Curlin, a 3-year-old colt who began his career in February, reached the pinnacle of American racing less than nine months later with a stylish 4 1/2-length win in the $4,580,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.
In the process, Curlin, ridden by Robby Albarado, just missed the track record for 10 furlongs, getting the distance on a sloppy track in 2:00.59. The time was less than one tick off the Monmouth mark set by Carry Back (listed as 2:00.40) in 1962. A gutsy Hard Spun, who took the lead into the stretch but could not match strides in the lane, hung tough for second while Awesome Gem came on late for third over favored Street Sense.
Steve Asmussen trains Curlin, owned by the Midnight Cry Stable of Shirley Cunningham and Bill Gallion, Satish Sanan's Padua Stables, Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables, and George Bolton.
“It’s incredible," Asmussen said after his first Breeders’ Cup winner. "It’s all about Curlin. He’s the one who did it. (The track) was a huge concern. I was extremely nervous about it, extremely nervous. Robby gave him the chance. He got him on his feet. First time by (the stands), he was carrying Robby nicely, and he ran extremely well from there. He is an incredible horse.”
Making a persuasive case for Horse of the Year, Curlin also won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Preakness (both gr. I) this year. The Classic victory, worth $2.7 million, increased Curlin's lifetime earnings to $5,102,800 -- all this year. He has won six of his nine starts and has never finished out of the money.
Hard Spun, with Mario Pino aboard, had no pace rival as he took the lead right of the gate, with Lawyer Ron and Diamond Stripes settling in second and third 2 to 2 1/2 lengths behind the front-runner. Hard Spun took the field through fractions of 23.11, 45.85, 1:10.67. The only change in position came when the field had run six furlongs and Any Given Saturday moved past Diamond Stripes.
They were in the same spots -- Hard Spun in front followed by Lawyer Ron and Any Given Saturday as they ran a mile in 1:35.86, but Curlin had closed to be in fourth position. Hard Spun still had the lead as they cornered for home, but it was apparent Curlin was challenging to get the lead on his outside. So, just like in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Hard Spun was passed in the lane. This time it was not Street Sense but Curlin who went by him.
Curlin pulled away in the final furlong to win powerfully.
"Everything went perfectly, starting with all the speed up front," Albarado said. "It unfolded just the way we wanted, but it also takes a hell of a horse to get this done. Curlin was there for us every step of the way.”
It was 4 3/4 lengths back to Awesome Gem, with David Flores riding, who edged Street Sense and Calvin Borel by one length.
“We just got outrun today. Curlin ran a beautiful race," Borel said. "At the quarter-pole, I thought I would go with him, but he just kicked away. I couldn’t have had a better trip. He tried hard with me. Curlin is the genuine article, and I just couldn’t go with him.
Street Sense, who was sent off as the favorite, raced on the inside alongside Curlin and moved with him on the final turn. But he could not keep up with Curlin, who steamed away from his Triple Crown rival in the upper stretch. Tiago, Any Given Saturday, Lawyer Ron, and Diamond Stripes followed.
Curlin paid $10.80, $5,20, and $4.20 while Hard Spun paid $7.60 and $5.80. Awesome Gem, a 28-1 shot, returned $9.40 for the show. The exacta paid $70.80, while the $1 trifecta paid $645.30.
"He cruised to the lead easy," Pino said of Hard Spun. "Lawyer Ron had some speed, and I wanted to stay in front of him. I tried to go as slow as possible. When we shook off Lawyer Ron, I said, ‘Great, we still have a chance.’ Then Curlin powered on by, but my horse fought to the very end. It was just an awesome race.”
"Once again, the 3-year-olds showed up," added Larry Jones, trainer of the runner-up. "They’ve been doing it all year. I was really proud of him. After Curlin came to him, he had another gear and started to get away from Street Sense.”
By Smart Strike out of the Deputy Minister mare Sherriff’s Deputy, Curlin was bred in Kentucky by Fares Farm.