Curlin , the defending Horse of the Year and defending Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner, was installed the 7-5 morning line favorite Oct. 21. The son of Smart Strike, the all-time leading North American-based earner, will take on 11 rivals in the $5-million Classic Oct. 25 at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.
After drawing post nine in the 12-horse field, trainer Steve Asmussen said, “It’s a fine draw; there is plenty of run to the first turn. It’s a perfect spot.”
The Classic will be run at 1 ¼ miles over the Pro-Ride synthetic surface at Santa Anita. This year’s two-day Breeders’ Cup marks the first that the main track races will be run over a synthetic surface.
“He’s trained on the synthetic, here and at Keeneland,” Asmussen said. “I think a higher percentage of horses train well over it than run over it. However, we are excited about the opportunity to race here.”
Asmussen will also send out Ro Parra’s Millennium Farms’ Student Council in the Classic. A winner of the Pacific Classic (gr. I) over Del Mar’s Polytrack layout last year, the son of Kingmambois responsible for this year’s Pimlico Special (gr. I). Student Council will break from post 7 under Shaun Bridgmohan in the Classic.
Curlin races for Stonestreet Stables, with a minority interest held by Midnight Cry. Barbara Banke, the wife of Stonestreet principal Jess Jackson, was on hand at the post position draw at Frontrunners Restaurant at Santa Anita with Asmussen.
“This is a great field, but we have confidence,” she said. When asked about the weather, she looked out over the San Gabriel Mountains and said “Yeah, California!”
Asked if this would be Curlin’s last race, Banke said: “We hope not, but that’s up to my husband. We’ll see. Let’s get through Saturday first.”
Curlin has not started since his three-quarter length victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont Park Sept. 27. He has five wins from six starts this year, including a pair of scores in Dubai including the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). His lone defeat came on the turf in the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park July 12. While he has been stabled at Santa Anita since the Gold Cup, he has yet to make a start on the Pro-Ride surface.
|Curlin Slide Show|
Trainer Eoin Harty, who conditions Travers and Santa Anita Derby (both gr. I) winner Colonel John , sized up the Euro contingent.
“The European group here is by far the best we’ve seen in the Classic,” Harty said. “With the synthetic surface, you have to respect them. They’ve run against each other all year and haven’t ducked or dodged each other.”
Raven’s Pass, a 3-year-old colt by Elusive Quality racing for Princess Haya of Jordan, comes into the Classic off a victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I), usually a key prep for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT). He’ll break from post 8. Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor’s Duke of Marmalade won five consecutive group I races prior to a seventh-place finish Oct. 5 in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I). Henrythenavigator has four group I wins on the season.
All of the European entrants remain in the quarantine barns and should be released by Wednesday morning. Aidan O’Brien. who trains both Duke of Marmalade and Henrythenavigator, is expected to arrive in Los Angeles later this evening.
Colonel John will break from post 11 under Edgar Prado.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s a pretty good run to the first turn,” Harty said of the post. “There won’t be blazing fractions and everybody should be sitting where there they want to be.
“He’s doing exceptionally well,” he said of WinStar Farms’ homebred son of Tiznow . “He’s really matured this summer. He hasn’t lost any weight.”
Colonel John hasn’t started since his nose win over Mambo in Seattle in the Aug. 23 Travers at Saratoga. Set at 20-1 on the morning line, Harty noted his colt wasn’t getting a lot of respect. He blamed it partially on a perception of this being a weak crop of 3-year-olds.
Of the horses entered in the Classic, only Smooth Air (post 6, 50-1) went to the track this morning. Tiago, who is based at Hollywood Park, is slated to ship to Santa Anita tomorrow. Casino Drive is scheduled to work at Hollywood Park Wednesday and ship across town Thursday.
|1.||Go Between||Garrett Gomez||
Duke of Marmalade
Ben Stutts Jr.
John H.M. Gosden