Jockey Robby Albarado had his hands full getting the inexperienced son of Smart Strike to negotiate the final turn, and Curlin was drifting out a bit through the stretch after gaining a commanding lead. But he finished as much the best to win by 5 1/4 lengths in a time 1:44 3/5 for the 1 1/16-mile distance.
The husky Curlin was reportedly purchased privately for more than $3 million and is now owned by Stonestreet Stables, George Bolton, Padua Stables, and Midnight Cry Stables following his 12 3/4-length maiden triumph in his first start at seven furlongs Feb. 3 at Gulfstream Park. Transferred by his new connections to Asmussen from Helen Pitts' stable, the chestnut colt was sent off as the narrow second choice in the field of nine.
Albarado stalked the leaders with Curlin in fourth early as Xchanger flew out of the gate to lead the field by himself through fractions of :23 2/5, :47 3/5 and 1:12 2/5. The 9-5 favorite Flying First Class, also coming off a flashy maiden win, was a bit rank early but stayed close to the leader and took over on the final turn for Edgar Prado. But Flying First Class had nothing left for the stretch run. Curlin broke with the second flight of horses, settled behind the leaders, and swept up to the them while four wide and getting out on the final turn. Curlin got the lead at the top of the stretch and kicked clear while under strong handling as he drew off late.
Officer Rocket, ridden by Luis Quinonez, offered a belated rally to finish a clear second. It was 2 1/2 lengths back to Southwest Stakes winner Teuflesberg in third, with Going Ballistic finishing fourth. U D Ghetto, Wannabeincluded, Xchanger, Flying First Class, and Sumac trailed.
Curlin earned $180,000 for Saturday's win and has banked $202,800 in his brief career. Fares Farm Inc. bred Curling, who is out of the Deputy Minister mare Sherriff's Deputy, in Kentucky.
He paid $6.40, $4, and $3.40. The British-bred Officer Rocket, who was also second in the Southwest for trainer Robert Holthus, returned $3.80 and $3.20. Teuflesberg, looking for his fourth win in five starts for trainer Jamie Sanders, was $3.80 to show.