01/22/2008 1:00AM

It's Curlin in a runaway

Gary I. Rothstein/Equiphotos
Curlin received 249 of the 266 votes cast for Horse of the Year.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - One year ago, Curlin was nearly two weeks away from the first start of his life. But in less than nine months, Curlin went from an unstarted maiden to the winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, with victories in the Arkansas Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Jockey Club Gold Cup en route. That ambitious, successful campaign received its proper coronation on Monday, when Curlin was named Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male for 2007 at the 37th annual Eclipse Awards dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel here.

Curlin was an overwhelming winner in both categories. He received 249 of the 266 votes cast for Horse of the Year, and 262 of the 266 votes cast for champion 3-year-old male. A total of 267 voters - representing Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers Association, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which includes members of Equibase - returned ballots. There was one abstention from both Horse of the Year and 3-year-old male.

Curlin became the first 3-year-old to be named Horse of the Year since Point Given in 2001.

Jess Jackson, accepting the Horse of the Year award earned by Curlin, said: "We need heroes. And since we need them so badly, we've decided to race Curlin this year. We want to give the fans and the industry what we need."

No specific racing plans for Curlin have been announced, but the Dubai World Cup on March 29 would be a logical target.

Rags to Riches, the filly who beat Curlin in the Belmont Stakes, finished second for Horse of the Year with 12 votes, but still came away with the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly. Invasor, the 2006 Horse of the Year, received two votes for Horse of the Year in 2007, and one vote each went to Corinthian, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile; English Channel, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf; and Street Sense, the Kentucky Derby winner.

English Channel won the Eclipse Award as champion male turf horse.

Todd Pletcher won his fourth consecutive Eclipse Award as champion trainer, and three of the horses he trained won year-end titles - English Channel, Rags to Riches, and Lawyer Ron, who was named champion older male.

Curlin was a runaway winner over a deep crop of male 3-year-olds. Street Sense was a distant second with three votes, while Hard Spun, who won the King's Bishop and was runner-up in both the Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic, received one vote.

Though the Derby is considered the biggest race of the year for 3-year-olds, the Preakness is proving more pivotal for year-end honors. Including Curlin, the Preakness winner has now been named champion 3-year-old male seven straight years, and 10 times in the last 11 years.

Curlin won 6 times in 9 starts last year. He was purchased privately after a maiden win at Gulfstream Park and was transferred from trainer Helen Pitts to Steve Asmussen, who had top assistant Scott Blasi with Curlin the rest of the year. Curlin is currently training at Fair Grounds, presumably awaiting his 2008 debut.

Curlin is owned largely by the Stonestreet Stable of Jess Jackson, who bought out partners George Bolton and the Padua Stable of Satish Sanan late last year. Twenty percent of the colt is still owned by two lawyers, Shirley Cunningham Jr. and Bill Gallion, who are awaiting trial for federal fraud charges in Kentucky. They race as Midnight Cry Stables.

If bettors had wagered on the Eclipse Awards results, they would have cashed largely on favorites who won by wide margins. The closest result was for champion older horse, in which Lawyer Ron outpolled Invasor by 147-94.

The Breeders' Cup proved pivotal. In addition to Curlin and English Channel, other Breeders' Cup winners who earned Eclipse Awards were War Pass (2-year-old male, trained by Nick Zito); Indian Blessing (2-year-old filly, trained by Bob Baffert); Ginger Punch (older female, trained by Bobby Frankel); Maryfield (female sprinter, trained by Doug O'Neill); Midnight Lute (male sprinter, trained by Baffert); and Lahudood (female turf horse, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin).

Good Night Shirt, who won three Grade 1 races for trainer Jack Fisher, including the Colonial Cup, was named champion steeplechase horse.

Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum's Shadwell Stable, which campaigned the McLaughlin-trained pair of Lahudood and Invasor, earned the Eclipse Award as champion owner. Frank Stronach, who raced his homebred Ginger Punch, received his fifth Eclipse Award - and fourth straight - as champion breeder for his Adena Springs operation.

Garrett Gomez, who led the nation in purse earnings, received his first Eclipse Award as champion jockey, and Joe Talamo was named champion apprentice jockey.

Pletcher's fourth straight Eclipse Award as champion trainer matched the consecutive records of Laz Barrera (1976-79) and Frankel (2000-03). Pletcher received 139 votes, more than double that of runner-up Asmussen (65). Rags to Riches, whose Belmont Stakes had given Pletcher his first win in a Triple Crown race, was one of many one-sided winners. She received 258 first-place votes as champion 3-year-old filly, easily outpolling her Pletcher-trained stablemates Octave (4) and Panty Raid (2).

