July 19, 2008

Man o' War field proves too deep for Curlin

Ordinarily, running a strong second in a Grade I turf race against multiple Breeders' Cup Turf champions would be a great thing. However, Curlin is no ordinary horse and his connections were thus stymied by his second place finish to Red Rocks at Belmont Park. And the 8,400 fans on hand at the Elmont, NY track probably wasn't what majority owner Jess Jackson had in mind after vowing to bring the champion back "for the fans to see and enjoy" for his four year-old campaign. It seems as though the fans were as lukewarm about Curlin on the lawn as the Champ himself, without his customary powerful stretch kick.

After all, this was the same place where Triple Crown junkies were delirious after the unforgettable stretch duel between Curlin and filly Rags to Riches just over a year ago in the Belmont Stakes. Even though this race had the marquee names (Curlin in addition to Breeders' Cup Turf champions Red Rocks and Better Talk Now), the race failed to match the anticipation with Red Rocks taking the lead from two speedballers with Curlin and Better Talk Now never seriously threatening the winner, which is unusual for a turf race finish.

Curlin coming up a bit short for the second time he's run over 10 furlongs (1 3/8ths on Saturday) makes me think his best distance isn't suited for the classis European turf races typically run at 1 1/2 miles. Let's hope Plan B or even C may be to work Curlin on a synthetic surface to possibly keep the dream alive of a Breeders' Cup Classic double, something the great Cigar could not even accomplish. With the trend of race tracks adopting the artificial dirt surfaces, success there could mean more value to future stud fees than success on the turf.

In the meantime, may all your bets be worth cashing!

Horse Racing

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