Curlin Revisited

Yes, we’re back to Curlin again. Having watched grass racing and European racing for the past 40 years, here are my observations and conclusions, for whatever they’re worth, regarding Curlin’s Man o’War and his still-possible trip to Europe.

Curlin’s stride is not suited to the type of grass race we saw Saturday in the the Man o’War. His stride simply is too long for him to be able to quicken effectively from that far back, and similar tactics would prove to be fruitless in Europe against horses with a superior turn of foot. Take another son of Smart Strike, the diminutive English Channel. His stride was much shorter and quicker than Curlin’s and as a result he was able to demolish his field in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf by using a quick burst of speed to blow the race wide open.

Although Curlin doesn’t have that quickness and doesn’t seem to get hold of the grass quite like he does the dirt, that does not mean he is not capable of winning major races on the turf. For him to be effective, he has to be fairly close to the pace, where his stride and his ability to sustain a long run can be used to run his opponents into the ground the way another long-striding dirt horse did who was trying the grass late in his career. I’m referring to Secretariat, who closed out his career by winning the Man o’War and Canadian International. He won the Man o’War on the front end, running the smaller and quicker Tentam off his feet in course-record time, and then sat just off the pace in the Canadian International before opening up a 12-length lead in the stretch and coasting home from there. Once again, he simply ran his foes into submission in much the same manner he won the Belmont Stakes.

Both Curlin and Secretariat could win from far back, but they did it with that long, sustained run, which is not as easy to do on turf, where the best horses, especially in Europe, generally sit  (preferably with cover), and then quickly accelerate when they see daylight. Those are the horses you have to get the jump on, and if you’re good enough you can separate yourself from them before they kick on the afterburners.

Curlin has those long strides that cover a ton of ground with little effort. But it has also resulted in late lead changes on occasion. Having to use those strides to quicken from far off the pace is not going to prove successful on the grass where his footing is a bit more tenuous. For him to beat the Europeans, he must take away their closing punch, and in order to do that he has to make them run faster early. He then can kick for home, while their powerful late punch will be compromised. That, of course, will work only if he possesses the necessary staying power to get away with those tactics.

Whether Curlin has that staying power is up to his connections to decide. He’s been defeated in his only two races beyond 1 1/4 miles, so that has to be taken into consideration, which is why I still feel the 10-furlong Irish Champion Stakes is a better fit. A big win there would give Curlin the international superstar status Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen are looking for, and still give them the option of trying the Arc if they so desire. If he travels all the way to France just for an experimental race like the Prix Foy, which is usually not a truly run race, and fails again, then they wasted a lot of time for nothing.

If you’re going to go down, go down in a race like the Irish Champion, which suits his style better and where there is a much better chance for fast ground than in the Arc. And if you’re going to win, win a race like the Irish Champion, not the group II Foy, which usually attracts several red-hot Arc contenders anyway. So, he’d have to beat top-class French colts who have had the entire summer off and then come back in three weeks and beat them again, as well as the 3-year-olds prepping in the Prix Niel the same day and the best from England, Ireland, and Germany. He won’t be remembered for winning only the Prix Foy. If you climb Mt. Hood in Oregon to prepare for an assault on Mt. Everest, it’s an accomplishment, but it means little if you can’t make it up Everest. Can Curlin scale a mountain like the Arc? It’s possible if he can run the way Alleged did in his two Arc victories in 1977 and ‘78, which is to be right up with the leaders and kick on from there and separate yourself from the field.

Wherever he runs in Europe, there is always the distinct possibility he’ll have to go up against an Aidan O’Brien rabbit. But there is a way to get around that. You just ignore the rabbit and lock horns with the horse or horses you have to beat, just as Fantastic Light did with Galileo in the 2001 Irish Champion Stakes when both horses had pacesetters. In their previous meeting in the King George, Fantastic Light sat back in ninth, just behind Galileo, but didn’t have the closing kick to catch Galileo in the stretch. In the Irish Champion, he was always just ahead of Galileo and was able to maintain that short lead to the wire in a furious stretch battle. Had Curlin matched strides with Red Rocks behind the two runaway leaders in the Man o’War instead of spotting him four lengths, he could have gotten the jump on him and wouldn’t have needed a turn of foot to catch him.

Now, let’s go in another direction and assume Jackson decides the grass is not for Curlin. Then what? Then how about circling Aug. 30 on their calendar. That’s the date of the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. It gives Curlin a bit of rest following two post-Dubai races. It’s also four weeks after the Haskell Invitational, giving Big Brown an extra week if his connections feel the Travers is coming back a bit too quick. There it is, your Horse of the Year showdown, just like in the Woodwards of old. OK, it’s only a mile and an eighth, but a good distance for both horses, and it’s Saratoga, where 70,000 people could show up for a match-up of that magnitude. If that’s not enough, it’s still early enough for both colts to then go their separate ways – Big Brown to the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Curlin back to the turf if they wish. If Curlin beats Big Brown he would basically sew up Horse of the Year regardless of what happens in the BC Classic. That would give his connections the luxury of sending him to the Arc without any ramifications if he should fail. No one will hold it against him if he loses, and they will be commended for showing unprecedented sportsmanship by going for Horse of the Year and Horse of the World.

As mentioned in my last blog, the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs is also still out there at the end of November in case both parties agree to a grudge match. So, there are numerous possibilities to ponder.

A note must be made about the enthusiastic ovation Curlin received in the paddock before the Man o’War. But even more special were the cheers after the race as he returned to be unsaddled. Now that’s what you call appreciation, especially in New York. Even Better Talk Now’s trainer Graham Motion joined in the applause.

*******

Harlem Rocker looked good winning the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Saturday. With Notional running a huge race in the previous week’s Salvator Mile, we could have two talented horses to look forward to the rest of the year. But, unfortunately, you can likely add both of them to the growing list of Breeders’ Cup Classic no-shows, along with Curlin and Pyro and I’m sure others. Forget the pros and cons of synthetic surfaces, and even the safety issues, which have still not been fully resolved. Strictly from a racing standpoint, it’s simply not good for the sport when you have owners and trainers of some of the nation’s top stars boycotting the Breeders’ Cup because of its surface. The Breeders’ Cup had to know something like this was inevitable, but California was one of the few venues available for them, so we’re all just going to have to live with it and make the best of it…this year and next year.

*******

How amazing a roll is IEAH Stables on? There doesn’t seem to be a weekend that goes by that they don’t win a major stakes race, and they’ve done it with several trainers. It will be interesting to see what happens when it comes time to vote for the Eclipse Awards. Despite all the controversies that have surrounded IEAH and their main trainer Rick Dutrow, they have been able to counterpunch with several positive deeds of their own to benefit the sport, and they just keep winning stakes, so the racing gods (if you believe in the ethereal) certainly have no problem with them. It is hoped that when the Eclipse ballots are distributed, voters will look at only what is in the attached supplement. What they will see are IEAH horses on almost page of the past performances and their name atop the leading owners list.  

Oh, by the way, Big Brown breezed five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 this morning.                                                    

78 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Rachel

I hope Curlin's connections read your blog...I agree about his style. I do think he's a grass contender, but not by running like a dirt horse.;-)

14 Jul 2008 1:29 PM
Matthew W

Secretariat closed out his carreer on the grass and Giants Causeway closed out his on the dirt--cuz they had something to prove...I think in most years the Arc would be the way to go for such a dominant horse like Curlin surely is---that would be his only "proving ground" left---BUT this year happens to have a horse named Big Brown, and Steve, I'll say it 'till my ears are ringing: Curlin v Big Brown is MANDATORY to the racing gods, this is something that needs to happen, and racing has to be fervant about pounding home this VITAL point!! Damascus/Dr Fager/Buckpasser....Affirmed/Bid....Secretariat/Riva Ridge/Cougar II.....history lost is history lost forever....

