SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – First Captain has stamped himself as a rising star through a perfect 3-for-3 record, and will try to keep winning ways intact when racing outside of Belmont Park for the first time in Friday’s 12th running of the $120,000 Curlin for sophomores going nine furlongs at Saratoga Race Course.
The restricted stakes outing for 3-year-olds who have not won a sweepstakes over one mile in 2021 is named in honor of the 2007-08 Horse of the Year who became the first North American thoroughbred to reach the $10 million earnings mark. Through a record of 16-11-2-2, Curlin captured the 2007 Preakness, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic during his 3-year-old campaign before adding four more Grade 1 events to his ledger in the Dubai World Cup, Stephen Foster, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup the following year.
First Captain will look to become the second Curlin offspring to capture his sire’s namesake race after Connect won in 2013. Since breaking his maiden at seven furlongs by three-quarters of a length over next-out winner Mahaamel in April at Belmont Park, First Captain scored once more against winners five weeks later over Big Sandy going a one-turn mile.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey entered First Captain for his first stakes test last out in the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 5 at Belmont Park, and he handled the class boost with flying colors, capturing the one-turn mile by 1 ¾ lengths.
“He is doing really well up here,” McGaughey said. “He lost his whole 2-year-old year so he’s still behind, but he’s trying to catch up. I think that his last race was good and he certainly likes this track here. I’m looking forward to it. We have been taking it one step at a time.”
First Captain is owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm, Woodford Racing and celebrity culinary artist Bobby Flay, the latter of whom also bred the chestnut colt.
Purchased for $1.5 million from the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale, First Captain is out of the graded stakes-winning and Grade 1-placed A.P. Indy broodmare America and hails from the prestigious line of blue hen mare Best in Show, whose descendants include Belmont Stakes winners Jazil and Rags to Riches as well as multiple Group 1-winning Irish champion distaffer Peeping Fawn.
Jockey Jose Ortiz, who guided 2019 Curlin victor Highest Honors, retains the mount from post 4.
Three Chimneys Farm and e Five Thoroughbreds’ Collaborate seeks to live up to the hype he garnered following an astonishing 12 ½-length maiden romp on February 27 at a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park. The son of Into Mischief followed with a distant fifth in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Florida Derby for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr.
After a significant cutback in distance when third to stablemate Moonlite Strike in the 6 ½-furlong Roar on May 15, Collaborate defeated winners in a one-mile allowance on June 20, both at Gulfstream Park.
“The Florida Derby was a bit disappointing; but it was probably a bit quick back also,” Joseph, Jr. said. “He ran third after that. We did a minor throat procedure on him and thought we saw the right horse last time going a mile again. I’m hoping to build on that. The Curlin will be a big test.”
Collaborate is out of the graded stakes winning Quiet American mare Quiet Temper and was bought for $600,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione will ride from post 6.
Repole Stable, Phipps Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Dynamic One is the lone Kentucky Derby alumni in the Curlin field and has not raced since finishing 18th in the ‘Run for the Roses’.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the son of Union Rags broke his maiden at fourth asking at nine furlongs on March 7 at Aqueduct.
“He got a good freshening after the Derby, and we’ve been thinking about the Curlin since then,” said Pletcher, who previously saddled Turbo Compressor  and Outplay  to Curlin scores. “He’s trained accordingly, and we’ll see if he can make a move forward. He and [Kentucky Oaks winner] Malathaat trained quite a bit together at Belmont and made good companions on a similar schedule.”
Dynamic One registered his final work for the Curlin on Friday, breezing five furlongs in 1:02.20 over the Oklahoma training track.
“I thought he handled it fine,” Pletcher said of the breeze. “He’s always been a good work horse and trained really well. He’s still putting it all together. Hopefully, as he continues to mature, he will continue to improve.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the call from post 7.
Susan Quick and Christopher Feifarek’s Beren arrives at the Curlin as the most seasoned horse in the field with ten starts and brings three consecutive stakes victories into the race for trainer Butch Reid, Jr.
The son of Weigelia, a previous track record holder at Belmont Park for six furlongs over the inner turf [1:07.04 on June 17, 2006], captured the Gold Fever and an off-the-turf edition of the Paradise Creek over Big Sandy before beating his Pennsylvania-bred counterparts in the Crowd Pleaser on June 22 at Parx Racing.
Reid, Jr. said Beren, who breezed a bullet half-mile in 46.60 seconds Friday over the Saratoga main track, could cross-enter in the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam on August 1 going 6 ½ furlongs.
“We may end up cross-entering in the Amsterdam. He breezed awful fast the other day and I’m not sure that’s conducive to going a mile and eighth the way he breezed. He came out of it great and hasn’t missed an oat. He’s doing very well,” Reid, Jr. said. “My inclination is to keep him around two turns, but the way he breezed the other day, it looks like he really handled the track well. He gives you options, that’s for sure.”
Reid, Jr. did not rule out starting Beren on turf at some point.
“We wanted to try the turf with him too, but that one rained off,” Reid, Jr. said. “His father was the track record holder at Belmont at six furlongs on the turf. His mother, Silmaril, was a multiple graded winner. He’s very well bred and we have a lot of options. We’ll see how he goes the next couple of days and make up our minds.”
Jockey Frankie Pennington retains the mount from post 5.
Trainer Rodolphe Brisset will saddle CHC and WinStar Farm’s regally-bred Harvard, a full-brother to 2016 Champion 2-Year-Old Classic Empire who is unbeaten in two starts around two turns.
After making the third time the charm in his two-turn debut in May at Indiana Grand, the son of Pioneerof the Nile bested winners in a nine-furlong allowance race on June 11 at Churchill Downs, which featured next-out winner Dack Janiel’s.
Harvard will be ridden by Luis Saez from post 3.
Peter Brant and Robert V. LaPenta’s Miles D, a son of Curlin, makes his two-turn debut for trainer Chad Brown after a sharp one-turn mile maiden triumph on June 12 at Belmont Park. The bay colt made his first start since October, when fourth on debut finishing behind Speaker’s Corner and stakes-winners Caddo River and Greatest Honour.
Breaking from post 1, Miles D will be ridden by Joel Rosario.
Completing the field is Juddmonte Farms’ Snow House, who was previously third in the Grade 3 Dwyer. The bay son of Twirling Candy broke his maiden going a two-turn mile on April 21 at Keeneland before defeating winners around a one-turn mile on May 29 at Churchill Downs for trainer Brad Cox.
Snow House will break from post 2 under Manny Franco.
The Curlin is slated as Race 9 on Friday’s 10-race card, which offers a first post of 1:05 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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Saratoga Race Course Press Release
Photo: First Captain, (Chelsea Durand)