Together, trainer Steve Asmussen, jockey Robby Albarado and owner Jess Jackson have won more than 8,000 races—but none even remotely like the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).
Not only was the winner’s prize of $3.6 million from the $6 million purse the largest on the planet, but they were also able to share the international stage with Middle Eastern royalty and global dignitaries as they unleashed the red streak named Curlin to make his mark on history.
This exceptional horse carried them all on a ride they will never forget.
“This is by far the most amazing experience I’ve ever felt as a jockey,” declared Albarado, who has ridden Curlin to all his major wins, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
“It’s not about the money,” he said after receiving a gold whip for the victory from Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. “It’s about the pride and glory of being here with the sheikh. This is such an honor.”
“For him to prove he is the best horse in the world on this stage is a dream come true,” declared Asmussen, who earned his own gold whip as winning trainer. “Curlin has spoiled us with who he is, and we hope it continues.”
One of the most remarkable aspects of Curlin’s tremendous 7 ¾-length triumph over United Arab Emirates Triple Crown winner Asiatic Boy in a time of 2:00.15 for the 2,000 meters was that the colt hardly seemed as if he had exerted himself.
Back at the test barn, Curlin leaped in the air with exuberance, as if savoring the victory in his own way. He drank less than a bucket of water and pulled on exercise rider Carlos Rosas, who led him while he was cooling out. Yet when assistant trainer Scott Blasi took the shank and guided him over to where Asmussen’s three young sons were standing by a railing, Curlin gently put his head down and let the boys pat him.
“It was like nothing happened,” Rosas said incredulously of how Curlin returned after the race. “He was just walking like he was a cool dude.”
Leading Curlin with the end of the shank draped over his shoulder, Blasi could only laugh when asked how the victory felt after spending six weeks aiming at this target so far away from home. He found no words to express it, but the smile on his face spoke for him.
“It’s very special,” said Asmussen softly after watching his children touch Curlin on the nose. All the time he and Blasi and other members of his staff have spent both working with Curlin and answering interminable questions from the media has been a most rewarding investment because, he declared, “Curlin deserves it.”
But perhaps racing fans got the best news from Albarado, who pronounced: “The best is yet to come from this guy.
“This is the best horse in the world,” he said. “I still can’t get him to blow. He’s not even tired. It’s so easy when you ride a horse like Curlin. He just does everything so effortlessly.”