After racing concluded April 7, rising top-10 sire Curlin has his best chance of being represented by a Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) winner with four potential contenders this year, a new feat for the son of Smart Strike.
Hill 'n' Dale Farms' 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year has yet to sire a Derby winner, but the sire of three champions and eight grade 1 winners has grade 1 winner and $1 million yearling purchase Good Magic, grade 1-placed Solomini, and the newly dubbed graded stakes winner Vino Rosso, as well as lightly raced Tenfold aiming to get to the classic in 2018.
"It's gratifying when the horse continues to excel, and not only meet but exceed expectations," Hill 'n' Dale president John Sikura said. "His trajectory keeps rising. This is a good crop as an example to lend credence to the fact that he's one of the very best sires in North America."
Solomini, who is owned in partnership by Zayat Stables and the Coolmore connections of Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, is the morning-line second choice at odds of 2-1 for the Arkansas Derby (G1) behind Magnum Moon (8-5). Just finishing among the top four at Oaklawn Park would earn the colt enough points through the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying preps to guarantee a spot in the starting gate.
With 34 points, the colt is 19th on the leaderboard. The Arkansas Derby is the last race offering 100 points to the winner and provides 40-20-10 points for second through fourth.
Curlin's son Tenfold, two for two lifetime, is slated to make his stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby as well. He would need to finish first or second to gain entry to the Run for the Roses.
Stonestreet Stables and e Five Racing Thoroughbreds' Good Magic has been flaunting his talent since finishing second in the Champagne Stakes (G1) and following that effort with a 4 1/4-length victory in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). Solomini finished second in that race, giving Curlin a Breeders' Cup exacta.
After finishing third in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) in his 2018 debut, the champion 2-year-old Good Magic returned to the winner's circle April 7 in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), regaining his top spot on the Louisville classic's leaderboard with 134 points.
Bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Good Magic is out of the graded stakes-placed Hard Spun mare Glinda the Good. The cross of Curlin with Hard Spun mares has only been tried four times but is similar to that of Irish War Cry in that both broodmare sires are by Danzig.
Curlin crossed with sons or grandsons of the three-time leading sire Danzig has produced seven stakes winners from 61 starters, or an 11% rate. This is just above the stakes winner-to-starter rate of 10% for all other broodmare sires crossed with Curlin.
The cross that produced Vino Rosso has been tried even less. Bred by John Gunther, from his mare Mythical Bride, Vino Rosso is one of only three foals to result from Curlin with Street Cry mares.
Solomini was bred by veterinarian Glenna Salyer and is out of the Storm Cat mare Surf Song, an unraced daughter of multiple graded stakes winner Fleet Lady (by Avenue of Flags). The cross of Curlin with Storm Cat mares has been more prolific, producing 22% stakes winners from starters. This compares to a 9% stakes winner-to-starter rate from his progeny out of all other mares. Grade 2 stakes winner Diversy Harbor and grade 1-placed Ride On Curlin represent this cross.
Last year, grade 2 winner Irish War Cry represented Curlin in the Derby and finished off the board, but he went on to place second in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1).
In the 2016 Derby, Curlin's son Exaggerator finished 1 1/4 lengths behind winner Nyquist and 3 1/4 lengths in front of eventual Horse of the Year Gun Runner . Exaggerator won the Preakness Stakes (G1) two weeks later, giving Curlin his first classic winner since Palace Malice won the 2013 Belmont.
Curlin entered stud at Lane's End for a $75,000 fee. In part due to turmoil surrounding his owners, the stallion's fee declined to as low as $25,000 in 2013 and 2014. After standing the 2015 season at $35,000, the stallion was transferred by majority owner Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Farm to Hill 'n' Dale, which had purchased a 20% interest in the horse.
His fee jumped to $100,000 for the 2016 breeding season after his daughter Curalina produced grade 1 victories in the Acorn Stakes (G1) and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), his son Keen Ice took the Travers Stakes (G1), and Stellar Wind won the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) the previous year. Curlin's runners captured 12 graded stakes in 2015.
"The year he got here, we committed our best mares, Hill 'n' Dale-owned mares," Sikura said. "Last year, he bred Tepin, this year he bred Beholder, so (he is) breeding a depth of quality mares. You couldn't ask for better than the champions and major producers that he's breeding."
The stallion has commanded a price of $150,000 for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
"His book is really quite restrictive compared to most of the elite (stallions)—he breeds 140 mares," Sikura said. "The feeling of the ownership group, led by Barbara Banke, is that we would like the horse to hopefully breed for a long time—therefore not overtax the horse. And then from a commercial point of view—breeders that spend that kind of money to breed to a horse—we like to protect them and have them be one of a handful, rather than one of a bushel-full, when it comes to competition within the crop."