Curlin will make his next start in the $500,000 Woodward (gr. I) Aug. 30 at Saratoga, Stonestreet Stables’ Jess Jackson told media members Aug. 5, but the majority owner would not commit to sending the reigning Horse of the Year anywhere after that, including the Breeders’ Cup later this year at Santa Anita. Jackson also left the possibility open that Curlin could race next year, saying the chances were “pretty slim, but not foreclosed.”
In sending the colt to the Woodward, a nine-furlong event for 3-year-olds and up, Curlin will head back to the dirt. When last seen, the 4-year-old son of Smart Strike finished second in the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. IT) July 12 on the Belmont turf, a race that was supposed be the start of a grass campaign that would eventually lead to him racing in Europe. Jackson did not rule out the possibility that Curlin, who is currently training at Saratoga, could return to turf at some point in the future.
“We had many options, but we decided this was the best place for him to show his talent,” said Jackson, who also considered this weekend’s Arlington Million (gr. IT) on the turf and the Aug. 24 Pacific Classic (gr. I) on Del Mar’s Polytrack, both $1 million events. “We felt it was best for him to race on a surface where he is already a champion and at a place where he can add to his legend. He is very fit here and is a very happy horse here. It’s a historic venue.
“I still think he can be a turf champion, but I’m not sure he has enough time this year to make the adjustments. The turf is not out of his future. We weren’t disappointed in the results.”
Jackson said he and his team, which includes trainer Steve Asmussen, considered the Pacific Classic in part because it would give Curlin at least one race over a synthetic surface, which would help if they decided to run him on Santa Anita’s reconstituted Pro-Ride track Oct. 25 in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). But they decided against the race because they didn’t want Curlin to have to ship back to the East Coast for a potential race in late September. Among the many events Curlin could compete in after the Woodward are the Sept. 20 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs and the Sept. 27 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational (gr. I) at Belmont, Jackson said. Curlin won the Gold Cup last year.
In addition to the Breeders’ Cup Classic later this fall, Jackson mentioned the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), Nov. 30 Japan Cup (Jap-IT) on the Tokyo turf, and Dec. 7 Japan Cup Dirt (Jap-I) at Hanshin as possibilities for the chestnut colt, who has won nine of 13 starts and earned $9,496,800. Jackson said he is aware many people want to see Curlin run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where a possible matchup with dual classic winner Big Brown could take place. But he said the racing surface is a huge question mark.
“I’d like to go (to the Classic),” Jackson said. “I’m a native Californian. But it’s on an untested surface. It causes great concern. Why run a horse like Curlin that is on a surface that's undefined? We’ve won the Classic – been there, done that. (If we did go), I would love to have a prep race on the exact surface, but it doesn’t appear we will be able to. We would probably only be able to exercise on it a few times.
“The Breeders’ Cup has two races to consider. We’re also invited to Japan and Hong Kong. We’re keeping all our options open.”
Jackson was also asked for his reaction to Rick Dutrow Jr.’s recent derogatory remarks on Curlin and if he now felt there was a score to settle with Big Brown.
“I think it is bad for racing to have trash talk,” he said. “It’s unethical in football and other sports as well. The attempt should be to show the animals at their best.
“I would love to meet Big Brown. It would be great for the industry and the fans. But all we can do is take one race at a time. I don’t know where it would be. I suspect they might retire him before we ever get a chance to meet. (If we do) I prefer it be on dirt and at a mile and a quarter.
“Something that intrigues me is whether Big Brown is going to evade us or meet us.”