November 30, 2021

First Captain faces first two-turn test in Curlin

First Captain wins the 2021 Dwyer (Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photography)

First Captain will look to stamp his ticket to the Travers (G1) with a strong showing in Friday’s $120,000 Curlin S. at Saratoga. The unbeaten colt is one of seven three-year-olds in the nine-furlong test.

A perfect 3-for-3 around one turn during the Belmont Park spring/summer meet, First Captain completed the trio of victories in the July 5 Dwyer (G3) by 1 3/4 lengths. That race was over a mile, thus the Shug McGaughey trainee qualifies for the Curlin, which is restricted to non-stakes winners over a mile this year.

Besides his performance on the track to date, First Captain appeals on pedigree. By Curlin, he’s out of the A.P. Indy mare America, a Grade 3 winner over 1 1/8 miles.

“He is doing really well up here,” McGaughey said. “He lost his whole two-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.”

Also stretching out is Beren, who’s won three stakes in succession. The last two, the Paradise Creek S. at Belmont over seven furlongs and the Crowd Pleaser S. for Pennsylvania-breds at Parx over 1 1/16 miles, were achieved by a combined margin of 20 1/4 lengths.

“We may end up cross-entering in the Amsterdam (G2),” said trainer Butch Reid, referring to a 6 1/2-furlong stakes scheduled for Sunday. “He breezed awful fast the other day (four furlongs in :46 3/5) and I’m not sure that’s conducive to going a mile and eighth the way he breezed.

“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.”

Harvard, a Pioneerof the Nile half-brother to juvenile champion Classic Empire, rises in class off a wire-to-wire allowance win at Churchill going 1 1/8 miles. His closest foe that day was Dack Janiels, who rebounded to win at Saratoga opening week.

Dynamic One, narrowly defeated by longshot stablemate Bourbonic in the Wood Memorial (G2) in April, makes his first start since an 18th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1) for Todd Pletcher. The field is rounded out by Snow House, third to First Captain in the Dwyer; Collaborate, who ships up from Gulfstream following a blowout allowance win over a one-turn mile; and recent maiden winner Miles D, a Chad Brown-trained son of Curlin who descends from undefeated Hall of Famer Personal Ensign.