08/05/2008 11:00PM

Curlin to run in Woodward

Barbara D. Livingston
Curlin and owner Jess Jackson meet up Monday at Saratoga, where the colt has been training.

After a one-race experiment on turf, Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, is returning to the surface over which he has had his greatest glory. His majority owner, Jess Jackson, on Tuesday made official what for two weeks had been expected, saying Curlin would make his next start on dirt in the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 30.

Jackson said he had also considered the Arlington Million this Saturday, and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 24. Both races are worth $1 million, twice that of the Woodward. But the Million is on turf, and the Pacific Classic is on Polytrack, a surface over which Curlin has never competed.

"We're doing this because it's the best thing for Curlin, and for racing, not necessarily for the money," Jackson said during a conference call on Tuesday. "The Woodward has the least purse, but it's the best venue," Jackson said, for trying to add to Curlin's "legacy."

"We want to show him off," Jackson said. "He's a very happy horse here."

Curlin has been training at Saratoga; his trainer, Steve Asmussen, has his horses stabled near the Oklahoma training track there. Curlin has worked three times there since finishing second in the Man O'War Stakes last month at Belmont Park in his turf debut.

While "not necessarily" ruling out a return to turf, Jackson gave strong indication that Curlin's remaining 2008 races would be on dirt. In a wide-ranging interview that touched on several topics, Jackson seemed more inclined to run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Sept. 27 and the Japan Cup Dirt in Tokyo in November, but was very circumspect regarding racing on a synthetic surface in the Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run this year on Santa Anita's reconstitued Pro-Ride surface.

Curlin won the Breeders' Cup Classic last year at Monmouth Park, completing a season in which also won the Preakness Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

"I'm a native Californian, and they want him," Jackson said, referring to the Breeders' Cup. "But it's an untested surface. It's very uncertain. Whatever they put in at Santa Anita, it's untested. It creates great concern. Why run a horse like Curlin on a surface that's undefined?

"He's won the Classic already. Been there. Done that. He's been invited to the Japan Cup, to Hong Kong. We'll keep our options open. Right now, we want to get through the Woodward. We're taking it one race at a time."

Jackson said possible races following the Woodward could depend on "who gives us the best argument on where we should be," a hint that he will accept bids from racetracks seeking a box-office star.

As for a match-up with Big Brown, this year's Kentucky Derby winner, Jackson said if a track could arrange a showdown in a real race, "not a match race," that's "something that might influence us."

"They're both great horses," said Jackson, who said trainer Rick Dutrow's post-Haskell comments denigrating Curlin were "bad for racing" and "unethical."

On Monday, the day after Big Brown won the Haskell, Dutrow said, "I don't know why people think Curlin is such a good horse. We're way better than Curlin."

"To run down another man's horse demeans the industry," Jackson said. "I would like them to meet, for the industry and the fans."

Jackson said the Arc de Triomphe in France, which had been his stated target before Curlin ran in the Man o' War, is "out this year."

Does that mean Curlin will race next year?

"The chances of Curlin racing next year are slim," Jackson said. He cited the economics of the sport, which are far more lucrative for a horse of his caliber to be a stallion than a racehorse, and Jackson's desire for Curlin to "add to the gene pool."

"It's a hard decision to retire and improve the gene pool, or help the sport and the fans," Jackson said. "There's a great deal of trouble with the economic model we're in."