Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum bought five colts by Bernardini through his primary agent John Ferguson a little less than two years ago at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings. Two of them, bought for nearly the same price about an hour apart, will start in today's $100,000 Curlin Stakes as a coupled entry in a field of eight in the restricted race for 3-year-olds.
They'll carry the maroon and white colors of Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable. One of the riders will wear a white cap, the other maroon. Kiaran McLaughlin and Tom Albertrani will each tack up one and give their respective riders a leg up.
McLaughlin sends out the more experienced of the duo in Transparent, who is out of graded stakes winner Habiboo and cost $725,000. He's run eight times, won twice and was sixth in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes this year.
Transparent, once considered a possibility for the spring classics, won an allowance race April 4 at Aqueduct but hasn't started since.
"It's hard to say where we were with him with the [Kentucky Derby] points system and all," McLaughlin said. "We never really were, but we did have the Peter Pan in mind after that win."
Romansh, who is out of the stakes-winning Go for Gin mare Cologny and cost $750,000, was a little further behind his entrymate earlier this year. He showed up in Albertrani's barn around the New Year and comes into today's 1 1/8-mile Curlin off just three starts. The last was a victory going 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track at Belmont May 25.
Romansh ran with Lasix for the first time in that race and will get blinkers for the first time today.
"I put some blinkers on him for tomorrow because I felt after his first couple of races that he wasn't focused," Albertrani said Thursday. "I was tempted to put them on for his last race, but I wanted to give him a little bit more of a chance, just to see if he'd come around."
Those are some of the differences and some of the similarities. For more, The Special checked with the trainers Thursday morning.
The Special: What stands out about your colt physically?
Albertrani: He's a nice big, strong, strapping colt that looks like he's got a lot of talent. I like the horse. He's a horse that got our attention early down at Palm Meadows before he even started. It took him a couple races to put things together. But in his last race it took him a while. He was kind of on and off the bit a couple times throughout the race and then he finally got running late, so I added blinkers to maybe help him focus more.
McLaughlin: Transparent's a big, strong, good-looking horse. He's had a few issues and that's why we haven't run him in a while, but he's doing well now and training great. Hopefully all is well until Friday. He's a neat horse and I think (jockey) Irad (Ortiz) really likes him. He learned a lot about him last time. He just said if he can get him to settle a little bit it's a big deal.
The Special: How about mentally?
Albertrani: He just took a little time. Looking at him train this morning and the last couple days, he's sharp. He should make a nice account for himself.
McLaughlin: The thing about Bernardinis is they're great mentally. The colts are really good, straightforward. All of the Bernardinis are straightforward, so he does everything right.
The Special: How has your colt changed since you got him?
Albertrani: I got him as a 3-year-old. Well, it might have been earlier than that, probably just before the New Year. He's really filled out. Now we're hoping he can make a forward move again off his last race.
McLaughlin: His first start it was real wet. It was slick on top. We never train on the wet track because we have the Poly in the back (at Greentree in Saratoga), so he had never seen anything like it and he got beat a pole. But we liked him. He trained well. Obviously that's just a throw-out. Since then he's done everything right.
The Special: What did Darley tell you about him before sending him your way?
Albertrani: We didn't know a lot about him. He never raced, but he was an attractive colt. He came in with a group of other horses, so we were just picking through them at the time. He was one that maybe, hopefully, surfaced to the top. This is a good spot to test him. Hopefully he can make that step up.
McLaughlin: They don't say much. We don't go through every horse.
The Special: What do you know about the other Darley horse?
Albertrani: Well, he was very impressive in his last start as well. Beat a small field that day. If I had to pick out any horse to beat it would be him, and I'm sure Kiaran might be saying the same thing about mine.
McLaughlin: Nice horse, first-time Lasix, won easy. We're still not on Lasix and he won easy. Nice horse, a good entry.
The Special: Which half of the entry is better?
Albertrani: I'm hoping it's mine, that's all.
McLaughlin: I don't know. You don't know. It's nice to have two chances. I don't know his horse, but on form he's coming the right way and we've been away a while. So he might have the edge a couple different ways.
The entry is the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Others in the field include Team Valor's Irish-bred stakes winner Cerro, who scored in the Canonero II at Pimlico June 1 for trainer Rick Mettee. Alan Garcia returns aboard the son of Mr. Greeley at 4-1. Trainer Steve Asmussen entered Mike McCarty's Proud Strike, who tested the Grade 2 level twice in at Fair Grounds early this year and exits a win at Churchill Downs in late June. Ricardo Santana Jr. comes in for the ride aboard the Smart Strike colt. Tony Dutrow entered Edge of Reality for owner/breeder The Elkstone Group. The son of Lawyer Ron rides a two-race winning streak at Parx and has been training at Fair Hill. Rosie Napravnik rides at 4-1.