05/22/2008 11:00PM

Curlin vs. Big Brown: Could it happen?

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The possibility of a dream race between Curlin and Big Brown already has them talking - and not just on the rumor mill.

Steve Asmussen, the trainer of Curlin, said he has read a quote attributed to Rick Dutrow, the trainer of Big Brown, regarding a possible matchup. Dutrow, in the Friday editions of Daily Racing Form, said a race between the two "would be good for racing, it would be good for us, it wouldn't be so good for them."

In response, Asmussen said that Dutrow "has laid out three races for his horse," referring to the Belmont, Travers, and Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run on Santa Anita's synthetic surface. "Two of them are for 3-year-olds, and the other is on a synthetic surface, which neither one of us has ever raced on. Pretty daring of him, huh?"

Rumors have begun about the possibility of racetracks putting up huge money for a Curlin-Big Brown matchup, but "obviously it is way too premature for any of that," said Asmussen. "First he needs to get lucky in the Belmont, and I need to get lucky in the Foster. After that, if something could happen, it would be absolutely incredible."

Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, has resumed serious training in recent weeks at Churchill Downs after getting some time off following his smashing victory on March 29 in the $6 million Dubai World Cup. The 4-year-old Curlin is tentatively scheduled to make his next start on June 14 in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill.

The purse for the Foster is $750,000, although Churchill officials have toyed with the idea of increasing it to $1 million. However, in light of the 20-percent cut in overnight purses that went into effect May 14 at Churchill, an increase for the Foster undoubtedly would draw vehement objections from Kentucky horsemen's groups.

One Churchill official, on condition of anonymity, confirmed Friday that "the idea has been floated, although not necessarily formally."

A $1 million purse is significant to Asmussen in the respect that "if we were to win two $1 million races, that would put us over the top on the all-time money list." With career earnings of more than $8.8 million, Curlin needs nearly $1.2 million to surpass the record total of $9,999,185 earned by Cigar. Winning two $1 million races would accomplish that, but winning a $750,000 race and a $1omillion race would still leave him a bit short.

Albarado wins 700th at Churchill

Even though he has never won a riding title at Churchill, Robby Albarado has won 700 races here. Albarado, 34, hit the 700-win milestone by riding Shive's Success to victory in the seventh race Thursday. Only six other jockeys have won as many races at Churchill.

Pat Day is the all-time leader at Churchill with 2,481 wins, followed by Don Brumfield, Larry Melancon, Jim McKnight, Calvin Borel, and Charlie Woods Jr.

Albarado, the regular rider for Curlin, moved to Kentucky in 1996.

"I'm most proud of my consistency over the years," he said.

* The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association are helping to sponsor a Texas hold 'em poker tournament on the evening of June 16, with proceeds going to the Backside Lifestyle Drug and Alcohol Abuse program at Churchill. The tournament will be held in the Triple Crown ballroom at Churchill. Buy-in is $225, and first prize is $10,000. For more information, call (502) 363-1077.