Curlin, above, after winning the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic. (Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com)
When Curlin took to the track for the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic, he had already made a case that he deserved the Horse of the Year title, but his win in the race confirmed he was the obvious choice for the award.
Coming around the far turn in the race, it looked like it would be a Kentucky Derby rematch with Curlin and Street Sense chasing down Hard Spun. But Curlin devoured Hard Spun in midstretch, romping in the mud at Monmouth Park to win by 4 ½ lengths.
2007 BREEDERS' CUP CLASSIC
The race solidified Curlin as the top horse of a very competitive 2007. It also ended a big year for the 3-year-old, who did not made his first start until February that year, winning his debut by 12 ¾ lengths.
Curlin made it into the Kentucky Derby the hard way, winning his only two stakes preps before the race. He went into the Derby with just three starts under his belt and proved that he was a serious horse by finishing third in the race.
Two weeks later, Curlin solidified his position as one of the top 3-year-olds when he beat Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense in the Preakness Stakes by a head in the first of two epic battles he would endure during that Triple Crown season. Perhaps the race Curlin was best known for before winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic was one he lost. While he had won the Preakness by a head, in the Belmont Stakes he was at the opposite end of that head when Rags to Riches became the first filly in 102 years to win the Belmont Stakes after a thrilling battle with Curlin through the stretch.
2007 BELMONT STAKES
Curlin went on to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes against older horses two starts later to prove that he could carry his level of racing against older horses as well.
After securing Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male titles by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Curlin flew to Dubai to prep for the Dubai World Cup. The colt won his prep race at Nad Al Sheba by an easy 2 ¼ lengths while carrying 132 pounds, showing that he would be a threat in the world’s richest race. But he made himself known to the rest of the world a month later when he won the Dubai World Cup by a then record-setting 7 ¾ lengths, topping the old record of six lengths set in 2000.
“He's thriving when he is running,” Steve Asmussen, Curlin’s trainer, told ESPN. “He's a tremendous animal. He's spoiled us with who he is.”
Curlin came back to America to dominate the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs less than three months later. In an uncharacteristic move, Curlin’s connections then decided to move the colt to the turf. Their main goal was the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and, after working Curlin on the Churchill turf, they decided to see how the colt would fair in a competitive setting. Curlin headed to the Grade 1 Man o’ War stakes at Belmont Park to take on six others, including 2006 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Red Rocks. But Curlin didn’t seem to have the same spark on turf, finishing second to Red Rocks and prompting his connections to ditch the Arc idea.
Curlin returned to the dirt after the Man o’ War, winning the Woodward Stakes and repeating in the Jockey Club Gold Cup before trying to win a second Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Santa Anita was the host of the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic, running it on a new all-weather surface. It was a track Curlin had never run on but mid-race he seemed to be okay with it, running near the lead. Curlin was in front at the top of the stretch but weakened as two European invaders flew past him to finish first and second. A familiar rival Curlin had run into multiple times during his career named Tiago also got past the colt, beating Curlin out by a neck for third.
Curlin retired as the richest Thoroughbred to ever run in North America with $10,501,800 earned over 16 starts, an earnings mark still held today. His final race was his only off-the-board finish with the colt winning 11 of those races, including nine graded or group stakes races. Curlin ended his career by winning 2008 Horse of the Year and champion older male titles and retiring to Lane’s End Farm.
“He is one of the best examples of the breed - fast, strong, and durable,” owner Jess Jackson, now deceased, said in a press release about the colt going to Lane’s End. “I predict he will make a substantial contribution to our sport through his gene pool, and I am looking forward to seeing his foals compete and possibly exceed his unequaled race record.”
Curlin’s first foals started racing in 2012 and the stallion was off to a fast start, placing ninth on Blood-Horse’s first-crop sire list. But Curlin made an even bigger impression in 2013 when his first crop turned three.
Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice took a bit of time to get rolling but provided Curlin with his first classic race victory as a sire. Since the Belmont, the colt has proved to be one of the top horses of his generation, most recently finishing second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup against older horses.
Curlin’s 2013 2-year-old crop also seems to be off to a nice start with Ride On Curlin finishing third in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes in early October and four others also placing in stakes so far this year. As of Oct. 7, Curlin is again one of the leading sires of his crop, sitting third on Blood-Horse’s second-crop sire list.
Curlin stands next to his sire, Smart Strike, at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Ky., where the now 9-year-old stood for $25,000 in 2013.