03/30/2008 11:00PM

Next unsure for conquering hero

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With his thoroughly authoritative victory in the Dubai World Cup having left no doubt that he is the world's best racehorse, Curlin will return to the United States in triumph, flying to New York on Wednesday, when he will go through quarantine before heading to Keeneland on April 6.

"He's an awesome horse, an awesome horse," Curlin's trainer, Steve Asmussen, said Monday. "I was extremely proud. We'll have him at Keeneland and evaluate him. We'll sit down with all the parties involved and decide what's best for him. At this point, any decision on when he would race, or how much time he would have off, would be premature. All I can say with certainty at this point is that we want to get him back to Keeneland and evaluate him."

While the world watched as Curlin defeated the World Cup field by 7 3/4 lengths, some handicappers were not quite as impressed as one might have expected. Nigel Gray of the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings hinted that Curlin's prerace 129 would probably not be raised when new rankings are released later this week. The Emirates Racing Authority handicapper, Melvin Day, will also keep Curlin at 129, but the Racing Post has awarded him a rating of 131+ for the World Cup, as compared with the 131 it gave him for his Breeders' Cup Classic victory and 130 for his World Cup prep in the Jaguar Trophy Handicap.

Twenty-time French training champion Andre Fabre raised an interesting question when he asked before the World Cup on the live Dubai feed why Curlin wasn't rated even higher.

Sun Classique, one of three South African-trained winners on the World Cup card, matching the three American-trained winners, was the next-highest-rated horse on the evening, receiving a Racing Post rating of 122 for his Dubai Sheema Classic heroics. An Australian-bred son of Fuji Kiseki, the stallion who is also sire of Fine Grain, the winner of Sunday's six-furlong Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen, Sun Classique will be sent by trainer Mike de Kock to Hong Kong for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on April 27 and then to England. At Sha Tin he will run into countrymate and Dubai Duty Free winner Jay Peg.

The de Kock-trained UAE Derby winner Honour Devil will ultimately be aimed at the Breeders' Cup Classic in October, while both he and a stablemate, UAE Derby runner-up Royal Vintage, are already looking down the road at next year's Dubai World Cup. De Kock said he feels that Royal Vintage could be the better horse by next March.

Rick Dutrow equaled de Kock's feat by winning two World Cup Night races of his own with Benny the Bull in the Golden Shaheen and Diamond Stripes in the Godolphin Mile. Dutrow then went one better, winning the Florida Derby with Big Brown to become the rare trainer of two Group 1 or Grade 1 winners in different countries on the same day.

Benny the Bull and Diamond Stripes will both fly to New York on Wednesday.

"We haven't thought of any long-range plans," said a Dutrow assistant, Michelle Nevin. "It's going to take Rick a couple of days just to calm down from all the excitement."

Godolphin, suffering a World Cup Night shutout for the second year in a row, has reason to look forward to the American season. Elusive Warning, its unlucky Godolphin Mile runner-up, has an American campaign lined up, so too its UAE Derby third Cocoa Beach, and the disappointing World Cup seventh Jalil.

Looking forward to the future, Sheikh Mohammed provided a promise of bigger things to come on Saturday when he said that purses on World Cup Night would be increased dramatically for the opening of the new Meydan Racecourse in 2010, hinting at a doubling of the Dubai World Cup purse to $12 million.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman