05/23/2016 12:10PM

Exaggerator continues remarkable run for sire Curlin

Barbara D. Livingston
Exaggerator is Curlin's fourth progeny in four years with a top three finish in a Triple Crown race.

The morning after the Preakness Stakes, trainer Keith Desormeaux needed to look no further than Exaggerator’s pedigree line to express his confidence about the upcoming Belmont Stakes.

“It’s about pedigree,” Desormeaux said. “I can’t do much more in deepening his fitness – it’s there. That mile-and-a-half deal, pedigree is more important than what I’m gonna do in the morning. Pedigree wins the Belmont.

“Curlin could run all day,” Desormeaux added. “Curlin got beat a [neck] in the Belmont. Curlin is known for producing a classic horse. What makes a great sire is his ability to pass on dominant athletic genes.”

There are few better sources of classic stamina in North America than Curlin, who has been represented by a winner or a placed runner in the Triple Crown series in each of his first four crops. First came 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, followed by 2014 Preakness Stakes runner-up Ride On Curlin and 2015 Belmont third-place finisher Keen Ice. Now there is Exaggerator, who showed maturity beyond his years while developing into a well-traveled multiple graded stakes winner as a juvenile. This spring, the colt won the Santa Anita Derby, finished second in the Kentucky Derby, and won the Preakness by 3 1/2 lengths.

Curlin, a strapping, chestnut son of Smart Strike, was North America’s leading money winner at the time of his retirement. He won 11 of 16 starts and earned $10,501,800. Campaigned by a partnership led by the late Jess Jackson and wife Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen, Curlin’s biggest wins included the Dubai World Cup, Preakness, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Stephen Foster Handicap, Woodward Stakes, and two editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Curlin competed with distinction in all three legs of the Triple Crown, finishing third in the 2007 Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont in addition to his Preakness victory. He has passed on a similar toughness to his offspring, as Desormeaux credits Exaggerator’s fast recovery time as one reason for his big Preakness performance.

Desormeaux said that immediately after the race, his brother, Kent Desormeaux, who rode Exaggerator, said, “Keith, he cooled out already.”

“His heart rate was down again, his respiratory rate was almost to normal, and you could see a real calm look in his eyes,” Keith Desormeaux said. “Most horses, when they run that huge effort, they’re bug-eyed and rattled and sweated up even. He was totally calm.”

Curlin began his stud career in 2009 at Lane’s End Farm, and nine of his 10 graded stakes winners have scored those victories at a mile or beyond. In 2015, Curlin was represented by his first champion, as Stellar Wind won the Santa Anita Oaks and finished a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff to earn the 3-year-old filly title. Keen Ice was the only horse on the season to defeat Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, running down the champion in the Travers Stakes, while Curalina was a multiple Grade 1 winner in New York. Curlin’s career year also included graded stakes-winning juveniles Exaggerator and Off the Tracks and graded winners Diversy Harbor and Ocean Knight.

Curlin has moved to Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm – which purchased a minority interest in him last year via sealed bid in an asset forfeiture auction – for the 2016 season, and along with his new home, he has a new price tag. His $100,000 fee places him among North America’s elite stallions and may also serve to boost his stud career by improving the quality of mares sent to him. He now has the benefit of Hill ‘n’ Dale’s elite broodmare band and is already reaping the rewards. The operation purchased the champion Take Charge Brandi for $6 million last November for the purpose of crossing her with the stallion.

“An opportunity to invest in a proven stallion is rare, so we are honored by Barbara’s trust in us to stand Curlin,” Hill ‘n’ Dale owner John Sikura said. “Of course, his addition to our roster is a huge boost for us.”

Stonestreet has always supported Curlin with its best mares, as was immediately evident when the champion Rachel Alexandra visited him for her first mating in 2011. Last year, mares sent to Curlin by Stonestreet included the champion Dayatthespa and Grade 1 winner and producer Dream Rush. Stonestreet’s homebreds by the stallion include Terra Promessa, a winner of four straight races, most recently the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes.

“We’re obviously extremely proud of who Curlin is, and I think that [his foals] are carrying on his legacy nicely,” Asmussen said. “But I feel like the best is yet to come for the Curlins. I really do.”