Tag Archives: curlin

The Dream Lives On

This afternoon, at 2:40 p.m., the next generation of Thoroughbred came into the world – the royally-bred son of 2-time Horse of the Year Curlin and 2009 Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra.

The dark bay colt with the star is the product of generations of careful selective breeding, all with the goal of producing the fastest horse in the world. A Derby winner, a Classic winner, a Millionaire – the hope is simply for a winner. This baby was the dream of Jess Jackson, the patron of Stonestreet Farms, and it is a shame he didn’t live to see it. But let’s hope this little guy does right by his parents and lives up to those dreams of his late owner. If Curlin R. Alexander, Jr. is half as good as his ancestors, we will see something very special on the track in a few years’ time.

Below are photos from the Stonestreet Farms Twitter feed. Follow them for more Rachel news!

 

The "AWWWWW" is off the charts! - Photo courtesy Stonestreet Farms

Rachel Alexandra & her newborn foal, a colt sired by Curlin – Photo courtesy Stonestreet Farms

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CURLIN REPEATS as Horse of the Year!

Congrats to Curlin, the Eclipse award Horse of the Year for 2008. 

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Eclipse voters cast 153 ballots in favor of The Golden Warrior, with Zenyatta getting 69 votes and Big Brown only 13.  While I would have loved to see Zenyatta get the Big Prize, the fact is Curlin ran a typical HOTY campaign.  Despite a growing embrace of changes for the better, the sport is still devoted to its traditions.  Curlin would have been HOTY in the olden days before the Breeders’ Cup, because he won the Woodward and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, both Grade 1.  His JCGC was a repeat win, and he broke an earnings record with that race, both major pluses for traditional Eclipse voters.  He also won the Steven Foster Handicap at Churchill, and he ran a credible second in the Man O’War on turf.  He tried the Breeders’ Cup Classic and was beaten by better synthetic runners.  His races were all Grade 1 stakes against open company, and those are his US stats, the only record that is supposed to matter in Eclipse balloting.  Of course, that is not Curlin’s complete 2008 record.  The reigning HOTY travelled to Dubai and won two major races, the Jaguar Trophy and the Dubai World Cup, against the best dirt horses in Asia and the Middle East.  He won the Jaguar under 132 pounds, an unheard-of impost for stakes in the US.  The Dubai World Cup win was visually impressive as Curlin coasted home by over 7 lengths.

  Along the way, Curlin became the yardstick by which the ’08 three year old crop was measured.  His owner, Jess Jackson, appealed to racing fans by shipping the Golden Warrior to tracks across the nation and giving races on all surfaces a try.  With over $10 million in earnings, Curlin now sits atop the list of All-Time Leading Money Winners, breaking a record held for 13 years by the legendary Cigar.  When paraded on Kentucky Derby day at Churchill Downs, the tipsy revelers cheered more loudly for him in the paddock than even the Derby victor in the winner’s circle.  I know, I was there for that one. 

Curlin may not be as fast as previous champions, nor did he win a Triple Crown or 16 (or 19) races in a row.  But he was the only member of the magical class of 2007 to continue as an older horse.  That was a great year, a return to thrilling, (relatively) safe racing, with tough, game rivals like Street Sense and Hard Spun and Curlin to help us get over the tragedy of Barbaro.  Yes, I said Barbaro – even if you’re sick of hearing his name, you must admit he had the potential to be a great one.  His loss was such a tremendous letdown, and his long struggle such a heartbreaker, that the 2007 racing season was like a salve on racing’s wounds.  When Curlin came back this year, it was with the hope that the goodwill would continue.  I should have known one horse was not enough.  Perhaps this award will encourage other owners to bring back their champions for continued campaigns.  It seems to already be working: IEAH is bringing BENNY THE BULL back for more sprints in fall!

Now that the Eclipses have been awarded and ’08 remembered one last time in all of its horrible, beautiful glory, let’s put it away and focus on 2009.  The Kentucky Derby is only 92 days away!

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Plenty to be Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving!

With all of the craziness in racing, from ADW controversies to breakdowns to auction slumps, it’s good to think about the good things on a day like today.  Also, a list is an easy way to blog on a holiday… now before I get angry e-mails from family & friends, this is just a list of thoroughbred-related things I am thankful for.  I won’t be listing “breakdown-free Breeders’ Cup” at the family dinner tonight!

