As the Muslim call to morning prayer drifted over the Nad Al Sheba barn area from a nearby mosque and the sky started to brighten, Curlin began Tuesday feeling "pretty happy with himself."
A day after his last workout for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), he was ready to do more, said Scott Blasi, who has spent the last month tending only to Curlin, satisfying the colt's every need and keeping him focused on the task that lies ahead.
Following their established routine of walking around the barn the day after a workout, Curlin was pulling and tugging on Blasi, who used the word "energetic" to describe his charge.
"He came out of his work great," he said, shaking his head slightly with the awe inspired by this horse who seems to handle every challenge with ease.
But all that energy in the big red body was kept bottled, and Curlin went back into his spacious stall - about 1 ½ times the size of those at American racetracks - to receive admirers rather than flex his muscles.
Curlin's principal owner, Jess Jackson, his wife, Barbara, and two of their children, Katie and Chris, who arrived in Dubai Monday night, collected special passes that only those connected to the World Cup runners can acquire to visit the restricted quarantine barn area. Accompanied by Jackson's bloodstock agent, John Moynihan, they ventured into the barn to see the chestnut horse they hope will create a racing legend, beginning Saturday night in the desert.
Blasi said he keeps a cache of peppermints on hand for such occasions, and noted that the Jacksons also brought apples for Curlin's pony companion, Pancho.
"They hadn't seen him in a while, and I think they enjoyed themselves," Blasi said. "They flew to New Orleans twice this winter just to see him (when he was training at the Fair Grounds). I think they're enjoying this whole experience - this kind of horse doesn't come around too often."