14 Jul 2008 1:37 PM
Karen in Texas

Your observations about Curlin are accurate--I kept yelling at the TV,"What are they thinking?? Let him go! Why is he so far back??" His ability at greater than 1 1/4 miles may be better than his record indicates if you consider how tired he had to have been for the Belmont and how strangely placed he was in the Man O'War. Also, Steve Asmussen is not known for training turf horses, is he?

14 Jul 2008 1:41 PM
Cgriff

Steve,

Great observations on Curlin's Man O War, but I disagree with the comparison with Secretariat, especially when you say that both he and Curlin are similar in styles and that Big Red also lacked a quick turn of foot.  

While Secretariat did bury the field with front end speed in the Man O War (Tentam ran at him twice and couldn't make a dent) - he was not exclusively a long striding grinder like Curlin.  The '73 Preakness certainly argues against your point that Secretariat lacked a strong "turn of foot."  In fact, he ran much like a European grass horse in the International - closing with a furious rush to open 12 lengths on the field at the far turn.  Very, very different style from Curlin, IMO.

Also - I didn't think that Curlin looked as comfortable on the grass as he did on turf, and I do think it compromised his ability to lay closer.  Yes, he was off a tad slow - but in a small field like that, the "dirt" Curlin would have put himself back into that race very quickly - we've seen him do it before!

I agree that 1 and 1/2 mile might be beyond his scope, though.  

I just don't see the point of putting him up against a unique and totally foreign (pardon the pun) challenge of the Arc when he could just as easily run - as you say - in England or even stay on the grass here and run in the BC Turf!  He is good enough on class alone to run competively against US turf horses - but I fear he is out of his element if they throw him into the pool with the Europeans.

And remember - our US record for Arc winners is still a big goose egg.  What's the best finish we've had?  Fourth?  Not very promising.  They probably should have sent Secretariat or John Henry over if they'd wanted to really have a shot.

Now - here's my question off topic - what the heck happened to Colonel John in the Swaps?  No excuses allowed, IMO - he didn't look short to me - he just didn't run!  Any rumors or insider information?  I love that horse, and was so sad to see him put forth such a sub-par effort!

Oh, and one more question - have you heard any more on the status of Tiz Wonderful?  I've never seen him listed for stud, but last I heard he was in rehab in KY and doing well.  Any news on him would be appreciated!

Thanks!

14 Jul 2008 1:48 PM
earth worm

It was irresponsible to award Santa Anita the Breeders' Cup (for two years!?) when it didn't even have a functional main track. The Breeders' Cup will lose out on horses, credibility, and importance because of this decision, and rightfully so.

14 Jul 2008 1:52 PM
Maggie

Thank you, Mr. Steve Haskin, for another beautifully done update.  I agree with you that Curlin should point to the Irish Champion Stakes as a major prep for the Arc, if his connections are still going to put him on the turf.  I for one think that Curlin is going to get Horse of the Year honors regardless, after his accomplishments in Dubai and winning post Dubai in the Stephen Foster (which many top performers who did win the Dubai World Cup seem not to do after that trip).  The match up between the two would be most appealing.  What I don't understand is why hasn't Churchill Downs come up with an idea of holding a showdown as you say in the Clark Handicap?  That'll give sufficient enough time between then and the Breederscup Classic, especially if Big Brown wins that race.  Or how about Saratoga coming up with something?  I don't know...I guess everything is questionable with Curlin trying the grass and Big Brown primarily a dirt horse going for a first-time synthetic Classic.

14 Jul 2008 1:58 PM
joe

Steve, With the early retirements of recent years it's great to ponder a champion's campaign and a possible championship showdown.  Whether Curlin stays on turf or leaves, Jess Jackson is to be commended for the try. (And a much belated thank you for his Belmont Stakes run last year, when his connections could have pulled a "Street Sense"/"Bernardini" post Preakness, and stayed in the barn.) Thanks for the perspective, Steve.  

14 Jul 2008 2:09 PM
T.Bagley

I think Mr.Jackson ought to start focusing on American turf races with the goal of the Breeders Cup turf if he wants Curlin to stay on the grass. Even in a down year for euro stars. Its my opinion he can't compete at a top level whether in France or Ireland.

14 Jul 2008 2:14 PM
Kelly S

I was so looking forward to your take on Curlin's race, and I'm glad you didn't disappoint.  I read several articles and blogs this morning on various sites, and I was disappointed to see all of them focusing on the fact that he didn't win.  Curlin finished second in his turf debut; therefore, it was a complete failure, and they should never allow him to run on turf again.  What kind of attitude is that?

I was proud of Curlin's effort.  It was a strangely run race, and, regardless of their recent form, RR and BTN are turf champions, capable of running huge races.  Besides, it's not like RR was opening up on Curlin; RR just got the jump on him.  I really do think Curlin might have won if he had been running with RR instead of behind him, but it is what it is.  I'm glad to hear that people were cheering him even after defeat.  A champion does not have to be perfect, he just has to always give his best.  I think people love Curlin because they do feel he always gives his best.

I hope that his connections don't just cave in and return him solely to dirt.  The turf experiment has been fun to watch.  I'd love to see him try at least one more.

14 Jul 2008 2:15 PM
Ekrueg

I agree curlin should've been a little bit closer to the front but his second I thought was good enough to try again on the turf. And it was better that he lost to Red Rocks then some long shot, he may not be the very best but when he's good, he's very good.

14 Jul 2008 2:22 PM
Matthew W

Secretariat's Marlboro cup showcased his AWESOME turn of foot...he had both speed and stamina...

14 Jul 2008 2:22 PM
Scottish Racing

Although I think it would be great for the sport on both sides of the pond, Curlin would be wasting his time coming over here. One: the Aga Khans Montmartre has just won the Grand Prix de Paris over C&D and demolished his field much like Curlin does on dirt.

Two: The idea that Robbie will be able to ride Longchamp without getting into trouble is crazy. I can't believe that Cash hasn't told his brother this. It is unlike any track in the World and the UKs champion jockey just rode a stinker because he doesn't have the races under his belt at the track. The Arc can be a very rough race. I hope I'm wrong.

14 Jul 2008 2:58 PM
MikeM

I have to agree with the other posters. Secretariat had an awesome turn of foot when needed.One of the things that amazes me about Curlin is his long sustained drives. His long powerfull strides just grinds down the opposition.

14 Jul 2008 2:59 PM
Kayte

I think that Curlin actually did quite well considering that the Man o War was his first attempt on the turf.  He did his best, like any race he runs in and STILL finished second to a top horse in Red Rocks, who has had many starts on the grass and is known for his skill on it.

Now if Steve A and his connection ever were to read this, I would agree with what you said and suggest that in his next start on grass try and see how he handles being closer to the front of the race early on.  Like you said he needs to be closer that he was on the dirt to use his kick, since grass has never run exactly the same as the dirt.  IF he can have the stamina and still win using that tactic, then maybe he is a good turf horse after all and maybe he will have a chance in the Arc.  But until Curlin tries that method of running, we shouldn't be so quick to judge that he shouldn't be on the turf.

