February 5, 2023

Brown duo among possible Travers hopefuls in Curlin

Cairo Cat and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. upset the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on September 15, 2018 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Friday’s $100,000 Curlin at Saratoga could yield a candidate or two for next month’s Travers (G1), among them the Chad Brown-trained pair of Looking At Bikinis and Highest Honors. Restricted to non-winners of a graded stakes over a mile this year, the Curlin is run over 1 1/8 miles.

Looking At Bikinis has been an odds-on winner in both starts, including his June 27 Belmont comeback at Belmont following a spell of more than nine months. He didn’t win as easily as he did in graduating last September, but the Lookin at Lucky colt edged clear late to beat first-level allowance foes by a half-length going a mile.

Second to next-out scorer Winning Number on debut at Keeneland in April, Highest Honors enters the Curlin off a one-length maiden win at Belmont going 1 1/16 miles. The Will Farish homebred is a Tapit half-brother to multiple Grade 1 turf winner Diamondrella.

Cairo Cat, who garnered the first 2019 Road to the Kentucky Derby series points last September when taking the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs, makes his first start since then victory on Friday. The Kenny McPeek trainee is the only prior stakes winner in the field.

Intrepid Heart was the beaten favorite in the Peter Pan (G3) after rallying for third following an early stumble, then finished five lengths eighth in the Belmont S. (G1) for Todd Pletcher.

“He’s been doing well since the Belmont and, watching his works, he’s been progressing. We’ll take our shot in here with him and see how it goes,” Pletcher said.

Rowayton has placed in all three prior stakes attempts, including to Game Winner in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and American Pharoah (G1) last season and behind Honor Code in the Dwyer (G3) last out. Endorsed is a two-time winner going six furlongs, but was only sixth in the Champagne (G1) in his lone previous stakes try. Grumps Little Tots was elevated to second in the $150,000 Easy Goer most recently but faces much tougher here.