Curlin didn’t get to be Horse of the Year without delivering the goods. In the Preakness, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Dubai World Cup, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the handsome chestnut son of Smart Strike took the laurels of victory, and for these and other outstanding performances, he was elected Horse of the Year twice (2007 and 2008).
Likewise as a stallion, Curlin wouldn’t be standing for $150,000 live foal without delivering the goods. The imposing horse sired classic winner Palace Malice in his first crop, and the top sire at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm outside Lexington has continued to deliver the big horse year after year.
On Saturday, Curlin’s champion daughter Stellar Wind, who is from the sire’s third crop, added another Grade 1 victory to her impressive list of accomplishments with a neck success over Vale Dori (Arg) in the Beholder Mile at Santa Anita.
The 5-year-old is the winner of nine races from 14 starts to date and a bit more than $2 million in total earnings. The Beholder was the mare’s fifth G1 and her second this year, and Stellar Wind is positioned as the primary competitor for Songbird among the top older mares.
Stellar Wind has long been an outstanding prospect. Bred in Virginia by Keswick Stables and Stonestreet, Stellar Wind was selected for the prestigious Saratoga select auction held by Fasig-Tipton, and she went through the ring for $40,000 from the Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services consignment. With the stallion unproven and somewhat commercially cool at the time, there was not great demand for Stellar Wind.
Sandy Stuart from Bluegrass said Stellar Wind was the next-to-last filly that Miss Peggy Augustus bred, and the owners sent the filly through the ring with no reserve. At the barn, Stuart said, Stellar Wind “was a good, well-balanced physical and was really light on her feet, whether she was walking like a lady or going the other direction. Frankie Brothers really liked this filly, among several others, but the vet report showed an irregularity on a sesamoid.”
The combination of an unproven sire and questions about the vet report put a limit on how aggressively buyers went after the filly, great looking or not.
Vernan Lee Stables was the buyer, and when the filly was reconsigned by Marshall Silverman at the Fasig-Tipton Eastern fall yearling sale a few weeks later, she brought $86,000 from Barbara Houck. After winning a maiden impressively, Stellar Wind sold to Hronis Racing, which has enjoyed the continuing arc of success with the big mare.
In addition to Stellar Wind, Curlin has a 3-year-old colt with a very similar profile in Irish War Cry. Both progressed from maiden victories to graded stakes, then had things go awry in the Kentucky classics. A fourth in the Kentucky Oaks is one of only two unplaced finishes in Stellar Wind’s career, and Irish War Cry finished tenth in the Kentucky Derby after an eventful trip.
Stellar Wind regrouped after the Oaks and put her season back together so well that she was named champion 3-year-old filly of 2015. Last year, she split decisions with mighty Beholder, defeating the older mare twice. But Beholder’s dramatic victory over Songbird in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last season tipped the scales in favor of Beholder as divisional champion.
Now, Stellar Wind has won the race named after her great rival.
Irish War Cry, on the other hand, is at a much earlier point in his career. He will be one of the favorites for the Belmont Stakes, and a victory there would be a major step in the direction of continuing maturity and progression for a colt of this type.
A winner in four of his six starts, Irish War Cry was unbeaten as a 2-year-old, and he had advanced to win the G2 Holy Bull Stakes and Wood Memorial before his debacle in the Derby.
Both of these chestnut offspring are typical of their sire. They are good-sized, scopy horses with pace. They are not duffers who need extreme distances or uncommon circumstances to win a race. They have maneuverability and versatility, although best suited to racing at two turns. Their older brethren such as Palace Malice have shown similar qualities, and he won the Belmont at 3, then the Metropolitan Handicap over a mile at 4, and stands at Three Chimneys.
The combination of speed and stamina – the classic combination – is the gift of Curlin to his offspring and to breeders. It’s a heady mixture that keeps on giving.