What’s Next?

by Ed Meyer

posted on October 29, 2008 in Breeders Cup, General Discussion | No Comments >>

Horse of the Year Curlin (Smart Strike), who finished fourth as the defending champion in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), and the other Breeders’ Cup horses trained by Steve Asmussen, came out of their races in good order. They will leave Santa Anita early Monday morning for a flight to Louisville, Kentucky, where they are scheduled to arrive at approximately 11 a.m. (EDT).

Asmussen said that he does not know whether Curlin will be retired to stud duty or continue in training.

“Nothing has been mentioned to this point about what is next for him, other than those travel arrangements,” he said.

Late Sunday morning, Asmussen was scheduled to call Curlin’s majority owner Jess Jackson.

“I’ll talk with Mr. Jackson about the condition in which he came out of the race, confirm with him his schedule of leaving and when he arrives in Kentucky,” Asmussen said. “I think that will be the extent of it. I’ll touch base once he’s in Kentucky about his condition upon arrival. The conversations will go from there.”

Asmussen said he would not speculate on what decision Jackson has made about the four-year-old colt.

“I am not privy to and have not had the conversations about the questions that are obviously fixing to be asked,” Asmussen said.

Curlin walked, bathed and jogged on the road near Asmussen’s barn Sunday morning.

Asmussen smiled when it was suggested that Curlin may repeat as Horse of the Year even after his fourth-place finish to Raven’s Pass (Elusive Quality) in the Classic.

“With Curlin, nothing is a consolation. We’re just proud of who he is,” Asmussen said. “He’s the first North American-based horse over $10 million and he’s just had a remarkable run.

“Just like taking him out and jogging him on the road this morning, he’s that good, he’s that horse. To do what he does and come back the way that he is, is extremely special in this day and age. He’s been a throwback from the beginning and he’s still that horse. He’s extremely durable mentally and physically, a very special horse. Our affections for him are not going to waver.”

Asmussen said it didn’t take him long to realize that Curlin did not appear to be comfortable running over the Pro-Ride synthetic surface.

“Watching the race first time by, I was very concerned,” he said. “It kind of looked like the Man o’ War S. [G1], where he finished second in his only attempt on turf. He was off the bridle. Very concerned.”

“I think he had to struggle to get where he was, the first time by,” Asmussen said. “When he went under the wire the first time, he was further back and (jockey) Robby (Albarado) was nudging him forward. He works harder to go over it than he works to go over the dirt.

“Initially, I was disappointed that he didn’t win. Just not selfishly, but simply concerned how the horse feels and how the people with him do from that point.”

Asmussen did not make any apologies about the performance.

“No excuses necessary, none required. That’s what makes racing great,” he said. “No disrespect for a Breeders’ Cup winner. He (Raven’s Pass) beat a talented field and he deserves the congratulations that go with it. It was an outstanding job with an outstanding horse.”