08/06/2014 8:07AM

Curlin will be one of Hall of Fame's most accomplished members

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Barbara D. Livingston
The two-time Horse of the Year Curlin enters the Hall of Fame with credentials that rival any of the Hall's current members.

Either one of Curlin’s two seasons on the racetrack – as the champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year in 2007 or as the champion older male and Horse of the Year in 2008 – would have made him a candidate for enshrinement in racing’s Hall of Fame. Taken together, they make him one of the institution’s most accomplished members.

Curlin was extraordinary from his first race in February 2007 through his 16th and final start 21 months later. In his debut, he won a seven-furlong maiden race by 12 1/4 widening lengths in 1:22.20, earning a spectacular Beyer Speed Figure of 102 – more typical for a Grade 1 winner than a neophyte. Sold to Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stable and turned over to trainer Steve Asmussen, Curlin continued to accomplish things racehorses just aren’t supposed to. In his second career start, he won the Grade 3 Rebel Stakes and in just his third start was the 10 1/2-length winner of the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby.

He went into the Triple Crown races with just those three starts under his girth but did exceptionally well: third in the Derby, a final-stride victory over Street Sense in the Preakness, and a memorable duel with the champion filly Rags to Riches in the Belmont Stakes. As good as those performances were, they merely were giving him the foundation for two superlative efforts when he faced his elders in the fall: first a victory over the nation’s top handicap horse, Lawyer Ron, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, then a triumph in a sloppy Breeders’ Cup Classic over the best of a strong 3-year-old crop and the leading elders.

Jackson not only brought Curlin back as a 4-year-old but also mapped out his campaign early in the year and dared any horse on the planet to come take him on. Curlin reeled off victories in a prep race in Dubai and the $6 million Dubai World Cup. He then raced in five straight Grade 1 races to conclude his career, winning the three on dirt – the Stephen Foster, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Jackson tried him on two other surfaces, where he was good enough to contend despite clearly not handling them as well as dirt, running second (between two Breeders’ Cup Turf winners) in the Man o’ War on grass and fourth in a Breeders’ Cup Classic contested on a synthetic track at Santa Anita.

Few horses before him, and none since, have even attempted so many difficult prizes, much less succeeded in bringing home so many. He ran against the best in the richest and toughest races for two years – making 12 Grade 1 starts, including all three legs of the Triple Crown, the Dubai World Cup, two Breeders’ Cup Classics, and two Jockey Club Gold Cups. Those are the races that forge racing’s finest champions, the best of the best, a short list on which he surely belongs.