06/06/2008 11:00PM

Curlin given 128 for Foster; Asmussen unhappy


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin was assigned 128 pounds for next Saturday’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, an impost that left Curlin’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, talking about possibly skipping the race.

“It might eliminate us from running,” Asmussen said. “They” – meaning Churchill Downs – “may have outsmarted themselves again.”

Earlier in the week, in an apparent attempt to secure Curlin as a starter, Churchill Downs conditionally increased the purse for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster from $750,000 to $1 million. But the purse increase did not require Curlin’s participation, only that a Grade 1 winner competes. There are three other Grade 1 winners under consideration for the race – Brass Hat, Einstein, and Student Council, who also is trained by Asmussen.

When asked whether he planned to take a few days to ponder whether to run Curlin in the Foster, Asmussen replied, “We’re going to tell everyone we’re running, but if Student Council shows up in the race, it would not be a surprise.”

Curlin is expected to work on Monday.

Churchill Downs racing secretary Ben Huffman said the weight was fair.

“He’s won the Breeders’ Cup, reeled off four in a row, took the Jockey Club, and easily beat Dubai World Cup horses,” Huffman said. “It’s a lot of weight, but he’s a lot of horse.”

Huffman said he didn’t feel pressure to conservatively assign weight to Curlin, even after Churchill Downs has heavily marketed Curlin’s expected appearance in the race in recent weeks. He said Curlin needed to be weighted appropriately to ensure participation from other horses.

Other horses under consideration for the Foster, a 1 1/8-mile dirt race, include Student Council (120 pounds), Einstein (118), Grasshopper (117), Brass Hat (116), Delightful Kiss (114), Jonesboro (114), Barcola (113), High Blues (113), Red Rock Creek (113) and Sam P. (113).