06/02/2008 12:00AM

Curlin works strongly for Foster

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By MARTY McGEE

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, took another major step toward his next race, the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, when he drilled seven furlongs early Monday in 1:24.74 over a fast track at Churchill Downs.

 Working in company with stablemate Sonoma Cat, and with regular exercise rider Carmen Rosas aboard, Curlin was kept closest to the rail when breaking off at the seven-furlong pole on the clubhouse turn. He maintained a slight advantage through splits of 12.95, 25.13, 37.16, 48.92, and 1:00.57, then began lengthening his stride and margin through the final quarter-mile, hitting the furlong pole in 1:12.51 and the wire in 1:24.74 while about six lengths ahead of his workmate. He galloped out a mile in 1:37.74 and 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.67.

Curlin, a 7 3/4-length winner of the March 29 Dubai World Cup in his last start, will be a heavy favorite in the $750,000 Foster Handicap on June 14 at Churchill.

“He’s right on target,” trainer Steve Asmussen said after the Monday work. “He gave us every indication that he’s the Curlin who’s spoiled us all along.”

Curlin has worked every Monday at Churchill since April 28. Asmussen said preparations for the Foster will be completed next Monday with “an easy half-mile.”

The Foster, one of six stakes to be run here June 14, is expected to get only a handful of challengers for Curlin. Among the other prospects for the 1 1/8-mile race are Grasshopper, Jonesboro, Brass Hat, Sam P., and the Asmussen-trained Red Rock Creek. Nominations for all six Foster Day stakes closed Saturday.