June 19, 2024

Artorius bursts into Travers picture by dominating Curlin Stakes

Artorius evoked memories of sire Arrogate when romping in the Curlin S. (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

Trainer Chad Brown sends out his top two Travers (G1) candidates in Saturday’s Jim Dandy (G2), but the late-developing Artorius stated his “Midsummer Derby” case in Friday’s $135,000 Curlin S. at Saratoga. The Juddmonte homebred drew off with authority by 4 3/4 lengths in his stakes and two-turn debut.

Unraced at two, placed in a sprint in April, and graduating in his second start going longer in early June, Artorius brings a profile reminiscent of his sire – the late champion Arrogate. While Arrogate went on to capture two allowances prior to his record-setting Travers in 2016, Artorius skipped the allowance step and dove straight into stakes company here.

“I always thought he could be in the conversation with some of my better three-year-olds getting on the (Kentucky) Derby trail,” Brown said, “and he just had a few minor things, but we were patient with him. To see him finally start to develop, albeit late, hopefully a little like his father, maybe better late than never. If he can show up on the big day like his sire did, I would be honored.”

Artorius was facing winners, including a few with graded stakes experience, for the first time. Chief among them was the 1.85-1 favorite Creative Minister, the Preakness (G1) third who was dropping down in class and trip off a fifth in the Belmont (G1).

Brown explained the appeal of a stakes like the Curlin, restricted to three-year-olds who have not won a graded stakes at a mile or over in 2022, as an alternative to the Jim Dandy.

“I think it (the Curlin) serves a good purpose,” the horseman said. “He wasn’t ready to go in a race like the Jim Dandy. This race yields another Travers starter if the horse is sound. It’s a race we’ve had some success with in the past, either winning or in close defeat to go on to the Travers. It’s a nice program.

“That was the point of this (running Artorius in the Curlin); to get him around two turns over the track to get him a good prep for the Travers.”

The 2.70-1 second choice was more than ready for this assignment. Breaking from the outside post 8, Artorius was able to angle over into a ground-saving spot on the clubhouse turn. The dark bay was fourth in the early going, but gaining ground at every call, and traveling like a winner a long way out.

Pacesetter A.P.’s Secret carved out splits of :23.93, :48.24, and 1:12.08 and continued to lead turning for home. Yet Artorius was now poised to shift out and take aim for Irad Ortiz Jr. With a decisive move that belied his inexperience, Artorius put away the longtime leader in a few strides. He extended his margin in the final furlong and covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.34, ears pricked.

Gilded Age, who had been third to Early Voting in the Withers (G3), closed from well back to take second by 1 1/2 lengths. Creative Minister tried to follow Artorius into the stretch, but couldn’t pick up enough to threaten. The favorite checked in a one-paced third, nipping A.P.’s Secret by a nose. Western River passed tiring rivals to go from last to fifth, followed by Golden Glider, Make It Big, and the eased Be Better. Wolfe County was scratched.

Ortiz revealed Brown’s instructions.

“He just told me try to save ground on both turns, so I just tried to do what he told me,” Ortiz said. “They didn’t like the post so my horse broke OK and I was able to go over fast and I know the one (Western River) and two (Gilded Age) don’t show speed. Those kind of horses don’t have the speed. The other horses went out ahead of me, so I was able to drop in quick, and I go from there and got a perfect trip.”

Artorius has progressed with every start. Rolling late to get up for second in a six-furlong maiden at Keeneland April 16, he secured better early position en route to his victory around Belmont Park’s one-turn mile June 10. His Curlin success increased his earnings to $142,250 from his 3-2-1-0 line.

“We were pretty high on the horse and he was doing super,” Brown said. “He got a late start but we always liked the horse. I can’t say enough appreciation for Juddmonte. What a great team led by Garrett O’Rourke and the team back at the farm. They bred such a great horse, raised such a great horse and broke him and sent him to us in fine shape. It’s just a pleasure to train a horse so well-bred, well-raised and cared for.”

The Kentucky-bred is the product of a long-term plan by the late Khalid Abdullah’s operation. His dam, millionaire sprinter Paulassilverlining, was acquired specifically as a future mate for Arrogate. The Ghostzapper mare had captured six stakes, four of them graded, for trainer Michelle Nevin, and placed third in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).

Transferred to Brown for her 2017 campaign, Paulassilverlining added three major wins in the Juddmonte silks – the Humana Distaff (G1), Madison (G1), and Honorable Miss H. (G2) at the Spa – and retired with more than $1.5 million in her account.

“Training his mother, she was a seven-furlong horse, but what a brilliant mating to the great Arrogate by Juddmonte to put some speed into a classic distance horse like Arrogate,” Brown said. “I think we have a special one here as a result of it.”