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Curlin stakes claim as Horse of Year
By Richard Rosenblatt | Associated Press
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Published: 10/27/2007 11:24 PM

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OCEANPORT, N.J. -- Curlin has now beaten the Kentucky Derby winner twice, the leading older horse twice and avenged his most recent defeat.

With one emphatic victory against his toughest rivals in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Curlin likely ran away with Horse of the Year honors in a sensational championship season.

"He showed he's a true champion," Curlin jockey Robby Albarado said. "He's an amazing horse."

Derby winner Street Sense tried to catch Curlin with one of jockey Calvin Borel's patented rail-skimming rides, but was unable to make up ground Saturday in the stretch over a sloppy track at Monmouth Park. Curlin defeated Derby runner-up Hard Spun by 4½ lengths.

"Curlin is the genuine article," Borel said after Street Sense finished fourth in the final race of his career. "I just couldn't go with him."

Curlin, who edged Street Sense in the Preakness, moved into contention around the final turn and swept past Hard Spun and Lawyer Ron before a cheering crowd of 41,781 that had endured a rain deluge most of the day.

"He's a big-day horse," winning trainer Steve Asmussen said. "He settled calmly and waited for what was going to happen."

In a meteoric rise to stardom, Curlin not only defeated Lawyer Ron again -- he beat him in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last month -- but also beat Haskell Invitational winner Any Given Saturday and his other 3-year-old rivals Hard Spun and Tiago.

Curlin's record speaks for itself: 6 wins, a narrow loss to the filly Rags to Riches in the Belmont Stakes and two thirds in nine races for earnings of $5.1 million.

The race -- the final one in the first two-day, 11-race, $23 million Breeders' Cup -- was marred in the final yards when European star George Washington broke down and was euthanized on the track. While Curlin and Albarado were crossing the finish line, George Washington was in distress after shattering his right front leg.

Jockey Mick Kinane was uninjured and held the reins as help moved in.

A screen was brought out on the track to prevent fans from watching, and the 4-year-old colt was put down at the request of trainer Aidan O'Brien.

"He had a fracture in his ankle and dislocated his ankle. That's a hopeless injury," said Larry Bramlage, the track's on-call veterinarian. "The trainer requested that he immediately be euthanized."

It was the second year in a row that the Breeders' Cup was marred by a breakdown. Pine Island was euthanized and Fleet Indian sustained a career-ending injury in last year's Distaff.

Awesome Gem, a 28-1 long shot, was third, followed by Street Sense, Tiago, Any Given Saturday, Lawyer Ron and Diamond Stripes.

Curlin, a son of Smart Strike, covered the 1¼ miles in a fast 2:00.59 over a sloppy track and returned $10.80, $5.20 and $4.20. The track record is 2:00 2/5 set in 1962 by Carry Back.

Hard Spun, who came into the race off a win against Street Sense in the Kentucky Cup Classic, returned $7.60 and $5.80. Awesome Gem returned $9.40 to show.

For Street Sense, the loss was tough to take in the final race of his brilliant career.

"I had no excuse. I had nothing but race track in front of me," Borel said. "We just got outrun. I'm sad to see him go, but he's going off to be a dad now."

Asmussen, one of the nation's leading trainers, adds his first Classic win to his first win in a Triple Crown race. The trainer has been impressed with every step Curlin has taken, even after he finished a dull third in the Haskell at Monmouth in August.

Off the track, the Curlin controversy carries on.

The big chestnut colt was purchased privately for $57,000 by William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr., who are currently in jail on charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud in the diet drug fen-phen case. They sold controlling interest of the colt in February for a reported $3.5 million to a group composed of Jess Jackson, founder of Kendall-Jackson wines; Satish Sanan's Padua Stables; and George Bolton.

Curlin did not run as a 2-year-old, and his second start was a victory in the Rebel Stakes. He went on to take the Arkansas Derby, and he was the darling of the Kentucky Derby before finishing third. Two weeks later, the colt turned the tables on Street Sense in the Preakness.

Curlin put in a superb effort in the Belmont, but was beaten a head by Rags to Riches, who became the first filly in 102 years to win the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Asmussen gave his colt a break, taking him to Saratoga for the summer before the Haskell. After a trip back to Saratoga, Curlin returned to New York and won the Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

Juvenile Fillies

Indian Blessing ($5.40) wasn't bothered by a sloppy track and went wire-to-wire for a 3½-length win over Proud Spell.

"She's just a really good filly," Baffert said after his first Breeders' Cup win in five years. "When they're that talented, they just get it done."

Indian Blessing, a daughter of Indian Charlie, became the sixth straight betting favorite to win the Juvenile Fillies. Winning time for the 1 1-16 miles was 1:44.73.


Undefeated War Pass ($6.40) led all the way and beat Pyro by 4½ lengths for Zito's first victory in racing's richest event since 1996, when he won the Juvenile Fillies with Storm Song.

"I always say it's like the mini-Derby, this race," Zito said. "So far we've got a mini-Derby. We've got to get a big Derby."

War Pass improved to 4-0 and is a cinch to be voted 2-year-old champion. It wasn't until this year that a Juvenile winner captured the Derby, with Street Sense breaking the jinx.

War Pass covered 1 1-16 miles in 1:42.76.

Filly & Mare Turf

Lahudood ($25.40) didn't mind the soft turf course and dug in for a three-quarter length victory over Honey Ryder. Nashoba's Key, who came into the race unbeaten in seven starts, finished fourth under 17-year old rider Joe Talamo.

Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who sent out Invasor to win last year's Classic, Lahudood covered the 1Ø miles in 2:22.75.


Midnight Lute ($7) closed strongly from off the pace and beat Idiot Proof by 4¾ lengths. The win made Baffert the eighth trainer to win at least two Breeders' Cup races on the same day.

Midnight Lute, co-owned by Baffert's pal Mike Pegram, covered six furlongs in 1:09.18.


Kip Deville ($18.40) gave trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. his third career Breeders' Cup win.

The 4-year-old colt was supplemented into the race at a cost of $300,000 from owner IEAH Stables, and paid off handsomely by earning $1,420,200 with his third win in seven starts this year. Kip Deville covered the mile in 1:39.78.


Ginger Punch ($11) gave trainer Bobby Frankel a lift with her stirring neck victory over Hystericalady. Frankel was back in California caring for his ill 8-year-old dog, Happy, and his Breeders' Cup horses were saddled by assistant Chad Brown.

The 4-year-old Ginger Punch has won four of her last five races and likely moved ahead of Nashoba's Key as the leading older female horse.


English Channel gave Pletcher a much-need victory, pulling away from the field for a seven-length win over Shamdinan. The 5-year-old horse, owned by New Jerseyan James Scatuorchio, scored the biggest win of a career that closes with 13 wins in 23 starts. The win was worth $1,620,000. Dylan Thomas, the 4-5 favorite, was fifth.