09/28/2008 12:00AM

Curlin breaks earnings record

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Curlin pulls away from Wanderin Boy on Saturday on his way to his second consecutive victory in Belmont's Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The Breeders' Cup Classic became a real possibility for Curlin on Saturday after the reigning Horse of the Year splashed his way to the record books, winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

Curlin rallied past Wanderin Boy inside the eighth pole en route to a three-quarter-length victory. The $450,000 first-place prize enabled Curlin to become North America's all-time leading money earner. His total of $10,246,800 moved him past Cigar, who finished with $9,999,815.

About an hour after the race, Barbara Banke, wife of owner Jess Jackson, said Curlin was to ship to Santa Anita on Sunday morning to begin getting acclimated to that track's new Pro-Ride synthetic surface. The Breeders' Cup Classic will be held at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

"We're thinking about it," Jackson said by phone, regarding the Breeders' Cup.

Before Banke's announcement, Steve Asmussen, trainer of Curlin, said the money record was what he really wanted this year.

"This is what I wanted," Asmussen said in the winner's circle. "I really did. Him being all-time money winning horse, what a great ring it has to it. I'm very thankful to [Jackson] to give us the opportunity to do it in a race like this and I think for him to be at that mark with an authoritative victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup means a lot."

Curlin became the ninth horse to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup in back-to-back years, joining the likes of Skip Away, Slew o' Gold, Kelso, Shuvee, Nashua, Dark Secret, and Mad Hatter. The Gold Cup is part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program.

Under Robby Albarado, Curlin got away in fourth but then was fifth straightening away down the backside. Midway down the backside, Curlin dropped back to sixth, because Albarado didn't want him to be too wide.

Albarado then split hoses entering the far turn and was third, outside Merchant Marine and Wanderin Boy, who ran a mile in 1:36.70.

Wanderin Boy was three wide turning for home, and Curlin was forced to go five wide. At the eighth pole, Curlin forged his way past Wanderin Boy and under a vigorous hand ride from Albarado came home a winner for the 11th time in 15 starts. Curlin, a son of Smart Strike, covered 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.93 and returned $2.80.

"I had to sacrifice some position and suck on in to be able to save ground before I got to the turn, and it worked out beautiful for me," Albarado said. "Curlin put in his patented run around the outside, and I got that same feeling every time."

Wanderin Boy finished second in the Gold Cup for the second time in three years, and added Curlin to the list of champions he's run second to along with Bernardini, Invasor, and Lawyer Ron.