Reigning Horse of the Year Curlin will make his Saratoga debut Saturday in the 55th running of the Grade I, $500,000 Woodward Stakes at a mile and an eighth. Post time is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. (ET)
“One of the great things about Mr. Jackson keeping him in training is being able to run in this race, with its history,” said assistant trainer Scott Blasi of the decision by owner Jess Jackson to keep Curlin in training as a four-year-old after his outstanding 2007 season that included a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. “There are only so many opportunities. We’ve never dodged anyone, and we’ve never had one given us – he’s always had to earn it.”
With every start but his first coming in a stakes race, Curlin has amassed a bankroll of $9,496,800, third all-time behind Cigar ($9,999,815) and Skip Away ($9,616,360). A victory in the Woodward would move him up to second at $9,796,800.
So far this year, Curlin has won the Jaguar Cup at Nad el Sheba, the $6 million Dubai World Cup by a record 7 ¾ lengths, and the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Already having won on two continents, his connections next explored a possible international campaign on turf but backed off when he finished second to 2006 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Red Rocks in the Man o’War Stakes at Belmont Park in July.
“The Man o’War was a good race,” said Blasi. “He made up eight lengths to finish second. I’m glad we tried.”
Already hailed as the best Thoroughbred in the world, according to rankings by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities and the British racing publication Timeform, Curlin will take on seven in the Woodward, a race that has been won by such superstars as Kelso, Forego, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and Cigar.
The Timeform ratings assigned Curlin, the 3-5 morning line favorite in the Woodward, a “134,” a figure that leaves horsemen shaking their heads.
“A 134 is practically off the charts,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who will be saddling the race’s likely second choice in Divine Park. “A 115 is the starting point for Grade I horses. He’s one of the best horses we’ve seen in the past 15 or so years, and we are looking forward to taking him on.”
The complete Woodward field, in post position order, is: A. P. Arrow (jockey: Cornelio Velasquez, morning line odds: 20-1); Loose Leaf (Eibar Coa, 15-1); Past the Point (Edgar Prado, 15-1); Divine Park (Alan Garcia, 3-1); Curlin (Robby Albarado, 3-5); Dr D.F.C. (Aldo Arboleda, 50-1); Out of Control (John Velazquez, 12-1); and Wanderin Boy (Julien Leparoux, 8-1).
“It [the track closure] affected us quite a bit,” said Marr. “We lost training, but she has had two good works since then,” Marr said.
The undefeated winner of Del Mar’s Sorrento Stakes, Evita Argentina, heads the field, which includes three fillies that finished behind her in the Sorrento.
Second in the Sorrento was Stardom Bound, still a maiden despite two impressive runner-up finishes at the San Diego area racetrack. Third-place finisher Glitter City, who was dropped to fourth for interference in the stretch, will also test the top two, as will Emmy Darling, who won Hollywood Park’s Landaluce Stakes and was moved up from fourth to third in the Sorrento.
The supplemented horses are Saucey Evening, a close second in the C.T.B.A. Stakes July 18, Palacio de Amor, a good looking maiden winner at Del Mar August 16, and Will O Way, who won her career debut at Calder in Miami.
NORTH AMERICAN RACING ACADEMY GRADUATE TO COMPETE AT SARATOGA
Hall of Fame jockey and director of NARA Chris McCarron feels that Davis is well prepared for her debut. “The program is hands on,” said McCarron. “We not only train the students physically, but mentally as well. They are well-educated in all aspects of the racing and equine industry when they graduate.”