04/07/2008 11:00PM

Curlin's value as a sire is priceless


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Curlin’s crushing success in the Dubai World Cup left little doubt that he is the dominant racehorse in the world, especially at 10 furlongs on dirt.

John Moynihan, bloodstock adviser to principal owner Jess Jackson, said that Curlin’s athletic dominance does not tell the whole story.

“His mind is amazing,” Moynihan said. “He gets off a plane in Dubai, walks into his stall, and starts eating. Nothing puts this horse off his game.”

Not surprisingly, the more celebrated a racehorse becomes, the more pressure there is to retire him as a breeding animal.

Although Curlin, a chestnut son of the Mr. Prospector stallion Smart Strike, will not go to stud until next year at the earliest, there is an increasing drumbeat of interest in the next phase of his career.

The reigning Horse of the Year has continued to impress with his performances on the racetrack, but overall, the question of Curlin’s outstanding racing ability is the least-disputed element concerning the horse’s future.

The most publicized question about the current champion is the 20?percent interest held by Midnight Cry Stable, whose principals are currently in jail.

Although motions continue to be made regarding that minority interest, it is unlikely to have undue influence on the remainder of Curlin’s racing career or his retirement to stud.

Jackson, the wealthy businessman who bought into Curlin early last year, bought out his other partners – Padua Stables and George Bolton – and has undisputed controlling interest in the horse.

At this point, Jackson’s plan is to race Curlin and enjoy having the best horse in the land.

Kevin McGee, legal counsel to Jackson, said that no decision has been made about sending Curlin to stud.

“Mr. Jackson is keeping all his options open, not ruling anything out,” McGee said. “We’re making sure that Curlin is fit and healthy coming out of Dubai, and right now we’re just focusing on the horse’s racing career.”

At this point, Curlin is accruing additional prestige and significant earnings, and he could surpass Cigar’s record earnings with another major victory or two this year.

In terms of value, Curlin seems only to increase his worth as time goes by. Purchased for a reported $3?million by Jackson, Padua Stable, and Bolton after winning a maiden race, Curlin has multiplied that valuation by a factor of 10 to 20 after winning the Preakness, then the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Horse of the Year honors, and now the Dubai World Cup.

His success in the desert exposed a further level of versatility, as Curlin shipped around the world, encountered new opposition, and made them look rather slow.

He has shown increasing levels of professionalism in his last two starts.

“Curlin’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was a dominating performance,” said Michael Hernon of Gainesway Farm. “There’s room for further improvement, and I think he is basically coming into himself now.”

Unraced at 2, Curlin has shown tremendous advances for a horse who has been racing for only slightly more than a year.

“Curlin is a most impressive physical specimen who figured to be better this year with further development and maturity,” Hernon said. “The race he ran in Dubai is no surprise to me. He will be an extremely difficult horse to beat for the balance of the year.”

And the potential for an excellent year of racing is exciting to the horse’s connections, as well as to the racing public and breeders who will be interested in breeding to Curlin in the future.

“I think he’s setting himself up to the one of the all-time greats,” Moynihan said. “Serena’s Song or Cigar are rarities, but he is putting himself in that league. This year, it’s easier for him to do things, and his potential as a stallion is limitless.”

In assessing Curlin’s potential as a stallion, Hernon said that the colt “possesses a lot of the qualities you want in a stallion. He has a very high cruising speed, is a classic winner, and missed winning a second by a nose. I thought he ran a tremendous race in the Kentucky Derby for an inexperienced horse and one who got behind early and made up significant ground.”

Curlin’s ability to survive a rough experience in the Derby and then bounce back to win the Preakness two weeks later greatly impressed Moynihan.

“Most Thoroughbreds will stress their bodies, and you can see it a few days after a race,” he said. “And one of the great qualities is this horse’s ability to bounce back from a stressful situation. His resilience is one factor that makes him an outstanding stallion prospect.”

In appraising a value for Curlin, the handsome colt has gone beyond questions of what he can win. He has made his good pedigree seem grand through the luster of his racing successes.

And with those accomplishments, Curlin’s value becomes a question of what people will pay to breed to the horse.

Whatever that sum might be, it surely will be significant, and it is a reasonable assumption that the colt will be syndicated when he retires to stud so that more breeders will have a serious commitment to helping him become a lasting success as a stallion.

When Curlin is retired to stud, Jackson undoubtedly will be a major supporter of the stallion with many of his choice broodmares. Among the many elite mares that Jackson has acquired for his Stonestreet Farm is Maggy Hawk, the dam of Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, who is now covering his third book of mares.

Maggy Hawk, for instance, is by the Roberto-line stallion Hawkster, and she would be a natural mate for Curlin, who, like Afleet Alex, is from the Mr. Prospector line.