Curlin took another step closer to the Oct. 25 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) when he executed a flawless workout between races at Santa Anita Oct. 13. With regular exercise rider Carlos Rosas aboard and in company with Hawaii Calls, Curlin traveled five furlongs in :59.11, galloping out in 1:12.14.
“I was very pleased with him,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He came out, noticed the crowd, gave it a little look jogging off. Carlos was very happy with him once he broke into a gallop. He was all business from there.”
Majority owner Jess Jackson flew in from Northern California, barely getting to Santa Anita in time to see the work, which went between the fourth and fifth races. Jackson and Asmussen wanted to see how Curlin handled Santa Anita’s synthetic surface in the afternoon.
“It warms up under these circumstances at this time of day,” Asmussen said. “He didn’t seem dry. He looked to be ventilated fine. We’re very anxious to see how he is in the morning.”
Asmussen and Jackson both spoke as if Curlin would be pre-entered in the Classic Oct. 14, though they carefully did not completely commit themselves. The final decision, they said, would hinge on how Curlin feels in the morning.
Certainly, Curlin felt good going into the work. He hopped around a bit while walking at the barn before Rosas climbed aboard. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan had flown out to work another Asmussen Classic hopeful, Student Council, that morning, and he rode Hawaii Calls for the afternoon work.
As Curlin and Hawaii Calls walked to the track accompanied by assistant trainer Scott Blasi on stable pony Pancho, fans and backstretch workers lined the fence armed with cameras. Even owner Billy Koch of the Little Red Feather partnership that campaigned 2004 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Singletary brought out his camera.
“Hey, I’m a big fan,” Koch said as he ran to the rail to take a photo.
Curlin jogged in the center of the track while Hawaii Calls stayed nearer the rail. They rounded the clubhouse turn and then broke off for the work. Curlin’s internal fractions were :23.56 and :47.09. As the pair came into the stretch, fans applauded Curlin all the way to the wire.
“We have a great amount of pride to see how he is received,” Asmussen said. “We’re so proud about how everybody feels about him.”
Jackson and Asmussen took the time before discussing Curlin’s work to say how sorry they were that an injury had ended Big Brown’s career earlier in the day.
“We were very much looking forward to what everyone else was looking forward to,” said Jackson, alluding to the match-up between Curlin and Big Brown in the Classic. “I don’t think that the luster of the race has particularly dimmed much because there are so many great international giants in this race.”