Majority owner Jess Jackson announced Oct. 14 that reigning Horse of the Year Curlin will defend his title in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at California’s Santa Anita Park on Oct. 25.
“Everything is a go,” Jackson said during a National Thoroughbred Racing Association teleconference that coincided with the deadline for pre-entries into the two-day World Championships. The announcement also comes one day after an eventful Oct. 13, when it was announced that top 3-year-old Big Brown was injured and would be retired, negating any possibility of him ever facing Curlin, the all-time leading earner among North American Thoroughbreds.
In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session during the teleconference, Jackson said he has several concerns about the upcoming Classic. He noted that the Curlin connections do not have advantage of a prep race over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface and that there are other horses in the race who have proven records on synthetic tracks. He also said the defection of Big Brown, the winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) before being pulled up in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), leaves the Classic field lacking in much early speed. A late-closing horse like Curlin relies upon an abundance of speed early in a race.
Curlin, who has never finished worse than third in 15 career starts, has 11 wins to his credit. In the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr.I) at Belmont Park, Curlin became the richest North American-based Thoroughbred of all-time with earnings of $10,246,800.
On Oct. 13, Curlin had his second workout over the Santa Anita track, getting five furlongs in a quick 59.11 seconds.
“Curlin showed yesterday that he can handle the (surface),” Jackson said. “It’s a bit faster than any surface we’ve run on and that worries me a bit. It gives horses with less durability a chance to compete against him.”
Noting the achievements of the son of Smart Strike , Jackson said a second Classic victory would be “a cherry on top of our sundae for this year’s achievements.”
“This would add just one more dimension to the horse,” Jackson said, adding that the colt is not continuing to race because of money. He has proven he’s got the genes, the durability, the stamina that few horses match, particularly in talent, heart and determination.”
Jackson noted the insurance premium for Curlin while he continues racing is $3 million a year. Jackson said he and the partners in minority owner Midnight Cry Stable could have made more money had Curlin been retired to stud at the beginning of 2008. “The insurance cost $3 million and he earned $5 million this year, so that shows there is not much economic benefit to racing,” Jackson said.