08/06/2014 1:33PM

Hall of Fame: Curlin at the top of his class once again

Barbara D. Livingston
Curlin won 11 of 16 starts and earned more than $10 million.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Even as greatness was unfolding in front of her, Barbara Banke said she truly didn’t grasp it.
Banke was a relative newcomer to Thoroughbred racing in 2007 and 2008 when she and her husband, Jess Jackson, campaigned Curlin, the strapping chestnut son of Smart Strike who would win 11 of 16 starts including 10 stakes and became the only North American-based horse to top $10 million in earnings.

“I wish I had known then what I know now when I was with Curlin, because he was so special and I was so new to the business that I didn’t appreciate how incredibly special he was,” Banke said this week in Saratoga. “He never missed a day of training, he never had a sick day. Whenever we took him to the races it was, ‘What’s he going to do? Is he going to win by 10? Is he going to win by two? Is he going to put on a show? What’s he going to do?’”

On Friday, Curlin is going to be formally inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Curlin, the Horse of the Year in 2007-08, heads a class that includes Thoroughbreds Ashado and Clifford; jockeys Alex Solis and Lloyd Hughes; trainer Gary Jones; and owner-breeders Edward R. Bradley and Edward P. Taylor.

The ceremony will take place at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion at 10:30 a.m. and is open to the public. NYRA track announcer Tom Durkin will serve as the master of ceremonies.

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

Jackson, the wine magnate who raced under the moniker Stonestreet Stables, purchased Curlin shortly after he won his debut at Gulfstream by 12 3/4 lengths on Feb. 3, 2007. He was fast-tracked to the Triple Crown, winning two preps and then, against arguably the best class of 3-year-olds in recent times, he ran third in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness and got beat a head by the filly Rags to Riches in the Belmont Stakes.

After a dud in the Haskell, Curlin ended his 3-year-old season with victories in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“The Breeders’ Cup Classic was pretty special because that was such a good class of horses, such a good class of 3-year-olds,” said Banke, referring to Street Sense, Hard Spun and Any Given Saturday. “Those horses showed up at every major race. There was lots of competition and he was just the best of the best that year.”

At 4, Curlin won 5 of 7 starts including the Dubai World Cup, Stephen Foster, Woodward and a second Jockey Club Gold Cup. He finished his career with a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the first one run over a synthetic track.

Steve Asmussen trained Curlin for his last 15 starts and praised him for his “tremendous talent” and strength.

“I daydream a lot about Curlin,” Asmussen said. “He had a confidence level I’ve never seen in a horse before or since. Some horses think it, he knew it.”

Asmussen for the first time this year was on the Hall of Fame ballot, but was removed when accusations of animal abuse were lodged against him and his assistant Scott Blasi by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, which orchestrated a five-month undercover investigation into the barn. Asmussen, who has yet to be found guilty of any wrongdoing, said he plans to attend Friday’s ceremony, which honors Curlin.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Personally, Curlin was capable of doing things for me that I couldn’t do for myself.”

Ashado, a two-time champion filly, won 12 races from 21 starts including seven Grade 1 races, and earned $3.3 million, all for the partnership of Starlight Racing, Paul Saylor and Johns Martin. She was trained by Todd Pletcher.

:: Profile: Dual champion Ashado enters Hall of Fame

Jockey Alex Solis, who came to the U.S. from Panama in 1982, ranks 26th all-time among North American rider in wins with 4,991 and 10th all-time in purse money won with $235.6 million. He was the regular rider of Snow Chief, the 3-year-old champion of 1986, and has won 321 graded stakes.

:: Profile: Solis joins long list of contemporaries in Hall of Fame

Gary Jones won 1,465 races – including 102 graded stakes – and amassed purse earnings of $52.6 million from 1974-1996. Based in Southern California, Jones trained the champion Turkoman, and Grade 1 winners Quiet American, Best Pal, Lakeway, Lightning Mandate and Radar Ahead.

:: Profile: Jones makes it into Hall of Fame nearly two decades after retirement

Taylor bred more than 320 stakes winners throughout the world and 54 champions, including Northern Dancer, the 1964 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner.

:: Profile: Taylor goes into Hall of Fame synonymous with racing greatness

Bradley owned Idle Hour Stock Farm, which bred 128 stakes winners and 15 champions. As an owner, Bradley won the Kentucky Derby four times, the Preakness three times, and the Belmont twice.

:: Profile: Bradley, a giant of American racing, enters Hall of Fame

Lloyd Hughes, a rider in the late 1800s, was the first jockey to win the Preakness three times and was the regular rider of Hall of Fame member Duke of Magenta.

