By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
Over the last decade, few
stallions have enjoyed as much success as Curlin. It's safe to say the Hall of
Fame inductee is every bit as good a sire as he was a racehorse, and now his
sons are emerging as influential stallions as well.
Curlin was an elite
racehorse who won back-to-back Horse of the Year titles and $10,501,800 across
two seasons of racing. His 11-for-16 lifetime tally included victories in the
Preakness S. (G1), Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen
Foster H. (G1), Woodward (G1), and two editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup
(G1), as well as a runner-up finish in the Belmont S. (G1) and a third in the
Kentucky Derby (G1).
Curlin showed classic
prowess by winning or placing in all three legs of the Triple Crown, and his
progeny have followed suit as formidable players in the spring classics. Over
the past 10 years, sons and daughters of Curlin have included:
Palace Malice, winner
of the 2013 Belmont.
Ride On Curlin,
runner-up in the 2014 Preakness.
Keen Ice, third in
the 2015 Belmont.
of the 2016 Preakness and second in the 2016 Kentucky Derby.
Irish War Cry,
runner-up in the 2017 Belmont.
Good Magic, runner-up
in the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
Tenfold, third in the
Nest, runner-up in
the 2022 Belmont.
In addition, Curlin is the
sire of Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner and two-time champion Malathaat, Breeders'
Cup Classic (G1) winner and champion Vino Rosso, and the multiple Grade
1-winning champion Stellar Wind. All three of those standout competitors did
their best work running long on dirt.
Curlin has yet to sire a
Kentucky Derby winner, but in the meantime his sons are dominating the race. Keen
Ice is the sire of 2022 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, while Good Magic is
responsible for 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage, as well as 2023 Preakness
runner-up Blazing Sevens.
With Curlin emerging as a "sire
of sires," I'm excited about the first crop of foals sired by the
above-mentioned Vino Rosso. The
accomplished chestnut retired to stud for 2020, which means his first starters
are already hitting the track and he'll have three-year-olds on the 2024 Kentucky
Although Vino Rosso won both
his starts at age two, the Todd Pletcher trainee really wasn't an
early-maturing type and looked like a work in progress as a three-year-old in
2018. A stretch-running triumph in the Wood Memorial (G2) ranked as his only
victory from seven starts that season, and his Triple Crown exploits fizzled
with a ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and a fourth in the Belmont.
But Vino Rosso came to hand
impressively as a four-year-old. In his final season of racing, Vino Rosso won
the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) and Stymie S., placed in the Whitney (G1) and
Jockey Club Gold Cup, and ended the season with a decisive 4 1/4-length score
in the Breeders' Cup Classic. It's no wonder why he was voted champion older
dirt male at the Eclipse Awards.
Vino Rosso was at his best
racing 1 1/4 miles, the distance over which he secured both his Grade 1 wins.
He also crossed the wire first in the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, only to
be disqualified for bumping with a rival.
Considering how Vino Rosso
matured late and thrived over classic distances, I don't expect his
two-year-olds to light up the track this year. I'll be pleasantly surprised if
Vino Rosso ends the year near the top of the first-crop sire rankings compiled
by Bloodhorse.com; speedier and more precocious runners like champion male sprinter
Mitole and multiple Grade 1 winner Omaha Beach seem more likely to enjoy early
success as stallions.
Nevertheless, Vino Rosso is
off to a promising start at stud. His son Laugh Now wired a 4 1/2-furlong
maiden special weight at Horseshoe Indianapolis by two lengths, while another
son—Zaino—rallied nicely to finish third in the $100,000 Royal Palm Juvenile S.
sprinting five furlongs over the Gulfstream Park turf course.
Those are encouraging
developments, and I expect the progeny of Vino Rosso to improve significantly
with distance and maturity. By late fall, races like the 1 1/8-mile Remsen S.
(G2) and 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) could be ripe for conquest by
sons of Vino Rosso. And next spring, I believe we'll see at least one son of
Vino Rosso make some noise in the spring classics. Could a son of Curlin sire
the Kentucky Derby winner for a third consecutive year?
Here are a few sons of Vino
Rosso I'm excited to see in action down the road:
Sold for $180,000 as
a yearling to Shortleaf Stable, Yell
County was produced by Matron S. (G1) runner-up Featherbed, a daughter of
Curlin's sire, Smart Strike. This means Yell County is inbred 3x2 to Smart
Strike, a strategy that previously reaped dividends with Rich Strike, who was produced
by the Smart Strike mare Gold Strike. Featherbed has already foaled Illinois Derby
(G3) winner Dynamic Impact and Sanford S. (G3) winner Mo Strike, so there's a
lot of potential in Yell County's pedigree. He recently entered serious
training by breezing three furlongs in :40 at The Thoroughbred Center.
Repole Stable and St.
Elias Stables purchased an unnamed son
of Vino Rosso out of Fair Huntress for $400,000 as a yearling. Fair
Huntress never raced, but she's a daughter of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic
winner Tiznow, recreating the Vino Rosso/Tiznow cross that produced Laugh Now.
sold for $375,000 as a yearling to Winchell Thoroughbreds. The bay colt was
produced by the maiden claiming winner Storm Raven, a daughter of Kentucky
Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister, who is best known as the sire of
2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. Crafted has been posting workouts
at Lone Star Park, most recently clocking a bullet half-mile from the starting
gate in :47.20.
Repole Stable and St.
Elias Stables spent $300,000 to acquire an unnamed
son of Vino Rosso out of Bible Belt, a daughter of Blue Grass (G2) winner
and successful sire Pulpit. Bible Belt's previous foals include Bashford Manor S.
(G3) third-place finisher Hardworkcleanlivin, Oaklawn S. third-place finisher
Happy Boy Rocket, and Display S. runner-up Gospel Way.
An unnamed son of Vino Rosso out of Azalea
Belle sold for $300,000 to Albaugh Family Stables. Azalea Belle is a daughter
of Haskell Invitational H. (G1) winner Dixie Union, best known as the sire of
2012 Belmont winner Union Rags. As a result, this Vino Rosso colt is a
half-brother to Iowa Oaks (G3) runner-up Aurelia Garland.
was purchased as a yearling by Kenny McPeek (acting as an agent) for $250,000. Summer
Diet was produced by Melody Girl, a daughter of Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1)
winner and acclaimed sire Unbridled's Song, whose daughters have foaled
Japanese Triple Crown winner Contrail, Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) winner Tourist,
and two-time Eclipse Award winner Unique Bella, to name just a few. Summer Diet
twice breezed a bullet two furlongs in :24.20 at the Silverleaf Hills Training
Center last month.
Do you think Vino Rosso will
rise to prominence at stud?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.