Curlin Stares Down Cigar's Earnings Mark

All eyes will be on reigning Horse of the Year Curlin as he takes aim at Cigar's all-time earnings record in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational Sept. 27 at Belmont Park.

Eight horses will challenge Curlin, the defending Gold Cup champion. With a win, Curlin would pass Cigar, who holds the earnings' title for a North American-based runner with $9,999,815. Currently, Curlin has earnings of $9,796,800. The race will be televised live on ESPNEWS, TVG, and HRTV. Post time is set for 5:52 p.m. EDT.

It's difficult to get past Curlin, who is 5-for-6 at the Gold Cup distance of 1 1/4 miles. He will likely be the odds-on favorite.

The Gold Cup is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race and its winner will gain a starting berth to the $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 25 at Santa Anita. Curlin's owner, Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables, said a decision on whether the colt would run in the Classic would be a discussion for after the Gold Cup.

Several inches of rain, with heavy wind, is forecast for the New York area Sept. 25 and could continue through Sept. 27.

Curlin, a 4-year-old son of Smart Strike, raced over a sloppy and sealed track last year to win the Breeders' Cup Classic by 4 1/2 lengths at Monmouth Park.

Scott Blasi, assistant to Curlin's trainer, Steve Asmussen, said he's not concerned about the soggy forecast for Gold Cup.

"He's had experience over a muddy racetrack," Blasi said. "It's definitely not an issue for him, according to his bankroll."

Blasi believes Curlin, who has won four of five starts this year, including the Woodward at Saratoga and the Dubai World Cup in March, is at the top of his game coming into the Gold Cup.

"He's awesome," Blasi said. "It seems like he always comes around this time of year; gets stronger. Hopefully, we are getting into peak at the end of the year."

As Blasi perused the past performances for the Gold Cup, he noted Wanderin Boy and Timber Reserve had early speed, and said he would be pleased to see Curlin's rider, Robby Albarado, keep the colt in a stalking position; his customary style. They will break from post 5.

On paper, Mambo in Seattle is Curlin's chief rival. The 3-year-old son of Kingmambo, out of the Seattle Slew mare Weekend in Seattle, lost a tough decision in the Travers when beaten a whisker by Colonel John.

"The way the horse is training, we feel he is ready, hopefully, to run back to a comparable effort he ran in the Travers," said trainer Neil Howard. "There were mostly plusses to running but the only downside, and that is for everyone, is having to take on Curlin. It's a big undertaking."

Mambo in Seattle won an overnight stakes at Saratoga over a track labeled "good" in his prep for the Travers.

"Pedigree-wise, especially on the female side, there is mud all over the place," Howard said. "This horse goes back to Weekend Surprise and Summer Squall breeding. Summer Squall was as good an off-track horse as I have ever been around."

(Originally published at BloodHorse.com.)

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Karen M. Johnson

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