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Mike previews the 2023 Curlin Stakes from Saratoga, then gives his top picks & long shots. The Chad Brown-trained Blazing Sevens looms large following his narrow defeat in the Preakness Stakes (G1) last time out, but could he be upset in 1 of the local preps for the Travers Stakes (G1)? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Rodeo Creek Racing’s Grade 1-winner Blazing Sevens will strive to make his Hall of Fame grandsire proud in winning the dual Horse of the Year’s namesake race in Friday’s $135,000 Curlin going nine furlongs over the main track at Saratoga Race Course.
The event for non-winners of a graded sweepstakes at one mile or over in 2023 honors the 2007-08 Horse of the Year, who became the first North American thoroughbred to reach the $10 million earnings mark.
The Curlin is slated as Race 4 on Friday’s nine-race program, which also features the Grade 3, $175,000 Lake George in Race 9. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.
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Trained by four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Chad Brown, Blazing Sevens is one of three contenders in the race that is sired by Curlin’s 2017 Champion 2-Year-Old Colt Good Magic, who also was conditioned by Brown.
Brown owns more Curlin conquests than any other trainer with four wins, including in 2016 with Curlin progeny Connect.
Blazing Sevens, who boasts field-best earnings of $895,250, has not raced since a hard-fought second to National Treasure in the Grade 1 Preakness on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course. In the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, Blazing Sevens was wide entering the first turn and stalked the pace down the backstretch before engaging with National Treasure in the stretch drive, coming up a head shy of victory.
Blazing Sevens burst onto the scene with a 6 1/4-length maiden victory on debut last July here before finishing a distant third in the Grade 1 Hopeful at the Spa and capturing the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont at the Big A under Flavien Prat, who will return to the saddle for Friday’s race from post 3.
“He’s been doing well and it’s nice to have the Curlin as an option for him. Flavien is available to ride and I’m happy to have him back on,” Brown said.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will seek to match Brown’s four Curlin wins when saddling blue-blooded Lost Ark [post 2, Irad Ortiz, Jr.].
Owned by Harrell Ventures, the Violence bay is a half-brother to 2022 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Nest. Lost Ark enters from his sophomore debut on June 9, when besting older allowance company going 1 1/16 miles at Monmouth Park.
Last season, he was an impressive debut winner at Belmont Park before capturing the Sapling at Monmouth. He was a distant sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity in October at Keeneland before being eased in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which was won by stable mate Forte.
“I thought it was good,” Pletcher said of Lost Ark’s last effort. “I was always concerned about going in that two-other-than condition with a 3-year-old, but he seemed to handle it pretty well. Hopefully, he set himself up for the Curlin.”
Pletcher said he is hoping to use the Curlin as a stepping stone to bigger races in the latter part of the year.
“We were a little disappointed with how he ended last season because he was training with Forte and holding his own, so we felt like based on his first couple races and the way he was training that he belonged in that group [at the Breeders’ Cup] and he didn’t quite show up. But, I think he’s benefitted from the time off now,” Pletcher said.
2023 Preakness Stakes
Woodford Racing, Lanes End Farm, Phipps Stable, Ken Langone and Edward J. Hudson, Jr.’s Perform [post 1, Jose Ortiz], also a son of Good Magic, enters from a distant sixth in the Preakness for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey.
The bay colt finished second to Lost Ark on debut last July before finishing behind Kentucky Derby winner Mage as well as Derby contenders Disarm [fourth] and Raise Cain [eighth] in the maiden ranks. He broke his maiden in his two-turn debut on March 11 at Tampa Bay Downs before capturing the Federico Tesio on April 15 at Laurel Park.
Perform is out of the Tale of Ekati mare Jane Says, whose dam Judy B is a half-sister to Grade 1-winner Mendelssohn, Hall of Famer and four-time Eclipse Award-winner Beholder as well as perennial North American leading stallion Into Mischief.
LNJ Foxwoods Kentucky homebred Scotland [post 4, Junior Alvarado] rounds out the Good Magic-sired trio as he makes his two-turn debut for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won this event with Hofburg in 2018.
The chestnut gelding came from well off the pace to win on debut going seven furlongs in March at Gulfstream Park before utilizing stalking tactics when second in an April allowance at Keeneland going the same distance. He enters from a head score against winners in June going a one turn mile at Churchill Downs.
Completing the field is Eduardo Soto’s Il Miracolo [post 5, Luis Saez], who will look to get back on track after a distant seventh in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 10. Trained by Antonio Sano, the son of Gun Runner went gate-to-wire in his two lifetime wins, both of which took place going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park.
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