14 Jul 2008 3:06 PM
Ms. Sharman Woll

Curlin has already proven his worth!!! He has earned our love and respect no matter what he does now!!! ...And he does not have to run against Big Brown - to prove anything else!!! NO!!!  CURLIN is just "in a class all his own!!"  I take nothing away from Big Brown and his team, for all his acomplishments - he is a good horse and he deserves our respect too.  But there just aren't many CURLIN's that come along in this lifetime!!! I want to THANK JESS J. and STEVE A. for taking such good care of him and for sharing him with us, one more yr.  But don't let the media, push you into doing anything with him, you feel Curlin is not ready for, or not cut out to do - it's not worth it guys.  He is sound, he is healthy, and he is happy.  He has captured our hearts and souls.....ask CURLIN IF he wants to run anymore???  Let him, make that decision, listen to his heart guys, you know him better than anyone else, and he will tell you, what he wants to do now!!!  I PRAY for his safety, his health and his happiness for he has brought us SO MUCH JOY & SO MUCH HOPE.  GOD BLESS YOU CURLIN - YOU are The BEST of the BEST, and God has truly blessed us - with your presence!!!  Hats off to his owners and trainer!!  :)

14 Jul 2008 3:15 PM
Steve Haskin

Regarding Secretariat, I never said he was a grinder. He had a closing kick, but it was normally a long sustained run like in the Ky. Derby. In the Preakness, making a big move after a quarter of a mile when the other horses are crawling does not equate to having a quick turn of foot. He simply made his big long run at that point and kept it going the remainder of the race. If you watch the Marlboro Cup, he made a big move, but again it came from a long way out. My main reference to a turn of foot is on the grass, and normally horses with the stride of Secretariat and Curlin dont accelerate on grass the way a European does. It's more of a steady build-up before opening up on the field. And Secretariat sat right off Kennedy Road in the Canadian International. He made his move the same time Kennedy began to tire, allowing Big Red to open a big lead. He had to ability to maintain a high cruising speed for a long way and and keep building on it. That is what allowed him to open up on his field. People forget that Big Spruce made up 10 lengths on Secretariat in the final quarter mile, but Big Red won the race four or five furlongs out. That's how Curlin has to win against Europeans on the grass in my opinion. Run them off their feet early and take away their closing power.

14 Jul 2008 3:29 PM
Maggie

I'm glad to see a lot of Secretariat supporters here!

Cgriff, here's a point I made on Colonel John on another blog:  "The synthetic surfaces seem to play oddly, though. Colonel John would definitely do better on the dirt, so I'm anticipating a much better going if he runs in the Travers. There are just some horses that are naturally gifted on the synthetic surfaces and others that do extraordinarily well on the dirt. I for one, as much as he won the Sham S. and the Santa Anita Derby, think that Colonel John, because of his pedigree, calls for the dirt. Of course, I could be wrong; that's merely an observation and a gut feeling. I'm just using the layoff and the small field as an excuse. After all, there was a much larger field in the Santa Anita Derby than in the Swaps, and he won the former while coming from off the pace impressively."  Plus, you have to give him a chance after the layoff and is eligible to improve to get back into winning form.

As for Tiz Wonderful, I have not a clue, but I hope to find something out for you.

14 Jul 2008 3:35 PM
draynay

Steve... you are dead on.  Curlin to win a turf race has to turn up the heat at a half a mile and take the lead and make the boys keep up with him or try to make up 10 lengths in stretch.  Turf horses have strong kicks that can match Curlin's in stretch so he needs to take that away.  I think they will continue to run him on grass.  They will do whatever it takes to stay away from Big Brown.  Why you ask? Curlin has too much to lose if Big Brown beats him... if he beats Big Brown its expected if he loses Big Brown takes the crown as best horse in the world. The connections for Curlin will never risk having their thunder taken away.

14 Jul 2008 3:37 PM
Darci

If they do decide to take Curlin to the Classic I think it would be highly likely they would bring him west for the Goodwood since they like to let him run over a track one time before the "big" races.  If they do indeed try him on the grass again I would love to see him in the Arlington Million, but I think it's more likely he'd be in the Sword Dancer as it would be his second try over the course.  

14 Jul 2008 3:38 PM
Ed Kane

Hi Steve,

I agree totally re Curlin's bout/s on the grass, and that it would be a fantastic race to see Curlin and Big Brown in the Woodward at Saratoga - I'd love to make it up there for that.

Also of keen interest is IEAH's prowess currently and as we move toward the Breeders' Cup.  They'll potentially have Benny the Bull in the Sprint, Kip Deville on the turf in the Mile, Pure Clan in the F&M Turf, and Big Brown for the Classic - quite a super group of horses.

14 Jul 2008 3:44 PM
Cgriff

Matthew W - ABSOLUTELY - you are correct!  And there are more that show he was no grinding one paced horse.

Little known fact - Turcotte states to this day that Secretariat was actually better on the turf than he was on the dirt.  But that is a rare, rare occurance.

I love Curlin, but I think he is a phenomenal dirt horse who has enough class and talent to be competitive in US grass races - but not against the best in Europe.  It doesn't seem to be his number 1 surface.  

I wonder if that is why Assmussen is so against him running on synthetic - because grass runners are better equipped to handle it than dirt?  That would explain his adamant stance against Curlin running in the Classic this year, anyway.  Maybe he thought grass would actually be a better option - sort of the lesser of two evils?

I think a Classic/Breeders Cup Turf combo win would be pretty impressive and mark him as one of the top horses - why put him at a disadvantage in Europe.

Again - I compliment Jackson for not only continuing to run him but also for having some imagination in his sportsmanship.  He's actually taking a chance at bigger challenges - who else do you see doing that in racing these days?

14 Jul 2008 3:46 PM
Flyingm

I pretty much agree with you about Curlin's Man O' War. I thought Albarado rode him tentatively, he was back way to far, he had a ground losing wide trip, and still only lost by 2 lengths.

Another thing. Red Rocks was pointed and trained for this race. Curlin wasn't. No one knew if Curlin was going to even run again, untill a judge in Kentucky put Tandy LLC in receivership. Then they had to decide between Arlington or Belmont.

I'd like to see Curlin stay on grass here in the USA. I'd like to see him run up at Saratoga in the Sword Dancer, then back to Belmont for the Turf Classic. Assuming he wins one or both of those, then he should try for the BC Turf.

Anyway, Curlin showed to me that he could be a top turf horse if he was managed for that endeavor. If they don't want to go turf, then he should be retired to stud, in my opinion. He has proven that he is the best dirt horse, and he can only cheapen himself if he has an off day on dirt. On turf, he has room for redemption.

14 Jul 2008 3:49 PM
MikeM

The instructions to a jockey in a turf race goes something like this;

wait,wait,wait and when it's time to move count to three and then make your move. That was out of the mouth of a hall of fame trainer.That style of race does not exactly set up for Curlin.I am not taking anything away from Curlin. If he run on the grass in the US for the rest of his career he will win a grade 1, but against europes best on their home turf, i'm a seller.

14 Jul 2008 3:59 PM
Maggie

As I said on another blog:

"As for the Curlin vs. Big Brown, I think it should be proposed as thus:

Curlin » 1. Either runs in the Arlington Million or not for another try on the turf, 2. Go for the Woodward, 3. Jockey Club Gold cup, 4. Breederscup Turf.  (#2 and #3 is whether his connections forget the idea of the Arc), or 1. Arlington Million, 2. Irish Champion Stakes, 3. Prix de le Arc de Triomphe, 4. Breederscup Turf.

Big Brown » 1. Haskell, 2. Travers, 3. Woodward, 4. Jockey Club Gold Cup, 5. Breederscup Classic.

Then after all that has been said and done, if Curlin does go for the turf route, Churchill Downs should step up and promote a match up of Big Brown and Curlin in the Clark Handicap at the end of November.  It's very well-placed, especially post-Breederscup.  The Clark Handicap will be run on dirt (perfect for the two as they are excellent on that surface) and will help determine Horse of the Year honors.  Of course with the second-place effort of Curlin in the Man o'War, I don't think Curlin should have a problem getting that honor with wins in two races at Dubai (including the Dubai World Cup) and coming back to win the Stephen Foster Handicap, while making a good showing on grass, especially if he does win races either on turf or dirt.

