10/03/2008 12:00AM

Curlin's year among the best ever


PHILADELPHIA - It sort of slipped by because Curlin broke that $10 million barrier and was immediately shipped to California to gear up for what everybody hopes will be the perfect conclusion to this racing season - a run at another Breeders' Cup Classic and, finally, a race against Big Brown.

Curlin just finished one of the great calendar years in recent racing history - from Jockey Club Gold Cup to Jockey Club Gold Cup. It was the 2007 Gold Cup when Curlin really became the Curlin we now know by upsetting the hot horse at the time, Lawyer Ron, and earning a 114 Beyer Speed Figure.

I think Curlin's two best races were the 2007 Classic (119 Beyer) and the 2008 Dubai World Cup (Beyer unknown, but it had to be huge). Curlin set the bar so high in those races that anything but a runaway would be almost a letdown.

Still, it is interesting that Curlin's two best performances happened to be in the races with the two biggest purses. I don't think that is a coincidence. Trainer Steve Asmussen can count.

From the last Saturday of September 2007 to the last Saturday of September 2008, Curlin ran in six Grade 1 races on dirt and won them all. His post-Dubai dirt Beyers are 110, 112, and 111, a bit below the late 2007 standards, but plenty good enough to win the Classic again.

If he goes, Curlin will be the favorite in the Classic, as he should be. The big horse could lose because the field is going to be very strong. But any horse that wants to beat Curlin better come to run and better be ready to hold off a late charge that looks inevitable every time it starts.

As good as Curlin is, the most likely winner at the Breeders' Cup this year is as obvious as her record. I thought Hystericalady could beat Zenyatta. I don't think that any more. Zenyatta appears to have been dropped in from another planet. Watch her run and you have to laugh. It just looks so easy. Her opponents seem to take two strides for her one and, still, she gains. She is the irresistible force. And I am not going to resist using her as a free space in all the multi-race wagers around the Ladies' Classic.

Fabulous Strike was the fastest horse in America last year. Even though the recent Beyers don't confirm that, I still think Fabulous Strike is more than fast enough to win the Sprint. If Fabulous Strike makes it to Santa Anita, he will be the horse to beat.

Fabulous Strike got a 108 when second in the Vosburgh, a race in which he never got a chance to relax. Cost of Freedom got a 110 after he was claimed for $50,000, and got another 110 when he upset Street Boss to win the Ancient Title. And there is synthetic freak Fatal Bullet, who got a lifetime best Beyer of 108 in the Kentucky Cup Sprint. The gelding has won 7 of 8 starts on synthetics.

Still, there is only one sprinter in America that has past Beyers of 115, 119, 117, 115, and 114. That is Fabulous Strike at his best, and if trainer Todd Beattie can get him to Santa Anita at his best, the rest of them will be running for second.

Red Giant got lost in the Grade 1 orgy last weekend. Red Giant not only won the Clement Hirsch at 1 1/4 miles but also ran two seconds faster than his stablemate Wait a While in the Yellow Ribbon. I don't know if he can handle the Euros, but any horse that has raced 9 times on grass and has 6 wins and 3 seconds has to be respected.