Scotland Takes Next Step in Curlin Stakes

July 17, 2023

Scotland holds on to win an allowance optional claimer June 3 at Churchill Downs (Coady Photography)

By Ashley Tamulonis

Saratoga’s $135,000, 1 1/8-mile Curlin Stakes on Friday attracted a compact field of five. Grade 1 winner Blazing Sevens figures to be the heavy favorite, but up-and-coming Scotland appears poised to douse Blazing Sevens’s fire.

A homebred for LNJ Foxwoods, Scotland (Good Magic—Gemswick Park, by Speightstown) is trained by Bill Mott, who did not unveil the gelding until March 4. With Junior Alvarado in the irons for the 7-furlong, $84,000 maiden special weight at Gulfstream, Scotland was off just a beat slow and trailed the field early, though he was still within four lengths of the pacesetter. 

As the field approached the far turn, Alvarado and Scotland launched their attack, moving up into fourth by the time they turned for home. Scotland continued to rally down the lane, finally nailing the pacesetting Let It Ride in the shadow of the wire.

That has proven to be a key race as three others from the top five have returned winners. Runner-up Let It Ride won at second asking in April but hasn’t raced since. Fourth-place finisher Sweet Cherry Pie was also a next-out victor and has since also captured the $100,000 My Frenchman Stakes at Monmouth. Fifth-place finisher Armstrong won his next two races, including the $75,000 Not Surprising Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

In his next start, a $110,000, non-winners of two, allowance race at Keeneland, Scotland missed by just a head as the odds-on favorite to stakes-placed Tumbarumba. This time, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard, Scotland was much quicker out of the gate and up close to the pace. Breaking from the outside post in the field of five, the gelding raced widest of all, ending up in the six path as they hit the top of the stretch. Scotland had the lead with a sixteenth left to go, but as he and Tumbarumba shifted down to the rail, that rival continued to fight on and won the head-bobbing finish. 

Mott next took his charge to Churchill Downs for a one-mile, $100,000, non-winners of two, optional claimer. Reunited with Alvarado, Scotland was once again sent off as the odds-on favorite. Rather than race up on the pace, Alvarado kept Scotland at the rear of the field, mimicking their maiden-breaking run. As the field entered the stretch, Scotland and Alvarado made a similar wide move that swept them to another victory as they held off fellow closer Cagliostro by just a head.

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This field included stakes-placed Bourbon Bash, who finished eighth. Runner-up Cagliostro was a close third in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby in his next start. Likewise, third-place finisher Heroic Move was a very close third in the Iowa Derby next out. Fifth-place finisher Loyal Company dropped in class and returned a winner.

By the numbers, Scotland is one of the best in the field. Blazing Sevens earned a field (and career) best 102 Equibase speed figure when losing the Grade 1 Preakness by a head; however, Scotland is right there with him, notching a 101 when losing by a nose to Tumbarumba two starts back. When you look at winning races, Scotland received a 99 in his last start, while Blazing Sevens’s best winning number is the 98 he earned when winning the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes in October, which incidentally, was his last victory.

Blazing Sevens carries a heavy advantage in terms of class and experience. Also a son of Good Magic, the Chad Brown trainee exits six straight graded starts, all of them but one at the highest level. His last two starts saw him finish 3rd in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 1 Blue Grass and 2nd in the 1 3/16-mile Grade 1 Preakness. This will be Scotland’s stakes debut and first attempt beyond a mile.

Bill Mott isn’t known to throw darts with his charges. Having Scotland entered here says that Mott is confident that Scotland is ready to step up in both class and distance. Mott has been firing on all cylinders in stakes race, winning at an above-average 21% clip. He also wins at a 23% rate with last race winners. 

Scotland drew post four with Blazing Sevens just to his inside in gate three. Breaking from the rail is Federico Tesio winner Perform, who was most recently 6th in the Preakness. In post two is Lost Ark, a Violence half-brother to champion Nest. The colt has raced just once since being eased in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November. He made his seasonal debut a winning one, taking a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer at Monmouth last month. Il Miracolo rounds out the field in post five. He’s 5: 2-3-0 in maiden and allowance company and scored his only two career wins in gate-to-wire fashion. Trainer Antonio Sano has been ambitious with him, however, that ambition has yet to pay off as the son of Gun Runner is 6: 0-0-0 in stakes races.

Should Scotland land the Curlin Stakes, he will be primed to make a run at the best in the division in the $1.25 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes on August 26th at Saratoga.

Contributing Authors

Ashley Tamulonis

Ashley Tamulonis

Ashley has been an avid horse racing fan since she was introduced to the sport through the Joanna Campbell series "Thoroughbred." As a Georgia native...

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