Of course, Curlin could not do that and instead go over seas, again, and try in the Japan Cup Dirt.  That race would then solidify further that he is the better horse, despite the fact that Big Brown hasn’t crossed the oceans.  It would be all the more intriguing if Big Brown does follow Curlin to the Japan Cup Dirt, as it is open to three-year-olds, too.

And as always, that is only my opinion…"

14 Jul 2008 4:01 PM
Bill

I'd like to see Curlin continue to try turf and your idea of the Irish Champion Stakes is probably on the money.  I remember it took Kelso awhile to establish his turf form, but he finally won the Washington DC International after numerous unsuccessful attempts. He set a stakes record as a matter of fact when he did win, although the course was hard as a rock that day.  Still, there's a point to be made by persevering. I was impressed by Curlin's effort on that very firm turf course Saturday at Belmont.  I also think that Sudan deserves kudos for hanging on as well as he did after running insane early fractions.  Watch that horse.

14 Jul 2008 4:02 PM
RJC

Are you sure Graham Motion wasn't applauding Red Rocks?  After all, Motion went so far, before the race, to mention how happy he was to see Red rocks in the race because "we can get even with him for what he did to us at Churchill Downs"  If you include last year's BC Turf, Better Talk Now is now 0-3 vs. Red Rocks.  Motion should be more careful what he asks for....

14 Jul 2008 4:04 PM
longtime racefan

Steve, as usual you are very perceptive... great comments. After watching the race 4-5 times I definitely agree with you.

Two comments, just from my observations:

Curlin is a bigger and much heavier horse than the others in the MOW... how does he compare with Secretariat in height and weight at the times they ran in this race? To me he looks a bit heavy to run on grass, and I am a fan of English and Irish racing and have visited studs and tracks in England so my comparison isn't just from TV viewing. He's a massive horse and just looked like he was plodding on the grass.

The other item is that I would not write him off totally from 12 furlongs --- he wasn't THAT far behind Rags --- if he'd finished up the track in the Belmont, I'd agree 12 furlongs is too far.

One other I'll add is that I don't think Curlin had sufficient training on the grass prior to this race. In Europe they train on the grass and he'd really benefit from a trip to Ireland NOW, training for many weeks on their surfaces. He'd be far more comfortable come the Irish Champion and if he places in that, yes, go for the Arc. Though I do agree that it would be nice to see him close out his career in the US. Don't focus on a matchup with Big Brown--- some other horse will sneak in under the radar and beat them both. Age aside for the moment, BB hasn't faced the caliber of horses Curlin has and Curlin has never finished lower than third, no matter what the squabbles in his ownership...  

Red Rocks' race was beautifully done, Euro style, and the connections of Curlin would do very well to study up on that.

I remain a Curlin fan... may his connections come up with the right strategy for him.

14 Jul 2008 4:27 PM
Steve Haskin

Motion was applauding Curlin. As soon as the applause started for Curlin, Motion joined in. He said beforehand he thought what they were doing was extremely sporting and he commended them for it. Getting back to the term tgirn of foot, remember Curlin's big move on the turn in the Preakness and in the BC Classic. I'm not comparing turn of foot to having a big move. I'm referring to turn of foot as sit...sit...sit...GO! On a dime. From let's say four or five lengths off the pace to on the lead in the blink of an eye. That is hard for a long-striding horse to do, especially on the grass. And my comparisons between Curlin and Big Red are strictly about stride and the ability to sustain his move a long way, not ability. I saw Secretariat live on many occasions and saw him work several times as well. I stood within inches of him as he was being saddled in the Preakness and photographed him turning and looking at me right in the eye. It's hard to describe just what a great horse he really was and what a physical presence he was. One day soon I will write a 35th anniversary blog on him and my experiences with him.

14 Jul 2008 4:27 PM
Matthew W

When there are two such standouts like Curlin and Big Brown, you can post a special race for them at scale weights, say, Saratoga at 1 1/4...but I just wish Curlin and Brownie would aim for Santa Anita last Sat in Oct....that would be the best way to decide it.

14 Jul 2008 4:33 PM
Matthew W

Secretariat was a speed horse who came from behind---he was practically beheaded in his first start and from then on he had an aversion of the break---and Ronnie didn't fight him BECAUSE of that BRILLIANT turn of foot of that truly amazing horse who trounced older horses as well as GR I turf horses--TROUNCED them!!! No, you can equate Curlin with, say, Alysheba, but he can't make the lead like Secretariat cuz he doesn't have the turn of foot like Secretariat.....

14 Jul 2008 4:39 PM
LARRY

I love Curlin,I think he ran a great race, I dont think he was uncomfortable at all with the turf, I just think he ran against a great class of turf horses.  I disagree with him being so far back, the pace was so quick, it played to the closers, just look how impressive Better Talk Now finished, had the race been 1 1/2 it would have been a close finish between him and Red Rocks.  My hats are off to those two horses who are well past their prime now, and still manage a good showing.  Curlin is best at 1 1/4 dirt or turf,  I say go the Arlington Million, then go back to the gold cup, he ran well on turf, synthetic surfaces would not be a problem for him to run on the classic.  As far as the Arc, i dont think he´ll get there, expect a Tom Rolfe from him at longchamp, he wont make it at 130 plus LBs, going 1 1/2, he couldnt catch Red Rocks at equal weights, and Better Talk Now gave him 4 Lbs.  WE could be seeing in Curlin and Big Brown the last great all around horses, or superior dirt horses that can run with the best in any surface call it poly turf or dirt, their part of a dying breed people, so lets enjoy them, we´re gonna be stuck with turf horses in the future.

14 Jul 2008 4:54 PM
Ranagulzion

Great discussion Steve.  In my estimation Curlin lost no marks in defeat to Red Rocks in the Man O' War Stakes.  That son of Galileo (RR) is a seasoned top class campaigner on the turf.  Provided that Curlin is not jaded as a result of his sustained three and four year old campaigns (including the Dubai trips), he deserves another shot at the top grass runners, perhaps in the Arlington Million.  If and only if he wins that race would I continue to support the Arc invasion.    

Steve with due respect, I don't think that the cut back in distance to ten furlongs would be much of an issue since the main goal is to be certain about his prowess on the lawn with the best turf runners before going overseas.  Curlin's stamina at 12 Furlongs should not be in doubt since in both cases when he raced beyond ten furlongs he lost creditably to very good horses.  I agree with your observation that Curlin was too far back in the Man O' War and needs to use his pace to stalk the leaders or begin his move a lot earlier on the grass.  

Also I have to join Matthew W in supporting a call for the "mandatory" clash with Big Brown assuming Curlin does not train-off (go over the top) given his long campaign.  They could both clash in the BC Turf (we already know that Big Brown is really a turf runner under the guise of a dirt champion) if the stakes could somehow be made higher given that the BC Classic will be an anti-climax this year and next due to the surface.  The inevitable devaluation of the prestige of the BC Classic this year and next year ought to be reflected in some purse adjustment that will favour racing as a whole.  But is this idea too farfetched?  Can you give a further comment on this Steve?  

14 Jul 2008 4:54 PM
Matthew W

Steve really looking forward to reading about your living version or Big Red Of Meadow Stable---I was very aware about him from out West as early as the Hopeful, when he won Horse Of Year at TWO, I really thought he could beat ANY horse of any age as a two year old!! And hats off to DYNARAY, who plucked Mystical Plan this past weekend, as well as Big Brown at a fat 2-1 in Derby...I, too think Big Brown wins the BC Classic over Curlin, and I really wanna see it cuz it's RACING HISTORY.....

