News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
CURLIN TO STAND AT STUD IN 2009
The racing career of 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin apparently has reached an end, with majority owner Jess Jackson declaring that the chestnut colt has nothing left to prove.
Although Jackson held out the possibility that Curlin could race once more this year if an appropriate location and prize money were offered, he said in a news release issued late Saturday that the son of Smart Strike would take up stud duties in 2009.
“[Curlin] always gave it his all and has done everything we have asked of him,” Jackson said. “I am proud to announce that he will start a new career in 2009, and contribute his soundness, stamina, durability and athleticism to the breed. I am looking forward to seeing his foals compete and possibly exceed his unequaled racing record.”
It has not yet been announced where Curlin will reside as a stallion, though the Internet site “The Paulick Report” is reporting that Lane’s End Farm is expected to announce that Curlin will stand at the Versailles, Ky., farm for a stud fee of $75,000.
Curlin will retire as North America’s all-time leading money earner. His bankroll stands at $10,501,800, including the $255,000 acquired from his most recent effort, a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on October 25. That effort, the only race of his life over a synthetic surface, marked the only time in his 16-race career that he finished worse than third.
Unraced at two, Curlin broke the all-time North American earnings record by doing what no horse in America or Europe has ever done before–amassing more than $5 million in two consecutive seasons.
THORN SONG HEADS FIELD OF 11 FOR RIVER CITY
Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song will face 10 rivals Saturday as he shoots for consecutive victories in the Grade III, $100,000-added River City Handicap to be run at a mile and one-eighth over the turf at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Trained by Dale Romans, Thorn Song will have to overcome the outside No. 11 post position if he is to join Same Old Wish (1996-97) and Dr. Kashnikow (2001-02) as a repeat winner of the River City. Thorn Song will be ridden by Robby Albarado and carry high weight of 122 pounds, conceding three-to-nine pounds to his rivals.
Winner of the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland in October as well as the Grade II Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs in July, Thorn Song enters the River City off a ninth-place finish in the Oct. 25 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita.
Two other River City starters have stakes victories in 2008, although none is of the graded variety. Oxbow Racing’s Steve Double, trained by Ronny Werner, has won the Remington Green at Remington Park and the Unbridled Handicap at Louisiana Downs in his two most recent starts and ran third to Thorn Song in the Firecracker. Steve’s Double will be ridden by Jamie Theriot and carry 117 pounds. Amerman Racing Stables’ Demarcation took the Franklin-Simpson at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 15 for trainer Paul McGee. Jesus Castanon will ride Demarcation, who carries 117 pounds.
The complete field for the 32nd running of the River City, from the hedge out, is: Yate’s Black Cat (jockey: Miguel Mena, weight: 119 pounds), Mr. Sidney (John Velazquez, 113), Star Plus (ARG) (Kent Desormeaux, 116), Pleasant Strike (Chris DeCarlo, 115), Karelian (Calvin Borel, 119), Just As Well (E.T. Baird, 113), Telling (Shaun Bridgmohan, 117), Demarcation (Jesus Castanon, 117), Canela (Julien Leparoux, 115), Steve’s Double (Jamie Theriot, 117) and Thorn Song (Robby Albarado, 122).
LOOKING FOR A BRIGHT FUTURE IN DISCOVERY HANIDICAP
Deep into the racing season, Saturday’s 64th edition of the Grade III, $100,000-added Discovery Handicap at New York’s Aqueduct Racetrack offers three-year-olds one final chance to compete against their contemporaries.
Eight sophomores, all of whom officially become four years old on January 1, were entered in the 1 1/8th mile race, and all but two will be seeking their first victory in a graded stakes.
Carrying high weight of 118 pounds in the Discovery is Lael Stable’s Ready Set, a son of Touch Gold who won the Grade III West Virginia Derby, while Eric Fein’s Big Truck, winless since upsetting 2007 two-year-old champion War Pass in March in the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby, totes 116 pounds.
“It’s the last big three-year-old race around here, and we’d like to run him in it,” said Barclay Tagg, who trains the New York-bred son of Hook and Ladder. “He’s been doing real well, and let’s say we’re cautiously optimistic.”
While Big Truck and Ready Set, trained by Michael Matz, have knocked heads with some of the higher-profile three-year-olds, their rivals will be looking to step it up in a big way Saturday.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is hoping Gilman Hallenbeck’s Lieutenant Ron will fulfill the promise he’s been showing and establish himself as an older horse to be reckoned with next year. Winner of his first two starts, one last fall and the next in April, the son of Graeme Hall then came off a five-month layoff to finish third as the prohibitive favorite in an allowance at Belmont on September 14. Three weeks later, he ran off to an 8 ¾-length win in the slop on October 5 going seven furlongs.
“He might be one of the most talented horses I’ve ever trained,” said McLaughlin of the West Point Thoroughbreds’ color-bearer, who will be making his first start around two turns. “We think he wants to go longer.”
Likewise, owner-trainer John Kimmel is anticipating a breakthrough for Premium Gold, a huge chestnut son of Mineshaft who scored an eye-catching four-length victory at Saratoga on September 1, then ran a disappointing fifth behind Atoned and Ready Set in the Grade III Pegasus at the Meadowlands on October 24.
“I’m hoping we discover a nice horse for the future,” said Kimmel. “He’s what you would expect out of a Mineshaft – he’ll be better as a four-year-old than he is as a three-year-old, and he’s right at the cusp of showing me that.”
The complete field for the Discovery Handicap, in post position order, is: Wishful Tomcat (jockey: Ramon Dominguez, weight: 114 lbs.); Web Gem (Rajiv Maragh, 114); That’srightofficer (Edgar Prado, 115); Ready Set (Jose Lezcano, 118); Big Truck (Eibar Coa, 116); Coach Shaw (Joe Bravo, 113); Premium Gold (Richard Migliore, 114); and Lieutenant Ron (Alan Garcia, 116).
GEORGE WOOLF FINALISTS ANNOUNCED
Santa Anita Park has announced a list of five finalists for the 60th annual Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, with the winner to be announced in January. Gary Baze, Calvin Borel, Javier Castellano, David Flores and John Velazquez will face an electorate comprised of their peers to determine the winner of the award, which has been presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950 to a rider whose career and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
Woolf, who was regarded as one of the nation’s top big-money jockeys, was affectionately known as “The Iceman,” and was revered by his colleagues as a fierce competitor and consummate professional. The Woolf Award is traditionally presented in late March or early April.