Curlin made racing history by winning the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr.I) at Belmont Park in New York Sept. 27. Curlin’s victory, which was worth $450,000, made the colt the richest North American-based Thoroughbred of all-time and the first to vault past the $10-million mark. The Gold Cup was a "Win and You're In" designated race for the Classic. Curlin, with earnings of $10,246,800, surpassed Cigar, who now ranks second with $9,999,815.
Less than an hour after the race, Curlin’s owner, Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stable, said the reigning Horse of the Year would go to Santa Anita to prepare for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) Oct. 25, and a much-anticipated matchup with Big Brown, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr.I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner. In another surprising announcement that followed the first, the Curlin camp said the colt was to leave Sept. 28 for California.
"But it is up to him whether he likes the (Pro-Ride surface)," Jackson said. "So, those are concerns will still have. But we'll consider (the Classic) now that we we're past this hurdle. That's the next prospect for us and we'll give it every bit of attention."
Jackson watched the race in California, where he was attending a charity event. His wife, Barbara Banke, was at Belmont.
Curlin won the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup by three-quarters of a length over Wanderin Boy. The margin of victory was deceiving, considering Robby Albarado, aboard Curlin, only threw crosses with his reins to urge his mount to the lead. Wanderin Boy, under Alan Garcia, was being ridden vigorously.
Wanderin Boy was sent to the early lead and ran an opening quarter mile in :24.67 and a half-mile in :48.79 over a sloppy and sealed track. Curlin, the 2-5 favorite, was running comfortably in fifth position down the backstretch. At one point, Mambo in Seattle, the second choice, moved up on the inside and passed Curlin. Albarado guided Curlin in between horses with a half mile remaining. As the field made its way around the far turn, Wanderin Boy was still on the lead, and Merchant Marine, who had chased the pacesetter from the start, was still in the second spot.
Curlin was moving sweetly on the outside, while Mambo in Seattle was retreating. With a sweeping outside move, several paths wide, Curlin came to Wanderin Boy and Merchant Marine at the top of the stretch.
Wanderin Boy, who had run six furlongs in 1:13.08, didn’t throw in the towel, and kept after Curlin. But the champion wouldn’t be denied his place in history, and won his second consecutive Gold Cup.
Curlin, who is trained by Steve Asmussen, completed the distance in 2:01.93. He returned $2.80, $2.10, and $2.10. The exacta with Wanderin Boy returned $9.40.
The order of finish was completed by Merchant Marine, Mambo in Seattle, Ravel, Stones River, A. P. Arrow, and Angliana. Timber Reserve was scratched because of the sloppy surface.
“I’m sure it is not going to hit me for a while,” Albarado said of Curlin’s earnings record. “I’m sure this record will be broken one day, but it will take a helluva horse. I had a great trip. It’s really amazing. Steve (Asmussen) instilled a lot of confidence in me before the race. He just ran his race again and gave me that big Curlin move again on the turn. It was tremendous – and very emotional. The bar is set against him every time, but he exceeds our expectations every time he runs.”
Asmussen said he saw the confidence Albarado had in the 4-year-old colt.
“Robby was really comfortable down the backside,” Asmussen said. “I think he knows who he is on, and he let it sort out in front of him. He looked comfortable around the far turn, lost a little bit of position on the backside when Robby decided he didn’t want to be that wide. He immediately moved up in the bridle and came into the stretch the way you wanted him to be.
“It was very emotional for me. I was very excited and very proud of everybody involved. Fifteen races he’s won more than $10 million. We had two back-to-back $5 million years.”
Curlin, a son of Smart Strikeout of the Deputy Minister mare Sherriff's Deputy, has won 11 races from 15 career starts. He was bred by Fares Farm in Kentucky.