Most of the crowd had straggled out of Nad Al Sheba Racecourse and there were no other horses in the holding barn behind the grandstand when Curlin returned there from the test barn following the greatest victory of his career.
Ears up, eyes bright, he walked with the lilting stride of a horse who surely knew what he had just accomplished.
In this private moment, trainer Steve Asmusssen and assistant trainer Scott Blasi tended to the big chestnut colt as exercise rider Carlos Rosas held the shank.
With Asmussen on his left and Blasi on his right, Curlin stood quietly as they bandaged his legs for the short van ride back to his stall in Barn 3 of the quarantine area on the backstretch.
“This is how it all started,” said Asmussen with a smile at the recollection, kneeling in his suit in the stall’s shavings as he rapidly wound the white wraps.
“Yes, when I ran all the help off, it was just you and me,” Blasi replied with a chuckle.
“That’s when I found out how hard you really wanted to work,” Asmussen retorted.
With Rosas taking Curlin’s pony Pancho first as Asmussen called out to the white Quarter Horse, “Lead the way, old man,” the group made their way toward the waiting van.
When Curlin climbed aboard, both Blasi and Asmussen stroked his neck. The colt nodded his head happily at their touch, the doors were closed and off they went into the darkness and toward the next chapter in what Asmussen has described as Curlin’s legacy to racing.