Though she did not win an award, Nashoba's Key was second in two categories. Ginger Punch easily beat Nashoba's Key by 247 to 18 for champion older female. Nashoba's Key also finished second, by 188-43, in balloting for champion female turf horse to Lahudood. Maryfield, who won the inaugural Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, was the first winner of an Eclipse Award specifically for female sprinters. She received 155 votes to beat out Dream Rush (61).

Good Night Shirt got 222 votes as champion steeplechase horse, easily defeating runner-up McDynamo (13), who won the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase for the fifth consecutive year.

Gomez, who won Breeders' Cup races with Indian Blessing and Midnight Lute, was a runaway winner as champion jockey. He received 248 votes to 11 for runner-up Robby Albarado, the rider of Curlin. Talamo was an even easier winner as champion apprentice jockey, totaling 254 votes.

Shadwell got 144 votes for champion owner to easily defeat runner-up Stronach Stables (59), but Stronach was an overwhelming winner as champion breeder with his Adena Springs operation picking up 203 votes. Fares Farm, which bred Curlin, was next with 13.

The tallies below represent only first-place votes from members of the consolidated voting entities, NTRA/Equibase, Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers Association.

Two-Year-Old Male (Name, First-Place Votes): War Pass, 262; Court Vision, 1; Kodiak Kowboy, 1; Nownownow,1. Abstentions, 2.

Two-Year-Old Filly: Indian Blessing, 250; Country Star, 11; Pure Clan, 2; Cry and Catch Me, 1; Mushka, 1; Proud Spell, 1. Abstentions, 1.

Three-Year-Old Male: Curlin, 262; Street Sense, 3; Hard Spun 1; Abstentions, 1.

Three-Year-Old Filly: Rags to Riches, 258; Octave, 4; Panty Raid, 2; Dream Rush, 1; Lear's Princess, 1; Abstentions, 1.

Older Male: Lawyer Ron, 147; Invasor (ARG) 94; Corinthian, 13; Lava Man, 4; English Channel 3, Student Council, 2. Abstentions, 4.

Older Female: Ginger Punch, 247; Nashoba's Key, 18, Take D'Tour, 1. Abstentions, 1.

Female Sprinter: Maryfield, 155, Dream Rush, 61; River's Prayer, 32; Hystericalady, 12. Abstentions, 7.

Male Sprinter: Midnight Lute, 229; Hard Spun, 18; Fabulous Strike, 9; Idiot Proof, 3; Diabolical, 2; Greg's Gold, 1; In Summation, 1; Mach Ride, 1; Smokey Stover, 1. Abstentions, 2.

Male Turf Horse: English Channel, 251; Kip Deville, 6; After Market, 5; Cloudy's Knight, 1; Daytona (IRE), 1; Doctor Dino (FR), 1; Shakespeare, 1. Abstentions, 1.

Female Turf Horse: Lahudood (GB), 188; Nashoba's Key, 43; Precious Kitten, 16; Citronnade, 7; Bit of Whimsy, 3; Panty Raid, 3; Honey Ryder, 2; Mrs. Lindsay, 1; Rutherienne, 1; Wait a While, 1. Abstentions, 2.

Steeplechase Horse: Good Night Shirt, 222; McDynamo, 13; Floodlights, 1; Planets Aligned, 1. Abstentions, 30.

Horse of the Year: Curlin, 249; Rags to Riches, 12; Invasor (ARG) 2; Corinthian, 1; English Channel, 1; Street Sense, 1. Abstentions, 1.

Outstanding Owner: Shadwell Stable, 144; Stronach Stables, 59; Maggi Moss, 18; West Point Thoroughbreds, 8; James Tafel LLC, 7; Zayat Stables, LLC, 5; Stonestreet Stable, Padua, George Bolton and Midnight Cry Stables, 4; James Scatuorchio, 3; Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, 3; Jess Jackson, 2; Fares Farm Inc. 1; Fox Hill Farms, Inc. 1; Louis D. O'Brien LLC, 1; Melnyk Racing Stables, Inc., 1; Abstentions, 10.

Outstanding Breeder: Adena Springs, 203; Fares Farm Inc., 13; Martin and Pam Wygod, 12; William S. Farish, 11; James Tafel, 8; Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, 2; Skara Glen Stables, 2; Farnsworth Farms, 1, Juddmonte Farms, 1; Eugene Melnyk, 1; Abstentions, 13.

Outstanding Trainer: Todd Pletcher, 139; Steve Asmussen, 65; Kiaran McLaughlin, 39; Carl Nafzger, 9; Bill Mott, 5; Scott Lake, 3; Dale Baird, 1; Larry Jones, 1; Graham Motion, 1; Abstentions, 4.

Outstanding Jockey: Garrett Gomez, 248; Robby Albarado, 11; Russell Baze, 2; Calvin Borel, 1; Ramon Dominguez, 1. Abstentions, 4.

Apprentice Jockey: Joe Talamo, 254; Carol Cedeno, 2; Arnaldo Bocachica, 1. Abstentions, 10.

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