06/17/2008 12:00AM

Curlin could try the Arc

Foster winner Curlin is No. 1 in America, so why not try adding France?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Curlin is looking for more worlds to conquer.

In his first start since winning the Dubai World Cup, Curlin reaffirmed his status as the most accomplished horse in training by easily capturing the Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Next up: turf racing, quite possibly culminating with a start in the prestigious Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France in October.

Trainer Steve Asmussen said he and Jess Jackson, the primary owner of Curlin, have been discussing the Arc since Curlin won the Breeders' Cup Classic last October. Asmussen is contemplating a progression that would begin with at least one turf workout at Churchill, followed by a turf race on the weekend of July 12. If all goes well, the plan then could include a major turf race in the United States, possibly the Aug. 9 Arlington Million, followed by a prep race at Longchamp, followed by the Oct. 5 Arc at Longchamp.

"If we don't like how he works on the turf, then we'll change plans," said Asmussen.

The Asmussen standard is to work nine days after a race, meaning Curlin would have his first post-Foster breeze on the dirt on June 23, a Wednesday. If Asmussen is intent on working him right away on turf, it might mean the colt could work as soon as June 24, since Churchill permits turf workouts only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

As for a first turf race, the $200,000 Arlington Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on July 12 is a possibility. Asmussen said he wants the colt to run on an "international style" course, which on this continent essentially limits him to Arlington, Belmont, or Woodbine. Those courses are wider, longer, and typically more lush than the seven-furlong turf courses situated inside of most one-mile dirt tracks in North America.

Another possible target would be the $500,000 Man o' War, a 1 3/8-mile race at Belmont on July 12, but licensing difficulties with the Midnight Cry Stable, the ownership group that owns 20 percent of Curlin, would have to be resolved. One of the Midnight Cry partners, Shirley Cunningham Jr., recently withdrew an application for a New York owner's license. Cunningham and his Midnight Cry partner, William Gallion, are on trial in Kentucky on fraud charges stemming from their roles as lawyers in settling the fen-phen diet drug class-action case.

With his 4 1/4-length Foster triumph, Curlin earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure and a winner's share of $589,000, lifting his career earnings to $9,396,800. Asmussen and Jackson have said breaking Cigar's record of $9,999,185 is a primary goal this year. Curlin stands third behind Skip Away, who earned $9,616,360.

Curlin carried high weight of 128 pounds in the Foster, his first start since a 7 3/4-length triumph in the March 29 Dubai World Cup. After breaking from post 1, Curlin was boxed in along the rail for more than six furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile race, but when jockey Robby Albarado eased him out for the drive and into the clear, the race was pretty much over.

"He had a lot to overcome," said Jackson. "He carried all that weight, and he had the 'Dubai malaise' thing, as they call it. He is an incredible horse."

Curlin has never raced on grass, but there is plenty in his pedigree to suggest he could succeed. The 4-year-old colt is by Smart Strike, the sire of the 2007 Eclipse turf champion, English Channel.

Asmussen said that if Curlin fared well on turf in this country, he would consider sending the colt overseas early, possibly to train at Chantilly in France, before the Longchamp races. Asmussen's older brother, the retired jockey Cash Asmussen, rode extensively in Europe, winning the Arc with Suave Dancer in 1991 and the French Derby four times.

"One of the things that gives me a great level of comfort about the Arc is Cash," said Asmussen.

Other members of the Asmussen family were at Churchill on Saturday to root Curlin on, including Steve's parents, Keith and Cheryl, his wife, Julie, and their three young sons.