Calling It A Career

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 18, 2008 in News | No Comments >>

Though owner Jess Jackson left open the possibility that Curlin could race once more this year before being retired to stud at a yet-to-be-determined farm, trainer Steve Asmussen all but eliminated any chance that the 4-year-old reigning Horse of the Year will compete again on the track.

“Without stepping on my own tongue, I don’t see anything worthy of him,” Asmussen said by phone yesterday.

In a news release that went out late Saturday night announcing the retirement for 2009, Jackson said, “if an appropriate venue and purse are offered, we would consider one more race in 2008.”

Churchill’s Grade II Clark Handicap on Nov. 28 — which at one time seemed a possibility for North America’s first $10 million-earner — has been ruled out, Asmussen said. Even though Curlin gallops every morning at Churchill Downs, he has not had a workout since before he finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 25.

Also, Churchill recently cut the Clark’s purse by $100,000 (to $400,000), as part of an overall purse cut, for which the track cited the slumping economy and protracted dispute with horsemen over revenue of account-wagering.

“We’ve eliminated ourselves from the Clark,” Asmussen said. “With the purse cut and it being a Grade II, there’s not enough incentive to be ready for it even if the possibility was so.”

Asmussen indicated Curlin will continue to gallop for the near future, even without a racing objective.

“My understanding is some people are going to come look at him, and we’re just keeping him happy,” he said.

Where Curlin will go to stud is up in the air. The 20 percent interest retained by original owners Shirley Cunningham and Bill Gallion is mired in legal entanglements, including a $42 million civil judgment against the disbarred lawyers for their handling of the fen-phen diet-drug class-action suit. Sealed bids for the minority interest were accepted this month under a court-approved procedure, but all were rejected as insufficient.

Jackson said his Stonestreet Farms will consider offers from stud farms, but that he might stand Curlin at his own property.

Curlin’s fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, his only race over a synthetic surface, is the only time he has not finished at least third in 16 career starts. He won the 2007 Classic at Monmouth Park. He also captured the 2007 Preakness and this year’s Dubai World Cup among his 11 victories.

“He 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.”