Curlin is a like a great chestnut shark: basking in the sun, looking good, taking it easy, nothing to worry about here. Then, bang! He gets you.
The two-time Horse of the Year got his latest graded stakes winner Aug. 16 when 2-year-old Exaggerator swept from last to first in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special to win by three-quarters of a length from the favored Saratoga Mischief (by Into Mischief) in 1:16.39 for 6 1/2 furlongs.
Bred in Kentucky by Joseph B. Murphy, Exaggerator is out of the stakes-placed Dawn Raid (Vindication). The Saratoga Special winner’s dam is one of four black-type offspring from Embur Sunshine (Bold Ruckus), and Dawn Raid is a half-sister to Canadian champion Embur’s Song (Unbridled’s Song).
Dawn Raid was third in the restricted Fanfreluche Stakes at Woodbine, and her dam was second in the Candy Éclair and Blue Sparkler Stakes at Monmouth, third in the Polite Lady Handicap at Woodbine. Embur Sunshine’s dam was Vevila, an English-bred daughter of The Minstrel (Northern Dancer) and a half-sister to Canadian champion Eternal Search (Northern Answer) and four other stakes horses.
Bred in Ontario by Josham Farms Ltd., Dawn Raid sold to W.S. Farish Jr. at the Keeneland September sale in 2006 for $70,000 and gained her stakes placing in the colors of a Woodford Racing LLC partnership. Consigned to the 2008 Keeneland November sale by Lane’s End, agent, Dawn Raid sold for $50,000 to Murphy, who raced her once unsuccessfully and retired her to breed for 2009.
Murphy said that “we thought there was some value in Dawn Raid as a racing and broodmare prospect, and after the losing race at Turfway, we sent her to Rood & Riddle to evaluate her breathing. They reported back that she was the fastest horse they’d ever seen on a treadmill, and we retired her.”
The mare’s first two foals were winning fillies by Any Given Saturday (Sweet Saturday) and Pioneerof the Nile (Nile Queen), and Exaggerator is Dawn Raid’s third foal.
Murphy said that “for a few years, including 2013, I sent the pregnant mares to John Downes to foal at the property he’s leasing from Overbrook.”
Downes recalled the mare and foal well. He said, “She was a nice mare who produced a good-looking foal. We’ve raised graded stakes winners (not counting Exaggerator) each of the last seasons from our resident boarding mares, which number 15 to 20.
“While the Stoneleigh mares were here,” Downes said, “I was able to arrange a deal for Dawn Raid to go to Curlin, in part because the elder Mr. Murphy was such a fan of the horse. And I had another client wanting to use the stallion, and that made it an attractive deal to breed to him.”
The resulting foal grew up to be a good-looking yearling, and when consigned to the 2014 Keeneland September sale through Warrendale Sales as agent, Exaggerator sold for $110,000 to Big Chief Racing LLC.
Murphy said “the colt had a lot of his mother about him when we were prepping him for the yearling sale. She’s a good-looking, correct, and gentle-natured horse, and he was like that too.”
Dawn Raid has a yearling full sister to Nile Queen; has no foal of 2015, Murphy noted; but is back in foal to Curlin for 2016 on a March 16 cover.
Murphy said “people started calling yesterday after the colt won the race, trying to buy her, and they are really interested, especially when they find out that she’s back in foal to Curlin. My dad doesn’t want to sell her, he’s really into the racing, but we got into this to make money. So I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Whether the mare owners decide to keep or sell, Dawn Raid appears to be the kind of mare who fits well with Curlin, possessing speed and also the ability to race at least a mile.
The breeders’ cycling back to Curlin mimics the pattern that others have followed in using the big chestnut son of Smart Strike. They have used the champion, moved on to other sires, then come back as results have led them to desire more Curlin stock.
From his early returns, Curlin was clearly no sire of juvenile stars along the lines of Storm Cat or Tapit. Not many stallions get a high percentage of top 2-year-old performers, but those who do earn regard in the market for those qualities.
Instead, the champion’s best early racer was 2-year-old winner Palace Malice, who trained on at 3 to improve significantly and become a classic winner in the 2013 Belmont Stakes. Likewise, among the stallion’s stars this season are Curalina (G1 Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks) and Stellar Wind (G1 Santa Anita Oaks and G2 American Oaks). Both improved with maturity and distance.
Now that we have grown accustomed to regarding Curlin as a sire of stock who get better at 3 and who show their form at a mile or more, we have a pair of graded stakes-winning juveniles at Saratoga.
In addition to Exaggerator, on July 24, the Curlin filly Off the Tracks won the G2 Schuylerville Stakes, and she is reportedly training well for the G1 Spinaway.