Curlin takes aim at Cigar's all-time earnings record in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational.

Curlin takes aim at Cigar's all-time earnings record in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational.

Skip Dickstein

Curlin Stares Down Cigar's Earnings Mark

The Horse of the Year will take on eight rivals in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Sept. 27.

All eyes will be on reigning Horse of the Year Curlin  as he takes aim at Cigar’s all-time earnings record in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr. I) Sept. 27 at Belmont Park.

Eight horses will challenge Curlin, the defending Gold Cup champion. With a win, Curlin would pass Cigar, who holds the earnings’ title for a North American-based runner with $9,999,815. Currently, Curlin has earnings of $9,796,800. The race will be televised live on ESPNEWS, TVG and HRTV. Post time is set for 5:52 p.m. EDT.

It’s difficult to get past Curlin, who is 5-for-6 at the Gold Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles. He will likely be the odds-on favorite.

The Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race and its winner will gain a starting berth to the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) Oct. 25 at Santa Anita. Curlin’s owner, Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables, said a decision on whether the colt would run in the Classic would be a discussion for after the Gold Cup.

The Jockey Club Gold Cup is featured on this week's edition of That Handicapping Show.

Several inches of rain, with heavy wind, is forecast for the New York area Sept. 25 and could continue through Sept. 27.

Curlin, a 4-year-old son of Smart Strike, raced over a sloppy and sealed track last year to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) by 4 1/2 lengths at Monmouth Park.

Scott Blasi, assistant to Curlin’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, said he’s not concerned about the soggy forecast for Gold Cup.

“He’s had experience over a muddy racetrack,” Blasi said. “It’s definitely not an issue for him, according to his bankroll.”

Blasi believes Curlin, who has won four of five starts this year, including the Woodward (gr. I) at Saratoga and the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March, is at the top of his game coming into the Gold Cup.

“He’s awesome,” Blasi said. “It seems like he always comes around this time of year; gets stronger. Hopefully, we are getting into peak at the end of the year.”

As Blasi perused the past performances for the Gold Cup, he noted Wanderin Boy and Timber Reserve had early speed, and said he would be pleased to see Curlin’s rider, Robby Albarado, keep the colt in a stalking position; his customary style. They will break from post 5.

On paper, Mambo in Seattle is Curlin’s chief rival. The 3-year-old son of Kingmambo, out of the Seattle Slew mare Weekend in Seattle, lost a tough decision in the Travers (gr. I) when beaten a whisker by Colonel John.

Neil Howard, who trains Mambo in Seattle for William S. Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy, thought about running in the Super Derby (gr. II) Sept. 20 at Louisiana Downs, but ultimately settled upon the Gold Cup.

“What really enticed us was we thought it would give us another opportunity to run a mile and a quarter.” Howard said. “The way the horse is training, we feel he is ready, hopefully, to run back to a comparable effort he ran in the Travers. There were mostly plusses to running but the only downside, and that is for everyone, is having to take on Curlin. It’s a big undertaking.”

Mambo in Seattle won an overnight stakes at Saratoga over a track labeled “good” in his prep for the Travers.

“Pedigree-wise, especially on the female side, there is mud all over the place,” Howard said. “This horse goes back to Weekend Surprise and Summer Squall breeding. Summer Squall was as good an off-track horse as I have ever been around.”

Howard had to seek a new rider for the Gold Cup since Albarado, who has ridden Mambo in Seattle in the majority of his starts, is Curlin’s regular rider. In light of that, Edgar Prado will ride Mambo in Seattle, who drew the outside post.

Wanderin Boy, second in the 2006 Gold Cup, finished third in this year’s Woodward. He has solid wet-track form for trainer Nick Zito and owner Stone Farm.

Timber Reserve, last year’s Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) winner, won an optional claimer at Saratoga Aug. 28.

A.P. Arrow, fourth in the Woodward, seeks his first win since last year’s Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. Ravel, a $950,000 yearling purchase, makes his second start off a several-month layoff. Merchant Marine steps up in distance and class after winning a 7 1/2-furlong overnight stakes earlier this month at Belmont Park.

Stones River, 3-for-3 for on wet tracks, and Angliana, a long shot, complete the field.

$750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I, Race 10, 5:52 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Ravel (KY), 126, Rafael Bejarano
2. Merchant Marine (KY), 126, Cornelio H. Velasquez
3. Timber Reserve (KY), 126, Kent J. Desormeaux
4. Wanderin Boy (KY), 126, Alan Garcia
5. Curlin (KY), 126, Robby Albarado
6. Angliana (KY), 126, Rajiv Maragh
7. A. P. Arrow (KY), 126, Ramon A. Dominguez
8. Stones River (KY), 126, Gabriel Saez
9. Mambo in Seattle (KY), 122, Edgar S. Prado