14 Jul 2008 4:55 PM
Cgriff

Steve,

I will look forward to that 35th anniversary blog on Secretariat a LOT!  

And Curlin should be enjoyed for the wonderful horse he is here and now - I think it's great that Jackson is thinking out of the "sporting" box and hope they find the best spot to challenge and showcase his ability.  Enjoy him while we can, folks!  

And thanks again for a great blog, Steve!

14 Jul 2008 4:55 PM
berneslarry@yahoo.com

I have to add, what a great race Sudan ran.  What was the jockey thinking running him on those suicidal fractions.  youre running 1 3/8 not 1 mile.  Hes a horse to watch, just change the jock.  Frankle should use his go to guy Bejarano next time on him.

14 Jul 2008 4:59 PM
Julie D

I think Curlin ran a good race for his first start on turf, but he just doesn't seem to have the right racing style for the Arc.  I would love to see him race here in California, so why not point him for the BC Turf?  No horse has ever won the Classic and Turf, and if the Arc winner makes the trip to Santa Anita, Curlin could score extra points for beating him/her.  

Or, as Darci said, bring him to Santa Anita to run in the Goodwood and see how he likes the synthetic track before deciding against another run in the Classic.  After all, no horse has ever won the Classic on dirt and synthetic surfaces, either.  If he doesn't care for the Proride surface, they can still run him in the Turf.

14 Jul 2008 5:09 PM
Alan

Steve,

you are certainly entitled to your opinions, but not your facts. I've watched thoroughbreds run, since Jet Pilot won his Derby (and I picked him to win!) To use as an arguement that Big Spruce gained 10 lengths on Big Red in the final quarter, is ludicrous. Secretariat was eased from a 12 length lead to finish by 61/2; he wasn't asked to run, just as he was not asked for a maximum effort in most of his races. Turcotte, in a Sports Illustrated interview, said that, in the Derby, if he had pushed the button on Secretariat, he would have beaten Sham by ten. Argue with Turcotte, if you'd like, but he knew better than you, imo.

Had Big Red been pushed the final quarter in his Belmont--as Curlin fought tooth and nail with Rags To Riches--we wouldn't have witnessed "merely" a 2:24...more likley a 2:22! He was out for a lark, that day. Curlin may be the best router on dirt, for 2007-2008, but he isn't even in Invisor's class, let alone the true greats. The names of only the following four horses should be mentioned or written about in the same sentence, if credibility is the currency: Man O' War, Citation, Secretariat, and Spectracular Bid (in chronological order); Big Brown...? don't make me laugh--but, on the other hand, I need a good chuckle from the experts, with their latest "super horse-du-jour." Lol.

14 Jul 2008 5:29 PM
EmpireGiven21

Steve,I agree 100% whole heartedly with you and I think some people are mis understanding your turn of foot analogy but I totally understand what your saying, a turn of foot is literally what we would call being flat and relaxed to literally mach 90 and a big rear end push, if you watched Midnight Lute in the BC this year, that was a quick turn of foot wow! I agree with you tho I think Curlin should race at Saratoga(where I live!) and compete in the handicap divisions and then, only then once thats been dominated, which it will, run again on the turf and see what he likes but if only robby would ride him the right way on the turf, I was so furious with him that far back and then no offence but he didn't grind into the horse like he should, Curlin was caught loping, he should have gotten more aggressive with him, irregardless of what these "anit-whip" people believe, you can wake a good big horse like him up with it a bit more. If my horse is caught slouching in a gallop or before a jump you can be sure I will yield the whip on him and he will respond, he should have motioned at that horse a bit more and really reved the red fellow up. As far as Big Brown vs Curlin....Curlin wins hands down being a superior animal and faster, plus more exsperience and more predictable with his actions, hes always there. Only thing that could get him beat might be that stupid S.A. track, so I say, let Brown have the classic, come race Curlin at Saratoga, where the real champions are made.

14 Jul 2008 5:36 PM
No_Class

First off, Steve - I enjoy very much your blog entries.  They are brilliant!

Secondly (unrelated to this blog entry, but wanted to ask!) - did you ever see the great Nijinsky run? I was only a young lass when he was racing and just wondering if there is anyone out there who was fortunate enough to see him run (in particular his questionable 2nd place finish in the Arc!).  I would love to read a blog entry about Nijinsky one day.  He was/is my all time favourite son of Northern Dancer.

14 Jul 2008 6:00 PM
DonnyEss

Red Rocks has never won a group-1 in Europe and has never run to the older male grade-1 par over here. Secretariat won those races because like Ghostzapper and Candy Ride he ran faster. Some of these media people need to disconnect the nitrous hose from their gas masks and start breathing real air. Or go back to spying for the govt. on guitar players or football stars.

14 Jul 2008 6:10 PM
Karen2

Steve,

Were you there to see BB's breeze this morning? Just curious if you got to see him in person. If you were, how did he look?

14 Jul 2008 6:15 PM
BARBARA DEAN

WELL HE MIGHT NOT WON ON THE TURF, BUT HE'S A PRETTY GOOD HORSE THAT CAME IN SECOND.  NEVER RAN ON THE TURF BEFORE. I THINK THAT IS PRETTY GOOD. IT BEING HIS FIRST TIME ON THE TURF, WELL GIVE HIM  SOME TIME TO GET USE TO IT. HE (CURLIN) WILL SHOW YOU. YOU GO I GOT FAITH IN YOU. I WATCHED THE RACE AND HE WAS SO BEAUTIFUL RUNNING. CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU RUN AGAIN.GO CURLIN GO.

14 Jul 2008 6:26 PM
Karen2

The big match up would be Curlin vs BB. This would be huge for this industry... just not on synthetic..I think trainers are against running on synthetic because they fear the unknown. They don't train on the surface on a regular basis and I don't think many are convinced it isn't causing other injuries. As far as comparing Secretariat to Curlin on a size scale, If I am not mistaken, Curlin is 17 hands (unsure of his weight) and Secretariat was 16'2 hands and 1200 1bs. At 4 Curlin is still maturing and should fill out considerably. He is a big boy.

14 Jul 2008 6:32 PM
Pam S.

I agree with our blog author and all others who said Curlin needed to be closer to the pace in the MOW.  I also think it was a great effort considering his limited exposure to grass.  You know how Steve A. says Curlin is better 2nd time running at a particular track?  I definitely feel there is something to that.  And this time he faced a completely different  surface.  

Now, what to do next?  It's wonderful that Curlin is racing at age 4, and that Big Brown was not retired immediately after the Belmont.  But less is still more in modern-day racing, and I believe each of these horses will have only two more races, one of which may or may not come at the Breeders' Cup.  Doubt we'd see either in the Clark.

If I were in charge, I would run Curlin in the Sword Dancer since he is already at Saratoga; then, if successful, in the BC Turf.  Or the Arc if they are still determined.  If not successful, BC Classic to close out his career. I would run Big Brown in the Haskell (my own choice would have been Travers) and JC Gold Cup.  If BB were to win both of those, I bet connections wouldn't go to California (although I would).  

Neither Curlin nor BB has raced on synthetic, and connections seem pretty determined to avoid it.  I would love to somehow see them hook up in the Classic, both on synthetic for the first time in their final races, supposedly neither would be at a disadvantage.