1) CURLIN!  Though he did not start out as my favorite horse, he has raced and won his way into my heart.  Thanks to sportsman Jess Jackson (and a little help from the jailed part-owners) Curlin got to prove himself over and over again as an older horse.  He broke a legendary earnings record, raced on all surfaces and met all comers.  His retirement ceremony at Churchill on Saturday will mark the end of an extraordinary career.  Thanks for the ride, Curlin!

2) SAUHBR!  Thanks to The Borderland Totalisator (whose blog has mysteriously vanished, humm…) for an awesome summer of handicapping.  The first of many victories in the game, I hope.  I also hope BT gets back online, because he was a great competitor and gracious in defeat.  Thanks!

3) Larry Jones!  Trainer of the ill-fated Eight Belles handled the ultimate tragedy with grace and compassion.  When nutty PETA accused him of all sorts of horrific abuses, his level-headed replies revealed the activists for the slime they really were.  Amid the turmoil, he sent the filly Proud Spell out for an amazing season, as well as the sprinter Kodiak Kowboy. 

4) Breakdown-Free Breeders’ Cup!  Despite all of the questions surrounding the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita this year, the track was successful in its ultimate mission: an injury-free Championship.  Every horse, every race, on poly or turf, came home sound.  This is the first time in several years that no horse was severely injured.  The track also levelled the playing field for the Euro contingent, which is always nice in a so-called “world championship” series.

5) JIM GAFFNEY!  Exercise rider for the Superhorse Secretariat and a close personal friend of this blogger, Mr. Gaffney has been a joy and privelege to know.  I have attended 2 KY Derbies with the man and his lovely wife, Mary, and have gained so much more knowledge of the racing business from him.  Thanks Jim!

6) TVG!  Not a day goes by that I don’t flip channels to TVG.  I love love love watching live racing with the hosts Todd Schrupp and Matt Carothers.  They are an irreverent bunch and their picks are pretty good, too.  I have learned a lot about handicapping watching TVG and am eternally thankful for the first all-racing channel.  Plus, I won an Eclipse Awards official program from them back in January.  Schwag always keeps my attention!

7) At The Races with Steve Byk on SIRIUS!  Every day I listen as Steve chats with the top names in racing, does a little handicapping, and has a good-old time talking to regular Joe horseplayers.  His show is a blessing for a sport that gets so little coverage by the MSM, and when it does, it’s usually dumbed-down *cough*ESPN*cough*  From ATTR, I have learned how top trainers condition their horses (pre-Derby shows) and have gotten a greater appreciation for the Pick 4 ticket and Super High 5 ticket.  Bob Baffert before the Breeders’ Cup was a big treat, too!  Thanks Steve!

8) MY LITTLE CONNOR!  This horse is the best little allowance horse in the world.  I hope he comes back to Oaklawn next year. 

Next up, Santa better be reading my Christmas list!

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The Aftermath–What About Raven’s Pass?!

The Synthetic Track proved to be a great equalizer for the European contingent, but the American runners were not shamed by any means at Breeders’ Cup 25. 

Raven’s Pass ran a brilliant final furlong under Frankie Dettori, passing defending champ Curlin, rallying Henrythenavigator, and synthetic specialist Go Between.  The 3yo miler by Elusive Quality had spent the year battling New Approach in Europe, and carried his form well over to the opposite side of the world(and 2 extra furlongs).

As for Curlin, the Golden Warrior looked like a winner going into the final turn, but he just couldn’t sustain his drive.  Whether it was the surface or simply not his day, only the horse knows.  Tiago closed ferociously for 3rd, which would suggest Curlin didn’t like the track so much (the closest Tiago got to Curlin before Saturday was a 3rd in the ’07 Belmont).

The Classic results also give us a better idea of how good the ’08 3yo crop actually is.  It’s not flattering, at least for the US-based horses.  Colonel John was our best 3yo finisher, coming in 6th and Smooth Air followed in 7th.  Casino Drive set the early pace but faded badly to last.  These are horses who have been running lights out against their own generation, but were unable to threaten in open company.  It is a shame that Big Brown was injured, because he would have totally changed the dynamic of the race and also had the opportunity to convince his remaining critics.  Brown will most likely get the Eclipse for champion 3yo, but not without a few votes for Raven’s Pass.

And what about Raven’s Pass?  I hope that Princess Haya keeps him in training.  He has proven he can run 10 furlongs, which just happens to be the same distance as a little race in Dubai.  He would make the ’09 handicap season more interesting here in the states as well – a triple threat on turf, poly and perhaps dirt?  His sire also gave us Smarty Jones, so it’s not out of the question.

