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It’s not exactly news now, but CURLIN looked every bit the best horse in the world with his authoritative win in last weekend’s Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. Toting 128 pounds and making his first start since winning the Dubai World Cup, CURLIN, who was bottled up behind horses along the rail most of the way, found a seam at the top of the stretch and powered away from his overmatched opponents. He showed no signs of Post Dubai Syndrome, appearing as if the Mideast trip took nothing out of him. But rather than take a traditional route through the rest of the year, culminating in another Breeders’ Cup Classic, his connections are anxious to try him on turf with a possible run at the Arc de Triomphe in France this fall.

Although this is a very lofty plan, owner Jess Jackson has proved himself to be a true sportsman. By just keeping his very valuable commodity in training this year he is losing money, as well as risking injury to a colt whose worth as a stallion must be in the $50-60 million range. Curlin has some turf breeding and will test the grass in upcoming workouts before a planned grass start in the middle of July. If all goes well, next would be a possible start in the Arlington Million, and then bon voyage. If the grass experiment doesn’t work, there would be nothing wrong with coming back to defend his Classic title, although is seems clear that his connections are not anxious to run him over a synthetic surface. While a Curlin-Big Brown matchup looked so tantalizing just two short weeks ago, the chances seem pretty remote now. Plus, based on what we saw on back-to-back weekends, does anyone really doubt which is the better horse?

Post Triple Crown Thoughts: After thinking things through a little more, I’m not sure the five-week span between the three races is the most significant reason we haven’t seen a Triple Crown winner in 30 years. There have been 11 horses in history that won the Preakness and Belmont after failing in the Derby, including five since Affirmed last won the Triple Crown in 1978. So if the grind is so taxing, why were Risen Star (’88), Hansel (’91), Tabasco Cat (’94), Point Given (’01) and Afleet Alex (’05) able to compete in all three events while being plenty strong for the final leg? In fact, thee of those winners—Risen Star, Point Give and Afleet Alex—romped home far in front of their nearest Belmont rivals. And don’t forget, Curlin ran great in all three legs last year. Factor in all the reasons (three different tracks at three different distances in five weeks, pedigree, injury, luck, human error), mix it all up and here’s my conclusion: For 30 years, we just haven’t had the right horse to do it.

NOTES: If you have followed the recent Congressional hearings on horse racing, you probably knew things weren’t off to a good start when committee chairwoman Jan Schakowsky opened up with comments like “horses are doped up on cocaine” and that ill-fated Eight Belles was a “genetic disaster”. Sheer ignorance…it looks more and more like LAVA MAN will duck out on trying to win his fourth straight Hollywood Gold Cup and wait for the Eddie Read at Del Mar. His connections, fearing a quick three-week turnaround, are in no hurry to take on HEATSEEKER…trainer Doug O’Neill has begun running his horses out of the detention barn (60 days), penalty for a high bicarbonates test from January…last Sunday’s Affirmed winner TWO STEP SALSA is the real deal for Julio Canani. Look for him to become a very important runner in the second half of the year…CEDAR MOUNTAIN loved the 1 3/4-mile distance in Saturday’s Round Table, romping home like a true stayer…recent Hall of Fame inductee Milo Valenzuela isn’t well enough to travel to Saratoga later this summer, so the Hall of Fame will come to him. Santa Anita will host his induction ceremony tomorrow night in the Chandelier Room.

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