Curlin Stakes pick and preview

The $120,000 Curlin Stakes is overshadowed by the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2). Both are for 3-year-olds, held at 1 1/8-miles over Saratoga’s main track, and prep for the Travers Stakes (G1), slated for August 28.

The Curlin Stakes offers a chance for late-developing horses to gain confidence, those stepping up in the company, returning from a layoff, or seeking an easier spot.

Blame won the inaugural running of the Curlin. He returned a year later to capture the Breeders’ Cup Classic over Zenyatta, stealing Horse of the Year honors. In 2016, Connect used the Curlin Stakes as a springboard to victory in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and the Cigar Mile (G1).  A few years earlier in 2014, V.E. Day prepped in the Curlin and shocked the Travers field at 20-1. 

Fast forward to Friday’s ninth race, where seven colts will compete in the Curlin Stakes. Let’s review the field.

Curlin Stakes Picks

#1 Miles D grooved his way to a 2 1/4-length victory over maidens in his season debut. The lightly-raced son of Curlin now takes on listed stakes competition.  He’s bred for the job, as his second dam is multiple Grade 1 winner My Flag, whose offspring include the champion filly, Storm Flag Flying, and many other Graded winners. Chad Brown has 28% wins with the last-out maiden winners to listed stakes angle. Brown captured the 2019 edition of the Curlin Stakes with last-out maiden winner Highest Honors. Use underneath.   

#2 Snow House traveled three-wide in third place for much of the one-mile Dwyer Stakes. He hooked up with First Captain briefly in the stretch but was clearly no match for the winner and finished 2 1/4-lengths behind. That doesn’t bode well for stretching his speed an extra furlong. Pass.  

#3 Harvard steps up after beating winners in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Churchill by 3/4-length. A full brother to 2016 Champion 2-Year-Old Classic Empire, Harvard has the class to step up. Luis Saez, the second-leading rider of the meet, takes over the reins. Harvard does his best as a pacesetter. Use underneath.   

#4 First Captain, an undefeated son of Curlin out of the Grade 1 winning A.P. Indy mare America, strode powerfully through the stretch to capture the Dwyer by 1 3/4-lengths in his last outing, beating Snow House. The Shug  McGaughey trainee owns the highest Brisnet late-pace figure in the group. First Captain has tactical speed and can be placed anywhere in the field. Win Contender.

#5 Beren has won four of six starts this year and enters the Curlin Stakes with a three-race win streak. The Robert Reid, Jr. trainee has been beating up on lesser horses at PARX and Belmont, but he takes a step up here and will try 1 1/8-miles for the first time. Beren prefers to set or press the pace. Use underneath.

#6 Collaborate makes his third start off a layoff and takes another shot at stakes competition. Previously, he was outclassed by 14-lengths in the Florida Derby, and was third, bested 4 3/4-lengths in the Roar Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The son of Into Mischief has tactical speed. Pass.

#7 Dynamic One hasn’t been seen since his 32-length drubbing in the Kentucky Derby. The Todd Pletcher trainee owns a maiden victory and was second, beaten a narrow head, in the Wood Memorial. Both races were at 1 1/8-miles, so we know he’ll get the distance. Dynamic One is a one-run closer. He reunites with the meet’s leading rider, Irad Ortiz, Jr. Pass.

Curlin Stakes Analysis

There’s a lot of speed in this 1 1/8-mile race, and multiple speed horses in a route race always raise questions. Namely, can the pacesetter carry their speed, or will there be a speed duel, setting the race up for an off-the-pace type?  

Horses with tactical speed fare have fared best in previous editions of the Curlin Stakes. First Captain is a standout here. He’s the only graded winner in the field, dropping in class, has tactical speed, and he has the pedigree and class to handle 1 1/8-miles. First Captain really belongs in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2), which will be run on Saturday. However, McGaughey likely doesn’t want to take on Essential Quality, and who can blame him?

#4 First Captain

#1 Miles D

#3 Harvard

#5 Beren