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Curlin stakes claim to Horse of the Year
Preakness winner defeats his primary competition in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
OCEANPORT, N.J. -- Curlin easily dismissed his toughest rivals in the Breeders' Cup Classic, beating Street Sense, Hard Spun and Lawyer Ron to virtually crown himself Horse of the Year.
Of course, the Eclipse Award won't be given out until January, but Curlin's 4 1/2-length victory left few doubters after he concluded his season in sensational fashion.
"The horse came through with flying colors and put in his best performance yet," trainer Steve Asmussen said Sunday. "He was the best horse that he's been, but everything has to be evaluated from that."
Curlin had never run on a wet track, although it was hard to tell by his performance Saturday. Jockey Robby Albarado moved him into contention around the final turn at Monmouth Park and they swept past Hard Spun and Lawyer Ron. Curlin became the eighth 3-year-old to win the Classic.
Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense tried to catch Curlin, but couldn't make up ground in the stretch over the sloppy track.
The Classic field featured the first three Derby finishers -- Street Sense, Hard Spun and Curlin. The trio took turns beating each other the past few months, and they defeated older horses as well.
But ultimately, Curlin came out on top with six wins, a narrow loss to the filly Rags to Riches in the Belmont Stakes and two thirds in nine races for earnings of $5.1 million.
Asmussen said that no decision has been made on whether Curlin will be retired to stud or race next year as a 4-year-old.
Retirement is in the immediate futures of Street Sense and Hard Spun. Both colts are headed to stud at Darley Stable in Kentucky.
"Those three horses have been phenomenal all year," said Larry Jones, Hard Spun's trainer. "Street Sense and Curlin took turns beating up on me. We beat Street Sense as many times as he beat us, and Curlin, out of five times, he got us three and we got him the other two. This may be one of the best crops ever."
Hard Spun was second in the Derby, third in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont.
Another year-end honor was all but decided, too.
War Pass improved to 4-for-4 with a 4 1/2-length victory in the $2 million Juvenile, likely cinching the Eclipse as the nation's top 2-year-old.
"The beautiful part of it is there is no explanation needed," trainer Nick Zito said. "He put an exclamation point on that."
The victory stamped War Pass as the Kentucky Derby winter favorite. He will head to Florida to prepare for next year's Triple Crown series, and won't run until February, Zito said.
"We just have to do what's right and make sure everything goes good, and not overuse him in Florida," the trainer said. "Just get him ready for what we're supposed to get him ready for."