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Kentucky Derby: Curlin in focus
by Franco Raimondi / Globeform
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Curlin, the runaway Arkansas Derby (G2) winner is a serious, serious racehorse – but will he be tough enough, end experienced enough at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May?

Perhaps not, but even if he is beaten in the Kentucky Derby, Curlin is certainly one of the stars of 2007. After all, by May 1, he stands with the best performance of the year among the 3-year-olds, and that after just three runs! Hopefully, he will avoid a high or low post in the Derby, and get a fair chance to show us exactly how good he is.

That is, in all probablity, awfully good.

The Smart Strike colt had taken a big step up on his second start, when graduating from a breathtaking debut at Gulfstream Park to win the Rebel Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn on March 17, and he just keeps on surpising. It is not surprising that a talented colt like this chestnut keeps on winning – but, given his limited experience – it is surprising how he does it. One may think that this was soft oppsition and yes, as the early leader Deadly Dealer failed to stay, perhaps it was. It was still a test for Curlin, however, and he scored ten points at every junction.

He settled beautifully a couple of lengths behind Deadly Dealer, he was still perfectly balanced mentally when the outsider Slew by Slew moved past him as they were approaching the final turn, he accelerated in the style of a seasoned pro when Albarado asked him to make a move halfway through that turn, and he ran on like a horse that should stay 1 ¼ miles. As soon as he straightened for home, the race was all but over. Curlin won by 10 ½ lengths with a bit in hand, though Albarado did keep him up to his task.

It was a great, great learning experience. Easing him would have been some mistake. It would hardly do, would it, if Curlin pulled himself up inside the last sixteenth at Churchill Downs, and came under attack from strong closers like Street Sense and Circular Quay. Better to make it clear to him ’asap’ what racing is all about, and where the winning post is. He seems to have been a very quick learner and, if he can handle the Derby day atmosphere, he will not be easy to beat.

Published: 2007-04-26 03:47:03

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