Curlin's Approval Heads Princess Rooney
Curlin's Approval came into her own during Gulfstream Park's 2016-2017 championship meet, with dazzling open-lengths triumphs in the Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G3) and the Royal Delta Stakes (G2).
The 4-year-old daughter of Curlin seeks a return to form in the $250,000 Princess Rooney Presented by Hardacre Farm (G2) July 1 on Gulfstream's Summit of Speed card. The Princess Rooney and the co-featured $250,000 Smile Sprint on Saturday’s Summit of Speed card are Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ races.
Curlin's Approval has won five of eight starts, including three stakes, at Gulfstream, where she is slated to meet 10 other fillies and mares going seven furlongs. The winner will earn a fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) Nov. 4 at Del Mar as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series.
Curlin's Approval captured her career debut at Gulfstream last June so impressively that she was entered in the Azalea on last year's Summit of Speed card for her second start. She weakened to fifth after stalking the pace, but came back to win an optional claiming allowance and the Added Elegance Stakes. She was shipped to Keeneland in October to make her graded-stakes debut in the Raven Run (G2), in which she chased the pace between horses before weakening to fourth.
The Kentucky-bred filly opened her Gulfstream Championship Meet campaign with a close second-place finish in the one-turn mile Rampart Stakes (G3) before cutting back to seven furlongs to score a 2 1/2-length victory in the Hurricane Bertie. She was sent around two turns for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Royal Delta, and she responded with a sharp six-length romp.
Favored at 3-5 in the seven-furlong Inside Information (G2) March 18, Curlin's Approval came up flat, finishing an even fifth.
"She won a grade 3 and a grade 2 (just) 20 days apart," Alter said. "Sometimes horses will bounce a little. She had just won the grade 2 stake at a mile-and-a-sixteenth. Coming off fractions of 24-and-change and so on, she was a little flat-footed coming out of the gate going seven-eighths. For this race, we've sharpened her up. Even though she showed she could win two turns, the majority of her stakes have been six furlongs, seven-eighths."
Luis Saez, who was aboard Curlin's Approval for her back-to-back graded-stakes victories during the Championship Meet, has the mount.
Among her rivals Saturday are three horses that have defeated Curlin's Approval in stakes action: Distinta, Dearest, and Lightstream.
VEB Racing Stable Corp.'s Distinta, a veteran South Florida stakes performer, came up with a career-best effort to notch a half-length victory to earn graded-stakes credentials in the Inside Information. The 5-year-old daughter of Summer Bird will return to action Saturday off a 3 1/2-month break.
"After her last race, we wanted to give her time to relax," said trainer Victor Barboza Jr., whose stretch-running mare started five times during the championship meet. "She's doing very good."
Gelfenstein Farm's Dearest, who captured last year's Azalea over a light-on-experience Curlin's Approval, took the Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3) before finishing third, a half-length behind Distinta, in the Inside Information. The Gilberto Zerpa-trained 4-year-old is slated to be ridden by Emisael Jaramillo in her first start since March 18.
Lightstream, who defeated Curlin's Approval in the Raven's Run last fall, has raced once at Gulfstream, where she debuted impressively with a 2 1/4-length triumph at seven furlongs in March 2016. Last time out, the Brian Lynch-trained 4-year-old filly finished third in the Bed o' Roses Invitational Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park under Javier Castellano, who has the return mount Saturday.
Birdatthewire brings grade 1 credentials into the Princess Rooney, in which she finished third last year. Forum Racing IV's 2015 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) winner has gone winless in 10 starts, nine in graded races, since winning the La Brea (G1) at Santa Anita Park in December 2015. Trainer Tom Proctor, who most recently saddled the 5-year-old daughter of Summer Bird to a second-place finish in a Presque Isle Downs allowance in her 2017 debut, has awarded the mount to Drayden Van Dyke.
Multiple graded stakes-placed Kinsley Kisses, undefeated in two starts at Gulfstream for trainer Todd Pletcher, is coming off a second-place finish in the Sugar Maple Stakes at Charles Town April 22.
"She's run well there before and she ran well last time. It was just a difficult assignment from an outside post and she kind of had to take a wide trip all the way around at Charles Town," said Pletcher, who named Tyler Gaffalione to ride the daughter of Congrats . "We felt like seven furlongs is a good distance for her and she's run well at Gulfstream so we thought it made sense."
Nick Zito-trained Wheatfield, who finished a close second behind Distinta in the Inside Information; Concealedwithakiss, a multiple stakes winner at Gulfstream; Patriotic Diamond, a multiple stakes-placed filly who finished second in the Ana T. in her Gulfstream debut last time out; and stakes winners More Than a Party and Money or Love round out the field.