02/20/2017 11:38AM

Curlin tops among elite sires early in 2017

Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photos
Curlin's Approval easily won the Royal Delta Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream.

Curlin, who has rapidly made his ascent among North America’s elite sires, had another stellar year in 2016. The Hill ‘n’ Dale stallion hasn’t lost momentum with the turn of the calendar and is one of the leading sires of this nascent season.

Through Sunday, Curlin already has four North American stakes winners on the season; three of those were graded winners. He leads the standings in both categories. Tapit, the continent’s three-time reigning leading sire, has three North American stakes winners – plus one in Dubai – but only one graded winner thus far. Two of Curlin’s standard-bearers are already multiple stakes winners this season, with Curlin’s Approval and Terra Promessa picking up those dual scores within hours of one another Saturday.

Curlin’s Approval romped by six lengths in the Grade 2 Royal Delta Stakes at Gulfstream Park, proving she could successfully stretch out to 1 1/16 miles after taking the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie Stakes going seven furlongs in her prior start.

“The farther she goes, the better because I’ve had the family on the dam’s side, and Curlin just adds to it,” trainer Marty Wolfson said.
Meanwhile, Terra Promessa reconfirmed her affinity for Oaklawn Park, winning the Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes after launching her season with a win in the Pippin Stakes last month. The filly is now 5 for 5 at the Arkansas track.

Curlin’s other stakes winners this season are the well-regarded Irish War Cry, who took the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 4 at Gulfstream, and Union Jackson, who finally picked up his first stakes tally in the Sam Houston Sprint Cup on Feb. 11.

The unbeaten Irish War Cry is the latest 3-year-old standout for Curlin, who has been represented by a classic winner or classic-placed runner in each of his first four crops. The stallion followed up on his first-crop success with 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, 2014 Preakness Stakes runner-up Ride On Curlin, 2015 Belmont third-place finisher Keen Ice, and 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator.

Curlin was represented in 2016 by multiple Grade 1 winners Exaggerator, who took the Santa Anita Derby and Haskell Invitational in addition to the Preakness, and Stellar Wind, the 2015 3-year-old filly champ who defeated champion Beholder in the Clement L. Hirsch and Zenyatta stakes. Curlin added Grade 1 winners Connect, Curalina, and Off the Tracks to finish second to Tapit on the general sire list by earnings.

Further highlighting the quality of his offspring, Curlin finished a narrow second in Daily Racing Form’s 2016 Beyer Sire Performance Standings among active Kentucky stallions by percentage of individual runners earning triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures; his 4.2 percent was just edged out by Medaglia d’Oro’s 4.8 percent. The co-highest Beyer Speed Figure for a filly or mare in 2016 belonged to Stellar Wind, who posted a 110 when winning the Zenyatta.

Curlin looks poised to continue his momentum, on the track and off. With his four stakes winners already carrying the banner, Connect and Stellar Wind will join the fray later this season. Meanwhile, Curlin, whose stud fee rose to $150,000 this season, is set to cover a top book of mares, including Grade 1 winners Cavorting, Marketing Mix, Rachel’s Valentina, and Taris.