14 Jul 2008 6:36 PM
FunnyCide420

It's just amazing how UNDERRATED Curlin is. Look at his resume. Doesn't start until he is 3. Wins his maiden, the Rebel, Arkansas Derby by daylight. His 4th lifetime start, the Kentucky Derby, he finishes 3rd going 5 five wide to 2 of the best 2007 three year olds that he would go on to defeat. He wins the Preakness, misses by a head in the Belmont. After that grueling schedule, he still finishes 3rd in the Haskell. Wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Breeders Cup Classic (I'm not writing "Powered By Dodge":) then continues his winning streak in 2008 with wins in the Dubai Jaguar, World Cup, and Steven Foster. He gets trained on the grass for about 5 minutes, then sent into the Man o'War against 2 Breeders Cup Champions. Both of them having a ton of grass experience, Curlin having several minutes worth, AND HE JUST COMES UP SHORT BY 2 LENTGHS!

I've already put him into the catagory of the greats. It was so wonderful to see his owners continue to race him at 4 when he could have joined Hard Spun and Street Sense in the breeding shed. I think they should definitely give him another try on the grass. The first one was more impressive than everyone is giving him credit for. Looks like Skip Away and Cigar's earnings records have just a few more months to stand. Curlin, you're something else!

14 Jul 2008 6:51 PM
timurlenk

No disrespect Mr. Haskin...but since I´ve been involved in horse racing, a good horse is a good horse in any kind of track. I agree that some work has to be done for the particular individual to adapt to the new surroundings, but is just a minor twist of axe. Be patient with Curlin he´ll take on any curve you pitch at him. The Man O´ War was a fine exercise...besides aren´t we living in a globalized world.

Vive Curlin !

14 Jul 2008 7:07 PM
Chuck R

I was at Arlington Saturday and commented that Curlin would have been better off preparing there, as it turned out, that a Belmont for a European trip. The turf was soft and deep, the pace was slow as in a Euro race, and to win he would have had to make a burst in the stretch or blow the race  open in the backstretch.

As one who bet Red Rocks, three other factors came into play few have mentioned: RR back on Lasix, received 10 pounds from Curlin, and returning to firm turf. A heady ride sealed the deal.

Finally, why not Big Brown and Curlin in the BC Turf? People seem to have forgotten Brown's turf maiden win and I do not think the Euros will ship many top class runners to LA for the Cup. The ones to fear in the Cup will be the So. Cal horses who are familiar with the course and the heat.

14 Jul 2008 8:34 PM
DANYLSON

STEVE,AWESOME ARTICLE. CURLIN IS A GREAT HORSE.FIRST TIME DOING SO MUCH THINGS AND HE CAME SECOND TO A REAL GOOD TURF HORSE AND BEAT A BREEDERS CUP TURF CHAMPION,WHAT MORE CAN YOU ASK ON YOUR FIRST TRY?I THINK THAT HAVING HIM CLOSER WOULD HAVE WON THE RACE PERIOD,THAT'S HOW GOOD HE IS.WHY IS EVERYONE SO SCARED OF THE EUROPEAN HORSES??LAST TIME I CHECKED MANILA WAS GOING TO THE ARC AND HE WOULD HAVE WON IF IT WASN'T FOR HIS INJURY.AND KITTENS JOY WOULD HAVE WON TOO. CURLIN BIG PROBLEM IN THE ARC WOULD BE THE TURNS AND THE SIZE OF THE FIELD,BUT HE HAS THE POWER(HIS BUILT AS A HORSE) TO WIN THE ARC.

14 Jul 2008 8:56 PM
arliss

You would have to be an idiot to even consider the fact that Big Brown could beat Curlin, anywhere, on any surface.  Curlin is by far the superior race ghorse.

14 Jul 2008 9:32 PM
Jean

Thanks so much Mr. Haskin for this blog.  I love it.

Barbaro got me interested in thoroughbreds. I read Bloodhorse everyday and enjoy it so much.

We live near Colonial Downs and have been there for some of the races and it is just amazing to me.

Hopefully will get to the Virginia Derby on Saturday.

My granddaughter is 6 and she loves it.  

Thanks again.

14 Jul 2008 9:50 PM
Pam

"the Prix Foy, which is usually not a truly run race, and fails again"

Steve, forgive my ignorance, but why is the Prix Foy not a truly run race?

As always, thanks for the insight on the Man O' War, especially for those of us who can't afford cable and couldn't watch the race live.

As for the Curlin/BB matchup debate, I don't think Curlin has to  beat BB to clinch Horse of the Year. Not to diminish BB's accomplishments but Curlin has already had a 5-race winning streak, which basically describes BB's lifetime starts, and he's done it racing against stronger competition AND internationally. Not to mention he ran second to two BC Turf winners in his turf DEBUT.  Curlin's credentials speak for themselves. I don't feel like Asmussen is ducking BB by going overseas; as he already said in an interview, Tiznow already won the BC Classic twice. What team Curlin is trying now by going for the Prix is truly unprecedented and he should be applauded for his ambition. Curlin is the defending Horse of the Year, not Big Brown. It's up to Big Brown to challenge Curlin, not the other way around.

14 Jul 2008 10:29 PM
AlexP

Steve, I have a question about something that someone posted on another blog. They were calling out Jackson for not reporting Curlin supposedly grabbing his quarter in a pre-race workout. Now, they and someone else did notice a partially healed wound on Curlin, but I'm still not convinced that he actually grabbed his quarter or that whatever he did was that severe, because NO ONE anywhere has mentioned it, any of the writers on any of the major sites, including yourself. I can  understand (though don't necessarily approve) of the connections not mentioning it pre-race,  but I'm a little surprised that if this actually did happen that it wasn't mentioned post-race (as I'm pretty sure I've heard owners/trainers making excuses post race involving a cough or something happening pre-race). Now as someone who has finally converted to a Curlin fan, I would love for there to be an excuse and for him to go on and win the Arc, but if he can't he can't. He's still a great horse. I was wondering though, if you can confirm or deny this rumor, or at least shed some light on it. Whether it's true or not, I'd like to know.

P.S. It's not Curlin, but I was wondering if you knew what happened to Charming (the first foal of Take Charge Lady for those who don't know), after she took a bad step partway through the race and was vanned off after the Serena's Song at Monmouth this weekend.

14 Jul 2008 10:36 PM
jazznmimi

Dear Steve,

Can't wait for your article about Secretariat.  Thanks in advance!!

14 Jul 2008 10:46 PM
johnnyz

Steve,

Thanks for your insightfull reporting. I agree with you that the Irish Championship is the logical target for Curlin. It will give them options regardless of his effort. If they go with the Longchamp prep, then a dismal performance limits options. What I don't understand is how so many can have the ultra-strong opinion that Curlin has no chance in the Arc after one turf workout, and a 2nd in a G-1 Turf finishing  sandwiched between two past BC Turf Winners. I follow Euro, and Irish racing daily, also bet quite often. IMO, the sensational 3 yr old filly Zarkava with a good Arc prep is the Arc winner this year. Peeping Fawn is still on the disabled list, Henrythenavigator, (who is ultra talented) will stick with the mile distance, as he is way the best in the world. Duke Of Marmalade will travel to Santa Anita for the Classic, or the BC Turf, as he likes a hard surface. New Approach, while talented is unhealthy, Soldier Of Fortune is no Dylan Thomas, as a matter of fact I consider Youmzain who finsihed a close 2nd to DT in last yrs. Arc as a top contender. Anyway I feel this is a good year for Curlin to attempt this feat. Yuu are right, about being close to the pace to win. I commented on Illmans DRF formblog before the license issue was straighten out for "Curlin to win he needed to be on, or very near the lead". If more people followed Euro racing, and understood the beauty, and the pure form of racing that goes on over there, they also would be pulling for Curlin to not only run in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe-but win the darn thing!

