05/26/2008 11:00PM

Curlin drills for Foster


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With easily his most serious workout since returning from Dubai, Curlin took a major step toward returning to action in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap when he drilled six furlongs Monday in 1:12.20 at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Steve Asmussen, who was on hand before leaving for Texas, said he was very satisfied with the work.

"He wasn't as smooth as he is when he's perfect, but he went really well," said Asmussen.

Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, was a 7 3/4-length winner of his last start, the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 29. Afterward, Asmussen went nearly a month without working him; an easy untimed breeze on April 28 at Churchill marked his unofficial return to serious training. Since then, Curlin has had four recorded breezes, all on Mondays. Two more Monday works, on June 2 and June 9, are tentatively planned as final preps for the June 14 Foster Cap at Churchill.

As usual, exercise rider Carlos Rosas was aboard Curlin for this latest work, which came in company with Forty Grams, a stakes-seasoned 4-year-old. The workmates essentially began and ended the work together, with Forty Grams also being credited by Churchill clockers with a time of 1:12.20.

The $750,000 Foster, the annual highlight of the post-Kentucky Derby segment of the spring meet, is one of six stakes set for the June 14 program. Racing officials have said they could have a difficult time finding enough horses to oppose Curlin in the 1 1/8-mile Foster. Nominations for all six Foster Day stakes close Saturday.

Curlin, a winner in 8 of 11 career starts, has earned more than $8.8 million. Asmussen has said he and the colt's primary owner, Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables, would like to break Cigar's all-time earnings record of nearly $10 million this year.

Three stakes on Saturday card

Three six-figure races will be run Saturday - the $125,000 Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap, the $100,000 Dogwood Stakes, and the $100,000 Opening Verse. The Aristides and Dogwood are Grade 3 races.

After Saturday, the only stakes here until June 28 will be run on the Foster program. No stakes are scheduled for June 7 or June 21.

* The pick six carryover jackpot at Churchill has inched up to $31,284 for the Thursday program after failing to be won the previous five days. By far the biggest carryover so far at this meet preceded the May 7 program, the first day of racing after the Kentucky Derby, when one winning bettor cashed for more than $1.1 million.