As racing fans and participants from around the world gathered at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse on Thursday for "Breakfast with the Stars," there was one name that seemed to be on everyone's lips: Curlin.
People from Australia to Europe to South America to Asia all wanted to see the American Horse of the Year with their own eyes, to gauge how good he might really be before he races for the $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) on Saturday.
"The race is for second place," declared Naohiro Goda, a television commentator and racing publicist from Japan.
As Curlin sauntered past the grandstand in a calm walk beside his pony companion Pancho, he looked every inch the star of this show. Ears pricked, he surveyed the masses with the curiosity of one who knows he is the center of attention.
Once past the crowd, Curlin picked up a jog as he traveled up the stretch chute to visit the starting gate for another schooling session that has been part of his regular drill under the orders of trainer Steve Asmussen.
"He was perfect," assistant trainer Scott Blasi reported. "He stood and backed out. We let him be comfortable."
When exercise rider Carlos Rosas turned Curlin around and pointed him down the stretch toward the finish line, the muscular son of Smart Strike took on a whole different demeanor. His neck arched, his ears back in concentration, and his mouth wide open as he asserted himself with Rosas, Curlin galloped past the crowd like a fireball in the searing sun.
It was that zeal to do what he was born to do-run-that has been sharpened into an emphatic point for Saturday that led Blasi to skip his planned visit to the walking ring with Curlin. Since the colt already is familiar with the small enclosure, having paraded there before his winning race in February and also schooled there on another race night in addition to morning visits, there was no need to place him there next to the Breakfast with the Stars commotion of hundreds of people, long buffet food lines and loudly amplified interviews with trainers.
"It was just too much," Blasi said.
Curlin completed his mile gallop without incident and cooled out well.
"Everything went great," Blasi declared as he awaited the arrivals in Dubai of Asmussen and jockey Robby Albarado.
Only two more mornings to get through before Curlin can be freed to really run across this stage in front the whole world.