Trainer Steve Asmussen was none too pleased with the 128-pound impost assigned to 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin for his expected bid in the June 14 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. Still, after a half-mile breeze in :49 seconds by the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner June 9, Asmussen indicated the horse would start in the 1 1/8-mile event.
"Not running would be an injustice to him," Asmussen said. "When you look at it, we're giving quality horses 15 pounds, and that’s quite significant. But he must overcome. They didn't put him back in training to debate weights."
Majority owner Jess Jackson was still in California June 10, but planned to travel to Louisville, Ky., the following day. Jackson was preceded by his wife, Barbara Banke, who was in town June 10 to distribute funds from the Curlin for Kids Foundation to various charities.
Concerns over whether Curlin would start in the Stephen Foster, the purse for which Churchill boosted to $1 million by offering a $250,000 bonus should a grade I winner race in the event, were raised the weekend following the June 7 release of weights for the probable entries. Asmussen believes the 4-year-old should have been assigned 126 pounds, which he carried in winning the March 29 Dubai World Cup.
Churchill racing secretary Ben Huffman told Daily Racing Form
he believes Curlin’s assignment of 128 is fair, especially considering the record maintained by the 2007 Preakness Stakes (gr. I)-winning son of Smart Strike
. "He has won the Breeders' Cup, reeled off four in a row, took the Jockey Club (Gold Cup), and easily beat Dubai World Cup horses," Huffman said. "It's a lot of weight, but he's a lot of horse."
Curlin carried 132 pounds in his 2008 debut in Dubai, where he won the 1 ¼-mile Jaguar Trophy. In the Stephen Foster, he is expected to face Einstein (at 118 pounds), Grasshopper (117), Brass Hat (116), Delightful Kiss (114), Jonesboro (114), Barcola (113), High Blues (113), Red Rock Creek (113), and Sam P. (113).