Clifford, a Thoroughbred who raced in the 1890s, had a record of 42-10-8 from 62 starts.

Jordan More than 1 year ago
In my opinion, Curlin has been the best North American male horse of the new century. Sorry Tiznow, Ghostzapper, Invasor, Point Given, and Wise Dan. Curlin best combined both elite talent and speed with accomplishment.
mike More than 1 year ago
What do you think the others have accomplished? Plenty! FYI, Invasor lost once!!
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Ghostzapper just two graded stakes wins and one grade 1 win around 2 turns, compared to 7 and 5 for Curlin. And Curlin's two graded stakes wins around one turn came in back-to-back wins in the gr.1 Jockey Club Gold Cup which starts on the Belmont clubhouse turn. Curlin won 8 graded stakes and 7 grade 1s at 9 furlongs+, Ghostzapper 3 and 2. Tiznow comes up short vs. Curlin in grade 1 wins, 4-7. Invasor is my #2. But Curlin being the only horse to win an American triple crown race, a BC Classic, and Dubai World Cup makes him the most accomplished North American based male of the new century.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Ghostzapper is still the best horse out of that list IMO, but Invasor was also a TC winner in Uruguay prior to being shipped to the USA and accomplishing what he did there.
mike More than 1 year ago
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Zapper with 4 grade 1s, and just two graded stakes wins around 2 turns is simply light on accomplishments vis-a-vis Curlin. I have no problem with someone claiming Zapper to be the fastest or most talented horse of the new century. It's just that his portfolio is too light, particularly as it concerns classic distances. Curlin won 5 grade 1s at 9.5 furlongs+, Zapper 1. Invasor would be my #2. I have nothing negative to say about him. He was a real winner. But while being a triple crown winner in Uruguay is certainly a positive, it is not like Uruguayan racing is elite, even within South America. Both Curlin and Invasor won the BC Classic and Dubai World Cup, but Curlin also has an American classic victory, something that I give more weight to than an Uruguayan triple crown. I also believe that at their best, Curlin was just slightly faster than Invasor. But very close.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Congratulations to the late EP Taylor for his induction. WELL deserved. He IS and will always be the face of Canadian Racing, and his colt was and still is the most influential sire in history.
Geral John Pinault More than 1 year ago
I was fortunate in that I caught him in his maiden romp at The Gulf! Rafael Bejarano was up and Curlin just kept widening, winning by more than 10 lengths in 1:22! It was an electrifying win and I was blown away with his talent. We made some really good bets on him that year. THANKS CURLIN! - RAMMER
Mandy More than 1 year ago
I got to meet him at Lanes End...i gave him 3 kisses on the nose and he took them all like a gentleman...he is as gorgeous as he looks here...
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
My Favorite Horse, whether it was a fast track, sloppy track. He ran big. Almost beat Red Rocks past BC turf winner on his first try on grass. Preakness, Gold Cup, Classic as three old. No three year old has top that in past twenty years. Glad to see him making some fast babies. Stay healthy and have along life.
margaret More than 1 year ago
Always hoped Curlin would be breed to Rags to Riches, what a horse that would be.
mike More than 1 year ago
Too bad Asmussen's HOF going sideways for him. lol
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
mike More than 1 year ago
Btw, I enjoy your comments.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Back at ya Mike.
Denis Murphy More than 1 year ago
wish i could afford to breed to curlin, my favorite horse ever
EDWARD B More than 1 year ago
The Haskell was not a dud. Curlin was not prepared for the race. At the time of this Haskell Curlin was partially owned by the owners of the eventual winner Any Given Saturday. Saturday was a good horse but not in the BIG GUYS(CURLIN) league. It was a sad day for racing! In less than a month the new GRADE 1 winner was sold for $10 million to Arab interests. I started to bet Curlin on 2/3/2007 and i was also 11 for 16. The Dubai win on a surface Curlin had great difficulty maneuvering was his greatest win:he ran early as hard as he could for the entire race and he out hearted everyone to the finish line. Thank you Mr Jackson for saving one of the greatest horses of all time! Great owners produce Great racing!
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Come on...who did he beat on Dirt in the world cup that was a GR1 winning dirt horse?.....
Jordan More than 1 year ago
uh....Well Armed. That guy came back the next year to win the last World Cup on dirt by a sixteenth of a mile.
David Jones More than 1 year ago
one of my favorites! went to Belmont just watch him break the money record. my mom and I still wear the 10 million dollar horse shirts from that day.