ZENYATTA kept her perfect record at 9 wins, and did it with ease.  It is so much fun watching her run.  She does that funny “spanish walk” when she goes to the post.  She always breaks slowly, and the makes a huuge run at the end, passing everybody else like they were hitchhikers on I-40.  SHe has beaten everybody, former BC distaff champ, quality speed horses, talented 3yo divas, on poly and dirt (at my home track of Oaklawn, no less).  It would have been awesome if Zenyatta had the chance to face Zarkava, the filly Arc winner.  If I had a vote for Eclipses, Zenyatta would be my HOTY.  Hey Jerry Moss & John SHeriffs, BRING ZENYATTA BACK TO OAKLAWN!!!

Others:

Muhannak won the Marathon…I should have bet that race; I would have been set for the rest of the day…

Euros run 1-2 in the Juvy turf, with Donativum getting the better of Westphalia…should see those 2 duking it out in the Darby next year…

GOLDIKOVA, the “dainty filly” slices through a microscopic hole and accelerates like a fine motor car o win the Mile.  Kip Deville, last year’s mile winner, runs 2nd.  The Dutrow trainee now knows what it is like to get “beat by a girl”.

MIDNIGHT LUTE made BC history by winning the SPrint for the 2nd time in a row.  Lute battled back from a nasty quarter crack and a horrible finish in his prep race to win the Sprint by a length, in a final time of 1:07.08.  Lute is the only 2-time winner of the Sprint.  Trainer Bob Baffert says Midnight Lute is the best he has ever trained, and that’s a strong comment from the man who trained 3 Derby winners, including Real Quiet, the horse who has come closest to winning the TC in 30 years.  Real Quiet is the sire of Midnight Lute.

Conduit won the Turf…Albertus MAximus won the dirt mile…Midshipman won the Juvy…Indian Blessing got beat by a scintillating Ventura in the F/M Sprint…

BC handle was up 5% from last year…people will bet regardless of the surface of the ridiculous name of the “ladies’ classic”…NO HORSES SUFFERED LIFE-THREATENING INJURIES!!

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Filed under Breeders' Cup, curlin, polytrack, RAven's Pass, results, Santa Anita, zenyatta

CURLIN is IN!

THANK YOU Jess and Steve!!!

The Golden Warrior is pre-entered to defend his title in the Classic!  But seriously, who is surprised?  Curlin is already in Cali, why not just go ahead and race him? 

Unless he totally flops on the pro-ride surface, Curlin will be the second 2-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.  He’s got HOTY sewn up, too, and will join an elite list of 2-time Champions.

In other news today, NYRA announced its steroid ban will go into effect Jan. 1, 2009.  This means that all 3 Triple Crown races will be unjuiced next year.  Big Brown will be the poster child for steroid use in racehorses, despite the fact many trainers use them with no backlash.  Curlin also partook of the needle up until his trip to Dubai, where juicing is illegal.  Both horses have supposedly been off those meds since May. 

This is but a first step toward cleaning up racing’s image.  SInce Eight Belles’s demise, people have clamored for a return to “pure” sport.  The factions are finally beginning to realize their petty disagreements have been holding them back and turning people off from this spectacular sport.  They’re getting off their asses, finally, to change for the better. 

GO CURLIN!

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CURLIN & PEPPERS PRIDE: The New Benchmarks

Two venerated records fell in the past 7 days, and the horses that now hold them are curious opposites.

CURLIN easily handled the slop at Belmont last Saturday to capture his second consecutive Jockey Club Gold Cup and surpass the $10 million mark in earnings.  The previous record money winner was the legendary Cigar, whose $9.9+ million kept him at the top for a decade.  Cigar amassed his bankroll during a thrilling sixteen-win streak, which tied him for the most consecutive wins with Citation.

Over the years, a few other horses matched Cigar’s win record (but nowhere near his earnings), most recently Hallowed Dreams, a Louisiana-bred filly who raced mostly in Louisiana and at Lone Star Park, and mostly in allowance and state-bred stakes during her win streak.  Yesterday, a filly named PEPPERS PRIDE did what Cigar, Citation, Mister Frisky and Hallowed Dreams could not.  PEPPERS PRIDE won her 17th race in a row, remaining undefeated in her career.

