Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina ran away to a 9 1/4-length triumph in the slop July 31 at Saratoga Race Course after shaking clear of Carrumba in early stretch in the $200,000 Shuvee Handicap (gr. III).
Curalina was among three graded stakes winners, and four stakes winners overall, in the span of three days for HIll 'n' Dale Farms resident sire Curlin. She was the first in a graded stakes double Sunday for her sire, whose son Exaggerator won the $1 million Betfair.com Haskell Invitational (gr. I) later in the day at Monmouth Park. Exaggerator was the second grade I winner of the weekend for his sire following Stellar Wind's upset of Beholder in the $300,000 Clement L.Hirsch the previous day at Del Mar. On July 29 at Saratoga, son Connect captured the $100,000 Curlin Stakes to ignite a banner weekend
The Shuvee predictably unfolded as a two-horse contest between three-time grade I winner Curalina and Carrumba, the only other graded winner in the four-horse field, and both at nearly equal odds of 9-10. The pair sprinted away together leaving the gate, with Curalina eventually settling about a half-length behind Carrumba, who set a leisurely tempo throughout the 1 1/8-mile event. But entering the stretch, Curalina exploded to the front and opened an insurmountable lead in the matter of just a few commanding strides to get the win.
Ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher, Curalina covered 1 1/8 miles 1:49.85 as the 122-pound highweight.
Curalina paid $3.80 and $2.10 and Carrumba returned $2.10. There was no show wagering.
Carrumba and Jose Ortiz ticked off early fractions of :24.28, :48.59, and 1:12.75 for six furlongs with Curalina stalking a half-length back. The winner was alongside Carrumba as the pair drew away from the Sweetgrass and Joint Return on the far turn. The top two entered the lane together, but at the three-sixteenths pole Curalina kicked away unchallenged.
"The only speed was Carrumba and myself, so I wanted to make sure that she didn't get away with an easy lead there," Valazquez said. "I stuck with her the whole way around. When I asked my horse, she responded very well.
Added Pletcher: "On paper it looked like kind of a match race. It looked like Carrumba loves an off track, so we didn't want to let her get away. Assuming that Jose was going to go a little bit from the rail, (Johnny) decided when he wanted to turn the pressure up. It looked like when he did he had a lot of horse."
Curalina improved to 6-2-2 from 11 starts that include grade I wins in La Troienne this spring, and 2015 Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks. She came into the Shuvee off a fourth in Odgen Phipps (gr. I), in which Carrumba was third, June 11 at Belmont Park.
Curalina was bred in Kentucky by CASA Farms I from the Graeme Hall mare Whatdreamsaremadeof. Her breeder sold her via Denali Stud for $125,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale.