Cue the pulsing base rhythm. First one, then a second, golden lamp-like eye opens in the dark. Then the leviathan stretches itself in the darkness with a sound like the gentle rustling of a tide, and a soft and deep nicker fills the stall.
Wait, that's not a shark sound. No, it's far worse; it's Curlin.
That, at least, is how I imagine the great, brawny son of Smart Strike in terms of his lethal influence on the competition.
As a racehorse, Curlin was a major talent from the first time he broke out of the starting gate. He went into the Kentucky Derby unbeaten in three starts in three successive months and finished third behind the previous season's champion juvenile colt, Street Sense, and Hard Spun. After that, Curlin won three of his five remaining starts at 3, including the Preakness, but successive victories against older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic put the massively muscled chestnut over the top as the champion of his division and Horse of the Year in 2007.
The following season, Curlin ventured to Dubai and won their World Cup. Overall at 4, Curlin won five of his seven starts, losing an ambitious adventure onto the turf in the Man o' War, but winning the Stephen Foster, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, then closing out his career on a dull note with a fourth on Santa Anita's synthetic surface in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic.
Retired to stud at Lane's End Farm, Curlin went to stud the same year as Big Brown, winner of the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Both were popular with breeders and horsemen, but both also labored horribly under a malaise created by others.
The Great Recession was endeavoring to pull the entire breeding industry into the black hole of its red ink, and it produced great losses and greater handicaps for breeders and horses trying to prove themselves in an economic environment that was worse than adversarial.
That makes the success of Curlin's stud career all the more exceptional. Few stallions succeed. Period. Even fewer succeed when the markets and breeders' finances are in mutual free-fall and when most people have to juggle just to stay afloat.
From his first crop, however, Curlin sired a first winner at Saratoga in August, when a bay colt sped 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.48. The following June, Palace Malice won the Belmont Stakes by 3 ½ lengths from Preakness winner Oxbow (by Awesome Again) and Kentucky Derby winner Orb (Malibu Moon), and suddenly the young sire was the toast of his sire crop.
Now will eight crops of racing age, Curlin is the sire of 59 stakes winners, including champions Good Magic (2-year-old colt) and Stellar Wind (3-year-old filly). Now based at Hill 'n' Dale Farm, Curlin has maintained his early excellence and risen to the top of the stallion ranks. He regularly figures among the top sires of money earners annually, was 6th on that leading sires list in 2018, and is 7th among leading sires in 2019. This season, he covered for a fee of $175,000 live foal.
The stallion's fee has climbed year after year, and those price increases guarantee a rise in the quality of broodmares sent to his book. The 3-year-olds of 2019 were produced from matings in 2015, when the stallion was already attracting an elite cadre of producers.
Among them was an A.P. Indy mare named Globe Trot. Bill Graves bought the mare for Gordon Stollery, and the good-looking daughter of the Horse of the Year and leading sire proved to be the second-best runner out of her dam, the multiple graded stakes winner Trip (Lord at War).
Nearly two years ago, in discussing one of the mare's other foals, Graves told me that Stollery bought Globe Trot because she was “beautiful and really well-bred. He wanted to put her into his broodmare band and see if he could breed some more really good horses.”
Unfortunately, Stollery died while the filly was still racing, and on behalf of the family, Graves sold the filly to WinStar Farm.
For the WinStar breeding program, Globe Trot has been everything in terms of quality that Stollery and Graves dreamed she might be.
From three foals, she produced three stakes winners. The first was Sonic Mule (Distorted Humor), who has won two stakes and was third in the Saratoga Special at 2, the Swale Stakes at 3. The second was Bolt d'Oro (Medaglia d'Oro), who won the Del Mar Futurity and Frontrunner Stakes at 2, was third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at 2, then won the San Felipe and was second in the Santa Anita Derby at 3.
Unraced at 2 like his sire, Global Campaign has won three of his four starts this season, and victory in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 11 was his first stakes.
Clearly, Global Campaign has made considerable progress through his brief career, and hopes of greater things to come lurk in the plans of owners Sagamore Farm and WinStar Farm.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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