07/01/2008 12:00AM

Curlin has first work on turf

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Curlin took what trainer Steve Asmussen called "the first step in a possible attempt" at running in the Arc de Triomphe in October when the superstar colt had his first career turf workout Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs.

With his regular jockey, Robby Albarado, aboard, Curlin breezed seven furlongs in company with a 4-year-old stablemate named Hawaii Calls. With the "dogs" spaced far out on a firm turf course, Curlin spotted his workmate a length or two when passing under the wire the first time on the seven-furlong course. They stayed that way for the first half-mile or so, after which Curlin crept closer from the outside. Turning for home, they were virtually even, after which Curlin edged away to finish about a neck in front when passing the wire a second time.

The final clocking for Curlin was 1:31.20, which Asmussen called a "very good time with the dogs out as far as they were." Equibase clockers caught the final quarter-mile in 24.20 seconds and the final furlong in 12.20. The gallop-out time for a mile was 1:45.60.

Asmussen said Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, most likely will make his next start on July 12 in the Arlington Handicap or the Man o' War at Belmont Park. Which race, said Asmussen, will depend heavily on licensing issues related to the legal problems of Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion, the partners in Midnight Cry Stable, which owns 20 percent of Curlin; the other 80 percent is owned by the Stonestreet Stables of Jess Jackson. Cunningham and Gallion have been on trial in recent weeks in federal court in Covington, Ky., on fraud charges in the highly publicized fen-phen class-action case.

Barbara Banke, the wife of Jess Jackson, stood alongside Asmussen throughout a media briefing held outside the Asmussen barn after the Curlin workout. Asked about the chances of Curlin being permitted to race at Arlington or Belmont, Banke responded: "We are hopeful and optimistic."

The Tuesday work was the second for Curlin since he returned to action June 14 by posting a 4 1/4-length triumph in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill. In his previous start, Curlin won the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 29.

The work, said Asmussen, "went how we hoped it would work out when we first made these plans. The main thing was that Robby loved how he felt."

Asmussen said Curlin would not work again on turf before his next race but would probably have an easy breeze on the Churchill main track on July 7. Asmussen would not commit to a race beyond July 12.

"First he has to establish his level of quality on turf," he said. "We can't get ahead of ourselves. A nice work is not a graded stakes." He said that he would prefer to ship Curlin overseas "as soon as possible," with an eye toward the Oct. 5 Arc at Longchamp in France, but that it was unreasonable to make such long-range plans without first seeing the colt race on turf.

Curlin has earned more than $9.3 million in his 12-race career and is less than $700,000 away from surpassing Cigar's all-time earnings mark of $9,999,185.