PEPPERS PRIDE, like Hallowed Dreams, comes from a humble family and races in allowance and state-bred stakes in NEw Mexico.   PP’s 17th start had been pushed back five months due to poor track conditions, but the tough mare was in fine form and put away Silver Expression in an AOC at Zia Park.

There they are, folks, the new benchmarks.  It says a lot about the sport that the horse with the longest win streak has only $861,000 in earnings, while the horse with the biggest bankroll has only raced 15 times (and won 11).  The horses with longevity are not our “superstars” – but the top-level performers are the ones who get on TV (at least when ESPN feels like it). 

There may not be a solution to the discrepancy.  Grade 1 winners and Classic winners are the horses that start lifelong fans, but they are like the pro sports athletes in other leagues- larger than life and unapproachable to the average fan, protected and pampered between brief appearances on-track to thousands of spectators.  Each time they run is risky to their health and potential breeding value. 

Small-scale leagues and tracks have the most loyal fans because they know the players intimately.  The farm league pitcher goes to church with you.  The local point guard’s daughter is in the same class with your son.  Peppers Pride is the hometown girl done very, very good.

With cable racing networks, these smaller tracks are getting coverage unknown in the past.  More people can be “local fans” of Pepper, or of My Little COnnor or Mr. Franks.  They’re no Big Brown, but at least they have raced a few years so people can enjoy them.

The last benchmark standing is the one least likely to ever be attained.  The way young, top-class colts are handled these days, it will take an incredible horse to capture that elusive Triple Crown.

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BIG BROWN VICTORIOUS! + MUSIC NOTE & PROUD SPELL!!

By now most Infield readers know that Big Brown won on Saturday, holding off Proudinsky in a thriller stretch drive (I think that must be my favorite phrase, seriously).  The Derby Winner has passed the “beat older” test with winning colors…now on to synthetic and CURLIN! 

There is no way now for Curlin to repeat as HOTY without running in the Classic. Brown has done everything except win the Belmont (and how many others have that blemish on their resume).  Brown draws record crowds to see him run in non-graded stakes.  Brown has a major corporate sponsor (almost like NASCAR).  Curlin has the hardware (’07 HOTY), the earnings (over $9mil) and the key to Saratoga.  But unless his owner (who has been a tremendous sportsman so far just by running the Golden Warrior at 4) gives in and enters the defending BCC winner on SA’s poly, his chances for a repeat HOTY are slim and none.  If he enters and Brown beats him, he’s out, but the questions will be answered.  If he runs and wins, he’ll go down as one of our greatest champions.  There have only been a handful of 2-time HOTY champs in history, an enormous achievement.  The last back-to-back HOTY was Cigar in ’95/’96.  Even he couldn’t capture 2 Classics. 

If neither Brown or Curlin win the Classic, then things get more tricky.  It’s safe to say Go Between, love him as I do, will not be HOTY if he springs the big-ass upset.  I say Curlin would still be HOTY if both colts run up the track.  Curlin deserves the honor, after racing around the world in Dubai, and in all Gr1 events here in the states.  He has beaten a host of Gr1 winners and millionaires.  He’s also run faster than Brown (112 BSF in the Woodward).  It could also be a wake-up call to owners who retire their 3yos.  Curlin has run an (sort-of) old-fashioned campaign this year, hitting all the top Gr1s and taking on all comers.  I like Curlin better than Brown because of this-he is the last big name from the legendary 2007 Triple Crown Class.  All of those colts (and filly) were amazing athletes, game, fast and turned up every time.  To get to see even one of them for another year is a privlege that we won’t have next year.  Big Brown will be at Three Chimneys swapping TC war stories with Point Given (though PG will always win with his *I* won the Belmont by 11…). 

OTHER Stuff:  MUSIC NOTE waltzed away with the Gazelle after Country Star flipped in the gate and had to scratch.  The daughter of AP Indy is a tremendous runner in a year of Top Class Fillies.  Aside from Brown, 2008 has been the YEAR OF THE FILLY — The Distaff is the headliner race for the BC this year with Zenyatta, Ginger Punch, Hystericaladay, Music Note, Tough Tiz’s Sis, and now Proud SPell is back on the BC list.  Then Indian Blessing, Intangaroo, and Dearest Trickski have the F/M Sprint locked down.  Too bad Rags got hurt. 

Thursday I leave for an InfieldTrip to the heart of horse country.  Complete blogging and photos and such will be forthcoming…

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Filed under Big Brown, Breeders' Cup, curlin, Graded Stakes, results, Santa Anita