by James Scully, Brisnet.com
Holiday Racing -- Thanksgiving Weekend is always a highlight for Thoroughbred racing. Churchill Downs closes its fall meet, Aqueduct shuts down the main track and Hollywood Park hosts the Turf Festival. Next Friday's Clark H. (G2) is the biggest event at Churchill Downs, and Curlin's withdrawal from consideration, while not unexpected, was a blow. Racing fans would've loved to have seen Thoroughbred racing's all-time leading money earner, and future Hall of Famer, head to stud a winner. His absence leaves Commentator (Distorted Humor), an easy winner of the Whitney H. (G1) and Massachusetts H. in his last two starts, the horse to beat.
The Clark will have an interesting subplot with the involvement of Richard Dutrow. He trains Arson Squad (Brahms), a multiple Grade 2 winner on dirt tracks in California who wasted 16 months competing on synthetic surfaces for trainer Bruce Headley before being transferred east to Dutrow. The switch immediately paid dividends as Arson Squad rolled to an impressive 2 1/2-length score in the Meadowlands Cup (G2) last time out, but the confirmed closer could be at a tactical disadvantage against the front-running Commentator. That's where it gets interesting. Dutrow is planning on bringing two rabbits, Maven (Bernstein) and Unity (Tiger Ridge), to soften up the Nick Zito-trained gelding. The conditioner utilized the same tactics in 2005 after Commentator defeated eventual Horse of the Year Saint Liam in the Whitney, entering two rabbits in the Woodward S. (G1), which Saint Liam won comfortably by two lengths.
The Cigar Mile (G1) on November 29 is the highlight of Aqueduct's Holiday Weekend, but the presumptive cast, which includes Jerome H. (G2) participants Tale of Ekati (Tale of the Cat), Harlem Rocker (Macho Uno) and Visionaire (Grand Slam), isn't the strongest. Last year's Cigar featured an exciting match-up between Midnight Lute and Daaher. At least the Cigar undercard promises to offer some bang for the buck with a pair of nine-furlong tests for juveniles, the Remsen S. (G2) and Demoiselle S. (G2). Kentucky Derby (G1) winners Thunder Gulch and Go for Gin captured back-to-back runnings of the Remsen in the '90s.
Six graded events, including three Grade 1s, will be held during Hollywood's Turf Festival, and Bobby Frankel is always a major factor. The November 30 Hollywood Derby (G1) typically attracts an interesting group of sophomores for 10 furlongs on the Inglewood sod, and Secretariat S. (G1) winner WINCHESTER (Theatrical [Ire]) will add quality to this year's line-up. Trained by Dermot Weld, the Virginia-bred colt didn't receive a prep for the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) and never offered a challenge, finishing seventh at the 1 1/2-mile distance that was probably too far for him. Winchester figures to show more in his second start in Southern California.
Maylan -- With her U.S. riding career off to a rousing start, apprentice Maylan Studart is turning heads in more ways than one. The 19-year-old Brazilian native, who has done some modeling, registered her first U.S. stakes victory when capturing the Lindsay Frolic S. at Calder in early September and switched her tack to New York in late October, piloting Decorated Court (Judge T C) to an $104.50 upset on Aqueduct's opening day. Wednesday's 6TH race at Aqueduct was another feather in her cap. She had the mount on Toso (Tiger Ridge), a six-year-old mare making her career debut for Daniel Foster, a 9 percent trainer who hasn't won with a first-time starter, and Studart shot her mount right to the front when the gates opened. The mare rolled home a 3 1/2-length winner, improving Studdart's mark at the Big A to 33-7-6-4 (21 percent win).
Top stallion prospect -- Syndicating race horses is a "buy high" industry. Stud farms will pay an exorbitant amount to stand a promising new sire, and owners invariably take the money and retire the horse. Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) winner Big Brown was syndicated for a reported $50 million value earlier this year. And while the breeding industry is taking their lumps in this economy, many stud fees will remain the same for 2009 while others, like the fees for Tiznow, Street Cry (Ire) and Indian Charlie, will actually increase. That's why the $20 million valuation of Curlin doesn't make any sense. It's not realistic.
Curlin is the most accomplished horse of the new millennium. He won a Triple Crown race, the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1), back-to-back runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and possibly two Horse of the Year titles. Curlin was never sidelined by any physical problems while compiling 10 stakes victories, and placings in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont S. (G1), over the past two seasons. His sire, leading sire Smart Strike, is commercially popular, and his dam, the Deputy Minister mare Sherriff's Deputy, is out of a Grade 2 winner. With his class, durability and bloodlines, Curlin has the potential to be one of the most successful sires of his generation. He's a more attractive stallion prospect than Big Brown, Street Sense or any other race horse who has entered stud in the last couple of years, and that puts his value higher than $20 million.
Nobody feels any sympathy for Midnight Cry Stable, who owns 20 percent of Curlin and is in the process of selling their share to majority owner Jess Jackson, but sticky ownership issues played a big part in bringing back Curlin this year. I don't believe it was for the love of the sport. Jackson could race Curlin next season for the betterment of Thoroughbred racing, possibly earning another $5 million, while insuring Curlin for the bargain-basement $20 million value he is now asking us to believe, but that's not going to happen. Jackson is ready to start making the big money at stud, and he's not going to risk it any more on the track. Everybody understands how it works -- Curlin can make hundreds of millions if he's successful as a stallion.
Considering what they are accused of doing to their former clients, the disbarred attorneys of Midnight Cry Stable may deserve the short end of the stick, but that doesn't mean Curlin is worth only $20 million.
This article was originally published on brisnet.com
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