02/26/2008 12:00AM

Curlin catches a break

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The seeming disadvantage Curlin faces in the Jaguar Trophy Handicap of having to spot his five rivals 15 pounds each is, in handicapping reality, actually something of an advantage, given the mediocre quality of his opposition.

If all six runners were carrying the weight assigned according to the judgment of the Emirates Racing Authority handicapper, Curlin would be giving away between 20 and 29 pounds on Thursday night.

The race will be run according to the rules of handicap racing as practiced throughout most of the world, except North America. In the UAE, the handicapper assigns every horse in training there a rating. That rating is reflected in the weight a horse will carry when running in a handicap. In the UAE, the high weight in a handicap is 132 pounds, the low weight 117 pounds. If the top-rated horse in a handicap has a rating of 125, he will be assigned high weight of 132 pounds. A horse rated 120 carries 127 pounds, a horse rated 117 carries 124.

In the Jaguar, which is a handicap for horses rated 100 or higher, the great difference between the top- and bottom-rated horses requires the weights to be truncated because of the UAE's 132-to-117 limit. Curlin has been assigned a handicap rating of 129, which translates into high weight of 132. At 109, Familiar Territory should carry 20 pounds less than Curlin at 112, but because the bottom weight must be 117, he carries five pounds more than his assignment. Familiar Territory is said to be 5 pounds "out of the handicap" - i.e., he is at a five-pound disadvantage.

Likewise, Engrupido, rated 106, should be carrying 109 but instead will carry 117, or eight pounds out of the handicap.

Although Curlin is giving away gobs of weight, he should actually be giving away more, according to the Emirates handicapper. One effect of this system is to have booted Frankie Dettori off his regular mount Familiar Territory, who will be ridden by Kerrin McEvoy because Dettori rides at 120, three pounds more than Familiar Territory's 117, which is already five pounds out of the handicap.