Curlin Bids Farewell at Churchill Downs
Horse of the Year Curlin closed out his record-setting career at Churchill Downs Nov. 29, as he was paraded in front of fans on the final day of the track’s Fall Meet.
The 4-year-old colt, whose career earnings of $10.5 million set a North American racing record, made his final bow in a procession from the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen to the paddock at Churchill, where he circled with the starters for the fifth race before appearing in a winner’s circle retirement ceremony.
“It’s very emotional,” said Asmussen, who led Curlin to all but one of his 11 career victories. “The things he’s done for us that we hadn’t done, everything he’s accomplished, leaves us with a great sense of pride.”
Asmussen said Curlin will leave Churchill for Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Ky. Nov. 30, where he will begin his stud career next year.
“We’re so happy to see him retiring sound, 100 percent, not even slightly phased and so spectacular,” said Barbara Banke, the wife of Curlin’s majority owner, Jess Jackson. “He couldn’t be in any better health, and Jess is looking forward to seeing a lot of baby Curlins running around.”
Jackson, the founder of Kendall-Jackson wine estates, watched the ceremony from the couple’s home in California.
Unraced as a 2-year-old, Curlin nevertheless brought home $10,501,800 in purse earnings during a campaign that began in 2007.
That year he finished third in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), took the Preakness Stakes (gr. i), finished second in the Belmont (gr. I) before ending the year with victories in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).
In 2008 his victories included the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), the Woodward Stakes (gr. I), and a second Jockey Club Gold Cup score that boosted his earnings past the previous mark set by Cigar. He retires off his only out-of-the-money finish, a fourth-place effort over Santa Anita’s synthetic track last month in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was ridden by jockey Robby Albarado in all but his first start.
Jackson purchased majority interest in Curlin in 2005, leading a group of investors that he has since bought out. A remaining 20 percent interest is maintained by former attorneys William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr., who bought the colt at auction for $57,000 in 2004 for their Midnight Cry Stables.
Gallion and Cunningham, involved in a $42 million civil suit in which they are accused of defrauding former clients in a settlement over the diet drug fen-phen, have been ordered to sell their share of the colt. Jackson bid $4 million for the remaining share and although a court-appointed receiver has recommended that the offer be accepted, attorneys for Gallion and Cunningham say the bid should be much higher. That transaction is being worked over in court at this time.
Earlier this month, an appraiser set Curlin’s value at $20 million. But Banke said the colt’s worth transcends monetary value.
“I wouldn’t trade this year for anything,” she said.
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