14 Jul 2008 10:50 PM
Runfast159

Great article.  I completely agree with your analysis of Curlin on the turf.  And in particular, his placement so far back in the field in the early going of the Man O War.  Had he been laying even 4 or 5 lengths off the leaders I think he would have been tough to catch in the stretch.

I do have one question: Why is California the only venue available for the BC for the next 2 years?  How are the tracks chosen and why would other tracks not be available?

Last comment: CURLIN VS BIG BROWN - I think there is far too much talk right now about a possible match up.  Big Brown, and I love this horse dearly, has something to prove between now and then.  And some dawdling works are not helping. I for one hope he comes back and blows the field away in a race like the Haskell or Travers.  But until that happens, let's not count on a match up with Curlin.  

14 Jul 2008 11:00 PM
berttheclock

Secretariat was in a class to himself.  But, for a real turn of foot for a turf horse, Kotashaan, the Turf HOY and winner of the Breeder's Cup Turf at Santa Anita, had one of the most powerful kicks.  In addition, as proven in the San Juan Capistrano against Bien Bien, he could run sustained 24s while neck and neck with a competitor. Shame that Kent D has so conveniently forgotten him, however, after his debacle of standing up short of the finish in the Japan Cup, that might speak volumes towards his "forgetfullness".

14 Jul 2008 11:19 PM
peter kreutzer

As usual I totally agree with the ability to move quickly on the turf With that in mind my thought is to run Curlin in the Woodbine mile ,where he can be sharpened up and then go to the Arc The turf move from a mile to a mile and a half has ,in my estimation, proven very effective  

        thanks peter

15 Jul 2008 2:10 AM
Will W

I agree with Steve that long striding Curlin must run closer to the pace on the turf and wear down his shorter striding, quicker of foot turf rivals in order to compromise their final explosive kicks and defeat them. .Like Kelso, Curlin will probably get better with more turf races under his belt and become good enough to beat the best in American turf classics, including the Breeder's Cup turf if he is ridden in that fashion. After all, it was one work on the turf and into a Grade 1 with two Breeder's Cup Turf winners while a horse like Red Rocks was trained specifically for the Man O' War. Red Rock's rider said he had the perfect trip 3-4 lengths off a torrid, suicidal pace alone on the rail while Curlin who broke a step slow was 3-4 lengths back of RR and forced to run wide. Having said that in Curlin's favor, the best in Europe in the Arc are probably too much for him. As for Curlin's ability at a mile and a half, he was boxed in on the rail in the Belmont and Albarado was not able to move as quickly as he wanted to, allowing the slightly quicker of foot and well-rested Rag to Riches to get the jump on Curlin and just hold him off in a stirring stretch duel. As Asmussen pointed, out the two came home the last quarter mile in an astoundingly fast clocking. What more could you ask of the inexperienced Curlin who, if he had been allowed to run and gain valuable experience and maturation as a two year old, would have swept the Triple Crown. Kudos to Jess Jackson for running Curlin as a 4 year old. He clearly had Secretariat's reputation in mind in wanting to run Curlin on the turf in the Man O' War and the Arc. Jackson said before the Derby that he thought Curlin might be of the caliber of a Secretariat, a Seattle Slew, and an Affirmed. As Cot Campbell has rightly maintained, horse racing needs stars not more breeding stallions and Jackson has helped put the sport back into the Sport of Kings. What a breath of fresh air for an industry that has been reduced to the greed of breeding ! What a great thing it would be for racing if Jackson let Curlin continue to run as a 5 - even a 6 - year old ducking no one and bringing back memories of the great handicap horses of old like Damascus, Buckpasser, Dr. Fager, et al. Who cares if he gets beat occasionally against the best and two more years on the track would allow more time to try turf experiments and race the horse internationally. What a sportsmen Jess Jackson would be remembered as ! True racing fans would come out in droves to see Curlin and they would be applauding him just as loudly in defeat as in victory as occurred last Saturday at Belmont. Please Jess for the sake of the Sport of Kings keep Curlin on the track. Buck the tide, swim upstream against the greed of racing primarily to amass fortunes breeding and you will become the most beloved owner in modern day racing history !

15 Jul 2008 3:25 AM
Steve Haskin

Sorry, there was a delay in publishing the comments, so I will read them now to catch up and reply to as many questions as possible. Thanks.

15 Jul 2008 6:30 AM
Steve Haskin

Ranagulzion, I never said anything about cutting back to 1 1/4 miles being an issue. As far as the BC Turf, it's an interesting concept. Thr BC cannot raise the purse for those horses, but I would like to think they would go somewhere to meet. I dont see it happening in the Turf, but it's interesting.

Berneslarry, I couldnt agree more about Sudan; he ran an amazing race after those opening fractions. He's definitely one to watch. Alan, so are you saying Big Spruce did not make up 10 lengths on Secretariat? The chart says he did. The fact that he made up 10 lengths is correct, eased or not. And he won under a hand ride, but I wouldnt call it eased. The comment was not about the merits of Secretariat. It was strictly about strategy. His early move to open up that big a lead allowed him to be "eased" (if you wish) late in the race.

15 Jul 2008 6:42 AM
JOSE93

Curlin will fail if he comes to Europe. Henrythenavigator, New Approach, Zarkava, Duke Of Marmalade, Soldier Of Fortune and may more will beat him. Red Rocks was 11 lengths behind Soldier Of Fortune at Epsom, yet beat Curlin, and that is a true margin. If the connections of Curlin want to win a European Group 1 race then he should come for the English Champion Stakes, where the standard is easier. Connections wouldn't come for that because of the supposedly poor prize money. I think most know that the only reason the Arc was suggested was because it is virtually the richest race in the world. There's no other reason, at all.

If Curlin did come to Europe, the idea of Curlin ignoring the Aidan O'Brien rabbit is a fruitless one. If you ignore the rabbit and sit 10 lengths behind him then you'll be in the same situation as the Man O'War.

15 Jul 2008 6:53 AM
Steve Haskin

No Class, I did not see Nijinsky run live, but in case you werent aware, there is a fantastic video on Nijinsky, that I believe is narrated by Orson Welles. If you dont have it, I suggest you look for it. It is one of the best horse videos I've ever seen.

Karen, I didnt see the work. I'll be having another blog in the next day or two discussing all the weird stuff going on with BB and his works. No one at all is reporting on them, and the BB camp has not issued one statement regarding them.

Jean, I am so happy to hear about your granddaughter. We have to start nurturing children when they're young to create the horse and racing lovers of the future.

Pam, as I explained in my last Curlin blog, the Foy is normally a small field with no pace, and you get some strange runnings because of that slow pace.

Alex P, I dont know about Curlin's healed wound, but I wouldnt worry about it. I'm sure that had no bearing on the Man o'War. I will check into Charming.

johnny Z, I agree with you that this is not a vintage crop of Europeans, and it is a good year to attempt this. I discussed this in my last Curlin blog as well.

15 Jul 2008 6:57 AM
90Proof

Rachel

Big Brown needs to face the other superstar 3 year old first, Harlem Rocker.  I personally think BB has a back injury and am really interested in The Haskell, if he comes outta it well, He and Harlem Rocker need to get it on in the Traverse. He is 4 for 4 on the dirt and has numbers that are just as impressive as BB. I still don't think BB will ever race again, I hope I'm wrong.

