Kentucky Derby hopeful Curlin nibbles at the hand of hot walker Juan Gonzales as he gets a bath outside Barn 38 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Monday, April 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) - Curlin was made the early 7-5 favorite
Tuesday in a field of 12 for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
Curlin would likely earn Horse of the Year honors for the second
consecutive year if he defends his title Saturday at Santa Anita in
his first race on a synthetic track.
"The synthetic is a huge question," trainer Steve Asmussen
said. "A higher percentage of horses train better over it than run
well over it."
Without retired Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown in
the field, Raven's Pass, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in
his last start, was made the 6-1 second choice. Like Curlin,
Raven's Pass will be trying a synthetic surface for the first time.
Curlin will break from the No. 9 post.
"Nine is a fine draw," Asmussen said. "It'll be the perfect
spot for him."
Go Between, the Pacific Classic winner, was the third choice at
Undefeated Casino Drive of Japan, Todd Pletcher-trained
Fairbanks, and Duke of Marmalade and Henrythenavigator, both
trained by Irishman Aidan O'Brien, were all 10-1.
"We've always wanted to face a good field and this is a great
field," said Barbara Banke, wife of Curlin's owner Jess Jackson.
"We're looking forward to the challenge."
Last year, Curlin won the Classic by 4½ lengths on a sloppy
track at New Jersey's Monmouth Park. He's expected to run in ideal
conditions Saturday, with the forecast calling for sunshine and
temperatures in the low 80s.
"I almost washed away myself last year," Banke said.
This year's Breeders' Cup features an all-female, five-race card
on Friday, capped by the $2 million Ladies' Classic, previously
known as the Distaff.
Zenyatta is the star of that show, with an 8-0 record that made
her the 3-5 early favorite. Her owner Jerry Moss, who co-founded
A&M Records, named the 4-year-old filly for the 1980 album
"Zenyatta Mondatta" by The Police.
If Curlin falters and Zenyatta stays unbeaten against defending
champion Ginger Punch (9-2) and last year's runner-up Hystericalady
(15-1), she could be the rare filly to have a shot at Horse of the
"That's something we really don't want to talk about," trainer
John Shirreffs said.
Midshipman and Street Hero, winners of the major 2-year-old
races in California, lead the 13-horse field for the $2 million
Both 2-year-olds are proven runners on the artificial surface,
with Midshipman winning two of his three starts on it, and Street
Hero finishing in the money on it in five starts. His lone victory
came over Midshipman in the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Midshipman drew the No. 11 post for
Saturday's Juvenile, one of 10 races on that day's Breeders' Cup
Street Hero, a son of Street Cry who is bred, owned and trained
by Myung Cho, will break from the No. 8 post. Munnings is the
race's 7-2 favorite.
The 14 races to be run Friday and Saturday are worth $25.5
Midnight Lute returns to defend his title as the 7-2 second
choice in the $2 million Sprint for Baffert. Saturday's 6-furlong
race will be just his second start this year and third since
winning the Sprint by 4¾ lengths last year at Monmouth Park.
Street Boss is the Sprint's 3-1 favorite.
Baffert also considered running Indian Blessing in the Sprint,
but opted instead to run her in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint,
where she drew the No. 5 post.
Kip Deville will defend his title in the $2 million Mile on the
turf for trainer Rick Dutrow, who also trains Big Brown. The colt
was suddenly retired because of an injury, denying the Breeders'
Cup its most intriguing matchup between Big Brown and Curlin.
"It's kind of anticlimactic because we've been running big
races all year and pointing toward this," said Michael Ivarone,
Big Brown's principal partner who also co-owns Kip Deville.
Kip Deville is the 5-1 third choice and drew the No. 2 post. He
started from the seven hole when he won by one length last year on
Monmouth's turf that had been softened by pouring rain. Goldikova
is the race's 3-1 favorite.