Jackson Issues Challenge to Big Brown

Jackson Issues Challenge to Big Brown
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Jess Jackson
The Big Brown-Curlin soap opera continued Aug. 13 when Jess Jackson, majority owner of 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, announced he will donate $50,000 from the Jackson Curlin for Kids Fund to the non-profit Belmont Child Care Association, Anna House, if Big Brown runs in the $500,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 30.

Curlin is a definite starter for the 1 1/8-mile Woodward, while Big Brown, winner of the recent Haskell Invitational (gr. I), is looking for a grass race in mid-September as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) Oct. 25.

The catalyst for Jackson’s challenge were the comments following the Haskell by Big Brown’s trainer Rick Dutrow, who said Big Brown was “way better” than Curlin.

“Big Brown’s camp’s recent remarks about Curlin inspired me to offer an incentive to get these two great horses to race at the legendary track at the Spa,” said Jackson. “Both horses are eligible for this race and both have plenty of time to prepare for what would be thoroughbred racing at its very best and in the name of a great cause.

“This type of competition between horses is exactly what Thoroughbred racing needs -- an event that introduces the excitement and competition of racing to a broader audience. Imagine Horse of the Year Curlin racing against Derby Winner Big Brown, on a legendary track.  I would love it, the fans would love it, and the horses would love it. ”

When told of the offer, Mike Iavarone, co-president of IEAH Stables, replied, “I have a better offer. We’ll donate $250,000 to various charities if Curlin meets us in the Breeders’ Cup. These are the things we do anyway.  We strongly feel that championships should be decided at the Breeders’ Cup and that in order to give both horses the proper time to prepare for each other, we believe the race we meet in should be on racing’s biggest stage. It also would allow horses from Europe an opportunity to race against us and prove who the best horse in the world is. You’re not going to prove it in a four-horse field in the Woodward. You’re going to prove it in a full field in the Breeders’ Cup. That’s where the champions have been decided almost every year.

“We have said all along that the Breeders’ Cup is the race we should all be meeting in and we’ll up their figure by five times. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Jackson would have to require our horse to run to make a charitable contribution. When you offer to make a donation to charity, it shouldn’t come from anywhere but the heart. We’ve made significant donations to various charities.

“Coming home from the Preakness at 5 oclock in the morning, we saw helicopters overhead on the Long Island Expressway, and the next morning I read a story about a Nassau County police officer, Ken Baribault, who was rear-ended by a drunk driver while he was arresting another drunk driver. He suffered serious injuries and went into a coma. The story was on the page right next to Big Brown. While we were prospering, he and his family were suffering, and I felt it was our duty as Nassau County residents to come to their aid. The idea we had was donate a percentage of the purse money in the Belmont, and we had his family come to the race. Unfortunately that didn’t work out. We then went to an event where they were promoting officer Baribault and we made a donation of $50,000 to his son for his scholarship foundation. Then we found out two weeks later that the officer had come out of his coma and was sent to a rehab center in New Jersey only 15 minutes from Monmouth Park. So we arranged for his whole family to come to the Haskell and donated a piece of the purse from the race so someone could stay with him until he can get back on his feet.

“So, again, my answer to Mr. Jackson is, we’ll donate $250,000 to several charities if Curlin faces us in the race he’s supposed to run in – the Breeders’ Cup Classic.”

As Iavarone said of Big Brown and this whole topsy-turvy year, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

Curlin, meanwhile, continues to train for the Woodward, working six furlongs on Aug. 11 in 1:14 3/5 on the sloppy Oklahoma training track at Saratoga.
The Jackson Curlin for Kids Fund is named in honor of Horse of the Year, Curlin. Jess Jackson, founder of Kendall-Jackson Wines, and his wife Barbara Banke – owners of Curlin, created it in 2007.  The fund’s purpose is to make a difference in the lives of children where Curlin runs or trains by sharing a portion of his earnings with local children's charities. It is held and managed by Lexington-based Blue Grass Community Foundation.

The Belmont Child Care Association is a not-for-profit corporation established in 1998. The BCCA has established an on-site childcare center – Anna House -- for the benefit of working families at New York area racetracks and to providing scholarship funds to those unable to afford the cost of care. Its volunteer board represents the broad-based industry support BCCA enjoys.

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