Whirlin Curlin: Time, gelding, and now, a bright future
by Frank Vespe
A month ago Whirlin Curlin was about as nondescript as a Laurel Park horse could be: in two starts, he’d finished sixth twice, beaten a total of five horses, and appeared to be on the road to racing nowhere.
And today? After taking today’s $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Futurity for two-year-old Maryland-breds, the two-year-old son of Curlin is now a two-time stake winner, and if his connections have visions of racing’s sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads this evening, well, who could blame them?
And all it took, perhaps, was a little time — and a minor surgical procedure.
“We gelded him,” trainer Gary Capuano said following Whirlin Curlin’s upset win in this afternoon’s $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Futurity. “We cut him, that would seem to be the big thing.”
Whirlin Curlin lost his debut by 37 lengths, which earned him a trip to the vet and a gelding.
“It was just get his mind right,” Capuano continued. “He wasn’t very fast. We just figured, he’s not going to be stallion-credentialed, not the way he is now. He wasn’t very fast. He wasn’t beating anybody.
“Two-year-olds change,” he added. “Physically, he looked good. Mentally or whatever, he just wasn’t putting it together.”
In today’s Futurity, Whirlin Curlin was, at 21-1, the second-longest shot in the six-horse field. When the gates opened, the speedy Jamaican Don shot to the early lead, but after a quarter-mile, five of the six were within a length-and-a-quarter of each other, the lone exception being the dawdling favorite, Clever Mind, who was nearly five lengths back.
Under meet-leading rider Jevian Toledo, Whirlin Curlin moved up while wide to join the early fray, one of three horses heads apart after a half-mile in 46.73 seconds on a snowy day over a track rated fast.
Jamaican Don had backed out by that point, and soon so would Cordmaker, who was second after a half. That winnowed the competitive portion of the race down to just two, Whirlin Curlin to the outside and second favorite Still Having Fun, from the Tim Keefe barn, down on the rail.
Those two slugged it out to the wire, Whirlin Curlin gradually pulling ahead to prevail by a neck.
“This was another huge step,” Capuano said. “The horse on the inside (Still Having Fun) seemed like a really, really nice horse. It was a very salty group. It wasn’t many horses, but it was pretty deep.”
It marked Whirlin Curlin’s second consecutive victory in restricted stakes company. Two weeks back, he won the Christopher Elser Memorial Stakes, a South Carolina residency race, at 23-1 odds — just longer than his 21-1 number this afternoon. Whirlin Curlin, who paid $45,80 to win, now has two wins from four starts and purse earnings of $91,600. Running time for the seven furlongs was 1:23.96.
Whirlin Curlin is certainly bred for stardom. He’s a son of Curlin, the two-time Horse of the Year who’s become a major sire in recent years, and he’s out of the Storm Cat mare Lexington Girl. Bred in Maryland by his owner Marathon Farm, Whirlin Curlin’s a half-brother to Lexington Street, a filly who won three times, including a stake, as a two-year-old before suffering an injury that she never quite got all the way back from.
“She was going to be pretty good,” Capuano said of Lexington Street. “She got hurt, but we thought she could have been any kind.”
And Whirlin Curlin? Capuano didn’t exactly embrace the notion that the horse might go on to do big things, but he didn’t dismiss it, either.
“The Curlins, sometimes they don’t get better until they get a little older,” Capuano said. “He’s come a long way in a short time, and I give a lot of credit to my grooms, to my assistants. The exercise rider, Al Cortez, just loves this horse – he loves this horse. He always told me he was going to be a good horse. I said he’s got a lot left to prove.”
True, but a lot less today than he did last month.