his first three starts…then in his fourth start of the meet, Solar Maximus won emphatically against beaten $7,500 company.  He returned to beat similar last out, then notched back up to starter company.  He rolled by six.

February 22, it came time for Solar Maximus to face allowance company again.

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Solar Maximus can run all day

Not a lot of American horses nowadays are bred to run long distances well, particularly on dirt.

Solar Maximus (Solar Colony, by Pleasant Colony) is one of those horses.  The five-year-old gelding’s breeding screams stamina, and his recent performance had suggested he could run to that.  January 26 at Mahoning Valley, Solar Maximus had won a nine-furlong starter allowance over the dirt there by daylight.  It was the first race in the Half Moon Series, a series of increasingly long $5,000 starter allowances that go beyond the everyday distances run by most dirt horses here.

Solar Maximus had entered the second leg, a 1 1/4 mile race on February 25, but it was cancelled due to weather.  He re-entered March 3 a 1 3/16 mile race, but was a stewards’ scratch.  In that race, Brite Sabbeth scampered off to win by 16 3/4 lengths.  Brite Sabbeth had been in the first leg, too, but a blown start erased any chance of a real matchup between Brite Sabbeth and Solar Maximus that day.

That matchup happened Saturday, in the third leg of the Half Moon series.

On the strength of his last-out victory, Brite Sabbeth was sent off as the 3/5 favourite in the 1 1/2 mile test.  Solar Maximus, who finished fifth going a flat mile in his most recent start, was the 5/2 second choice.  Brite Sabbeth broke better than he did two starts back, though he did not get the easy lead that he had in his previous outing.  Angelic Mia tried to give him pressure as the field headed into the first of three turns.  Solar Maximus had broken well, but settled a few lengths back in third.  Down the stretch for the first time Angelic Mia dropped out, and Solar Maximus inched closer to Brite Sabbeth.  He gained the lead through the far turn, and struck the front by the time the field entered the backstretch.

Solar Maximus did not get an easy lead.  Though Brite Sabbeth had dropped out, he faced a new foe in Freud’s Vale.  Freud’s Vale came up on outside, getting as close as a neck behind Solar Maximus, but never got closer to the front.  Going into the third and final turn, rider Luis Martinez, Jr. finally asked Solar Maximus for some run.  He had plenty left to give.  He asserted his lead, kicked away, and won in hand.  The final margin was 7 3/4 lengths ahead of Brite Sabbeth, who had eclipsed the fading Freud’s Vale late.  Solar Maximus’s victory was just as commanding as that margin would suggest.

This sets him up well to go long again, and he could get that chance: there is one more race in the Half Moon Starter Series.  The Mahoning Valley meet closes on April 25, and the card that day features a two-mile race.  Hopefully Solar Maximus will run in it and show his distance abilities once again.