15 Jul 2008 9:21 AM
dailyimpact

in addition to mr. haskins very comprehensive views of the Arc, here some details regarding the task: Curlin (and any other 4 year old colt) will have to shoulder 131,17 pounds, 3 year old colts 123,46, older fillies 128,97 and the young girls 120,15. the likely winner will be asked to cover the distance of 12 furlongs in about 2.26 flat, if the going is adequate. if you consider Secreteriats Belmont time on dirt you may imagine what we are talking about in the Arc. It is simply the best 3up weight for age middle distance race in the world.

15 Jul 2008 9:21 AM
JOSE93

How is it not a vintage crop of European runners? Duke Of Marmalade is not far off being as good as Manduro. Zarkava is the best filly Europe has seen for a long time, probably better than Ouija Board!!! Duke Of Marmalade's Prince Of Wales' Stakes performance was exceptional. Has nobody seen that? As for Curlin he lacks a turn of foot on all surfaces. The last furlong of the Dubai World Cup took 13 long seconds. They were walking by the end of that race. Considering American racing is about speed his time in the Stephen Foster was nothing brilliant.

15 Jul 2008 9:25 AM
MikeM

One of the things that seperates Curlin from Big Brown is that when Curlin raced on a surface he didn't care for, and the race didn't set up for him, he still ran gamely and finished second to a top horse. When things didn't set up for Big Brown in the Belmont he was eased.

15 Jul 2008 9:42 AM
FormerFan

That's how I felt watching him come down the stretch,  his stride.  He almost looked as if he had no kick, or punch to his run.  To me he looked kinda lethargic coming down the stretch. There was no explosive move. He ran pretty good,  but not good enough to win an Arc,  and if he can't get by Red Rocks,  he's not going to get by better turf runners.  I hope now they abandon this insane idea of taking him to France and running in the Arc.  IMO, it would be embarrassing to say the least,  AND i love Curlin but one has to be realistic.  I wish they would just let this horse do what he does best,  and leave him alone.  

15 Jul 2008 11:46 AM
Steve Haskin

As this point, Duke of Marmalade is a 1 1/4-mile horse; he hasn't done a thing at 1 1/2 miles. Last year he was the perennial bridesmaid. That may change in the King George, but we'll have to see. Zarkava is a terrific filly but she has a long way to go to be compared to Ouija Board. And she hasnt been farther than 1 5/16 miles. Things could change by the fall, but right now there is no standout 1 1/2-mile horse.

15 Jul 2008 12:08 PM
Scottish Racing

Steve,

Your biggest from Scotland here again. You need to catch last nights Grand Prix de Paris over C&D. Montmartre was devasting.

Have a look at the traffic trouble and ask if you would want Robbie A to try and get through that with little or no rides at the track before hand.

Keep up the good work.

15 Jul 2008 4:08 PM
Steve Haskin

Hi SR, I did watch Montmartre and he was extremely impressive. I wonder what happened to him in the Frenchy Derby. I see he's now the new Arc favorite. He may be loch. (a little Scottish humor for you :))

15 Jul 2008 6:56 PM
Flyingm

Does anybody know the Beyers or any of the other speed figs from the Man o War?

15 Jul 2008 7:43 PM
Rachel in Florida

Curlins BSF for his first turf try is a 104.  Curlins AVERAGE BSF improvement 2nd running on any given course is 9 points.  That gives him a 113 and leaves RR in the dust.  Just food for thought.  I hope Jess Jackson stays the course to the Arc.  I will be rooting for him all the way and YES, I think he's capable.  One more thing, THANK YOU JESS JACKSON!!!  Watching Curlin run this year has been a gift!

15 Jul 2008 8:30 PM
Huh

To me right now either New Approach or Henrythenavigator are the favorites in the Arc and Curlin should be at like 50-1 right now, because he couldn't beat a class b european turf horse in Red Rocks but did beat Better Talk Now who closed extremely nicely. I hope Curlin either cancels in trip to Paris and opts for a trip to Arcadia (BC Classic, or BC Turf) or even a trip to Illinois (Arlington Million).

15 Jul 2008 8:36 PM
dr marv

SKIP THE ARC. Why? 1) Not enough time- Curlin needs another turf race before the Foy, leaving him dry for the Arc- 5 races in 4 months. 2) Distance- 12 furlongs (clockwise to boot!) is too long for Curlin. 3) Competition- he'll face the very best of europe at their own game. BETTER PLAN: Irish Champion Stakes. Why? 1) Time- He'd need only one prep in Europe in August which would leave him still fresh for the ICS. He'll only need one prep, rather than two bec the ICS is a much better fit for Curlin and a much easier race than the Arc. 2) Distance- 10 furlongs is Curlin's best distance. 3) Competition- not as good as the Arc.

This would allow Curlin Grade I/ Group I wins in North America, Europe and the Middle East on both dirt and turf, still historic. And then he should aim for the Japan Cup Dirt.

BEST PLAN: Europe prep- Irish Champion - Japan Cup Dirt.

Hey guys, he's already won the Breeders Cup. It wont add anything and he'll be dry for the Japan Cup Dirt.

15 Jul 2008 11:50 PM
dr marv

To DANYLSON, the excitement is that we now have a chance for a true Horse of the World. An American one at that! At all distances, on all surfaces, in all directions, in all continents. There has never been a true Horse of the World (Cigar couldn't run on turf). THE TOP RACES NOW DO NOT PROVE ANYTHING. The Breeders Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup place the clockwise, dirt running 10 furlong Americans at an advantage while the Arc and the Japan Cup place the turf and 12 furlong Europeans at an advantage (although the Japan Cup is run counter-clockwise like in the US). Is it not thrilling that an American horse might actually be the first true Horse of the World? That an American horse might actually be the best at all distances (9-12 furlongs), on all surfaces (turf and dirt) in all directions (clockwise and counter) in all  continents (NA, Europe, Asia)? WOW. Sad thing is, it's not going to be Curlin. We had 2 good shots: In 1973, Secretariat could have done it, but he never ran outside North America. And in 2006, Barbaro raced like the wind on turf and Roy Jackson mused about a trip to France, the Arc and glory. Sigh.

16 Jul 2008 12:17 AM
Scottish Racing

Steve,

His trainer reckons the horse got worked up before the French Derby. His is by Montjeu after all. Royer Dupre has also infered that he reckons there is not much between Zarkava and the colt!

Note that the Racing Post still makes the performance 4pds inferior to the Duke in the POW. I reckon it is a hot Arc this year and will take a lot of winning. The last great foreign horse to come over was Deep Impact. I've seen his runs on You Tube from Japan and still can't believe he ever got beat. Pilot error in the Arc. I still hope Curlin comes over though.

16 Jul 2008 2:20 AM
Julie L.

There were some good comments here in regards to how well Curlin did do in his first start on grass that were positive but I don't understand how others can immediately judge that he isn't a grass horse and should go back to dirt and why is he going to France? Curlin did show that he can run and run well on grass and as Funnycide420 put it all with "five minutes" of training on the turf. Give the horse a break, he has had a pretty tight schedule and for the limited training on turf and going against some pretty darn good Breeders Cup Turf winners how can anyone suggest that he cannot handle turf racing. More training and races on the grass and I believe Curlin could win the Eclipse for best Turf horse if given the chance to prove himself. Going to France to show how good he is even if he only placed is nothing to hang one's head in shame for. Let's get back to real horseracing just like Asmussen and Jackson are trying to do.

16 Jul 2008 4:02 PM
tbpartnerperson43

I took myself to the Stonestreetfarms.com website to vote, but what I really loved was discovering  the Go Curlin website link. How did I not know it was there?  What a terrific site.  Make sure you click each section.  However, I loved the Caregivers part the most and sent the link to all my friends.   The paragraphs on Pancho, the stable pony, are priceless.  Make sure you visit!!!!

17 Jul 2008 10:20 AM

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