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.
Regardless of how Curlin fares in the Breeders’ Cup, Jackson would say what lay ahead for the champion colt. He said the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) or Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs are possible venues for him before the end of the season and there is a possibility he could be retired.
He said there have been discussions with various breeding farms interested in having Curlin join their stallion ranks, but he said none of the talks have been serious yet.
Jackson said that while he is proud of Curlin’s achievements on the racetrack, he hopes the colt’s legacy will be in the breeding shed.
“His genes are needed in the gene pool due to his durability and stamina,” Jackson said. “I would like to see his foals run and win and establish durability (within the breed)…. I would like to see that as his primary contribution to the industry.”
Click here to watch video of Curlin's 10/13/08 workout.