06/05/2008 9:59PM

Showdown at Suffolk?


Suffolk Downs has thrown down the gauntlet in the budding race to land a Curlin-Big Brown prizefight this fall by announcing a $5 million package of purses and payments if the two colts stay unbeaten this year and meet in the Mass 'Cap Sept. 20:

[Suffolk Downs press release:]
EAST BOSTON, MA - Suffolk Downs has announced that the purse for this year’s Massachusetts Handicap will be $5 million if Big Brown wins the Triple Crown and both he and 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Curlin remain unbeaten in 2008 and go on to start in the MassCap against one another. The $5 million would include a $1 million participation bonus for each.

The 66th MassCap, scheduled for Saturday, September 20, and contested at 1-1/8 miles, currently carries a purse of $500,000 and is one of five races in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” Classic Division. The additional purse money would be funded by Coastal Development, LLC, a company controlled by Richard T. Fields, the largest shareholder of Suffolk Downs.

“Big Brown and Curlin are regarded as the two best thoroughbreds in the world and racing fans would like nothing more than to see them go head to head,” said Fields. “If they are to square off, we feel that a $5 million purse is a great incentive and what better place than at Suffolk Downs in the city of Boston, the sports capital of the world.”

The purse would be $3 million if Big Brown wins the Triple Crown and both he and Curlin start the race but with one or both horses having suffered a defeat in 2008. The $3 million would include a $500,000 participation bonus for each.

The three other possible venues for such a matchup are the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Sept. 27. the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Oct. 25 and the Clark Handicap at Churchill Nov. 22. Big Brown's connections have said they are pointing for two more races after the Belmont -- the Travers at Saratoga Aug. 23 and the Classic -- but that they are open to other possibilities to meet Curlin, since that colt may skip the Classic because of Santa Anita's synthetic racing surface.

Now that Suffolk has made the first bid, offering as rich a package as the $5 million BC Classic, it will be interesting to see if Belmont or Churchill try to up the ante for their six-digit races. Everything else being equal, a mile and a quarter showdown at Belmont might be the most appealing on purely sporting grounds: it's the distance at which Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby and Curlin won the BC Classic and World Cup, and the track where Curlin won last year's Gold Cup and where Big Brown might win something kind of major on Saturday.