08/12/2008 11:00PM

Curlin-Big Brown race unlikely, despite the talk


Racing fans hoping for a Curlin-Big Brown meeting some time this year are going to be sorely disappointed after a bizarre back-and-forth banter between the two camps through the media Wednesday left the impression the two horses are on divergent schedules.

On Wednesday morning, Jess Jackson, the principal owner of reigning Horse of the Year Curlin, issued a press release "inviting" Big Brown to run against him in the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward here on Aug. 30. Jackson said he would donate $50,000 to the Belmont Child Care Association, Anna House, if Big Brown were to run against Curlin in that race. Jackson's offer was motivated by disparaging comments made by trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. following Big Brown's victory in the Haskell in which he said that Big Brown was "way better than Curlin."

Michael Iavarone, the head of the group that owns Big Brown, declined the invitation, saying by phone that the plan for Big Brown is to run in a turf race in the middle to end of September as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

"It's disappointing that he's got to require us to run in a race to give money to charity," said Iavarone, the head of the International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Stable that owns majority interest in Big Brown. "We're not running in the Woodward, it's never been part of our plan.

"We'll up the stakes if he wants to run in the Breeders' Cup," Iavarone added. "We'll come together on some kind of agreement with them to give more to charity. It's the race that should decide a championship, not the Woodward against four horses. Give everybody a chance, Europeans, Big Brown, Commentator. Fifty-thousand dollars to charity is not going to change our tactics."

After learning that his offer was declined, Jackson issued an afternoon press release asking Big Brown to run against Curlin in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Sept. 27, a race in which he hoped the Breeders' Cup would offer a purse incentive to the $750,000 pot.

In the release, Jackson went on to say that the Breeders' Cup Classic "is not part of my current plan for Curlin." Jackson has reservations about running Curlin over Santa Anita's synthetic surface, which is currently undergoing a major renovation.

It's unlikely Big Brown will run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup since it is over the same track on which he was pulled up in the Belmont Stakes, his only loss. Attempts to reach Iavarone late Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Earlier in the day Iavarone said the Haskell "knocked the [heck] out of" Big Brown and that the horse would be pointed for a yet-to-be-determined turf race at Belmont in the middle of September or possibly the Clement Hirsch Handicap on turf at Santa Anita on Sept. 27.

"We just got to bide our time and refill the tank," Iavarone said. "I think the best way to do it is a sensible turf race middle or end of the month followed by the Breeders' Cup."