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Jul 11, 2008

Thru The Binoculars


I thought seriously Friday morning of picking up the phone, and asking Bob Frankel how he feels about Sudan having to spot four pounds (120-116) to Curlin in the $500,000 Man O' War Saturday at Belmont Park

After all, if the Man O' War were a handicap, Curlin would be spotting 12-to-15 pounds to Sudan.

Sudan probably would have won the United Nations Handicap last Saturday at Monmouth Park, but was scratched late by Brooklyn Bob for the Man O' War -- despite the fact that Frankel knew full well that Curlin was coming for the race.

Look for Sudan -- the lone speed -- to open a city block on the field in the Man O 'War, and see if Curlin can run him down.

Should be very interesting.

If you are a Curlin groupie, you need to know that this, in all likelihood, will be Curlin's last start in the United States. If he runs OK on Saturday, he will head to France to wrap up his career in the Arc prep and the Arc itself on Oct. 5.

If  Curlin runs the table, he will become the richest money-winning horse in history, and a likely all-time Top Fiver.

That's why I found it interesting that, when Curlin arrived at Belmont Park on Thursday, there was one lone solitary reporter -- and no NYRA officials -- to meet him.

Kind of reminds me of Oaklawn Park a year ago March when this columnist was the only media type to visit Curlin at the barn.

I remember my reaction when assistant trainer Kristin Crawford showed me Curlin in the stall:

I looked at this huge chestnut, and thought: "He looks like a sprinter, a Groovy-type."

And I picked against him in the Rebel!

After all, it was two-turns.

As I recall, Curlin won the Rebel from here to Texarkana...and went on to win the Arkansas Derby, Preakness, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Breeders' Cup Classic, the Dubai World Cup, and the Stephen Foster.

That's five Grade Ones. Should be six but the Arkansas Derby somehow has remained a Grade 2, despite the recent victories of Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Lawyer Ron, and, yes, Curlin.

Of course, all those wins came on conventional dirt tracks. How Curlin will do on grass in the Man O' War is anyone's guess.

The seven-horse field for the Man O' War, which will be aired nationally by ESPNews at 5:15 Eastern, includes two Breeders' Cup Turf winners, Red Rocks and Better Talk Now, but both look to be past their prime.

At 3-5, Curlin will be more fun to watch than to bet.

One of the things I miss about Curlin is guessing which silks he would fly last year. It was never publicized, but Curlin rotated four sets of silks during his 3-year-old campaign, the silks of his four co-owners.

Now at four, Curlin flies the same silks every time -- the gold and burgundy of majority owner Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables.

Jackson, at age 78, is still a firebrand.

Despite Asmussen's success with Curlin, Jackson says he will fire Super Steve if these drug busts continue to occur.

Asmussen, as we all know, is facing the wrath of Texas for a drug violation last spring at Lone Star Park, where he is king.

My prediction?

Our girl, Maggi Moss, will get him off. That's Maggi, not Maggie, as the New York Times calls her.

Speaking of the Times, they broke a story this week that Curlin has raced on steroids for most of his career. Reporter Drape confronted owner Jackson with the accusation, and Jackson freely admitted it.

So maybe Curlin's colors should be gold, burgundy and a black mark.

But --  just as with Big Brown --  Curlin has raced in no non-steroids states, so his connections have not broken any laws.

Still...not a good thing.

That said, let's take a look at Week Four of the Sixty Minute Six, scheduled for late Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, Delaware Park and Philadelphia Park.

Unlike last week, when the rains came, the grass races came off, causing wholesale late scratches, the forecast is for clear skies, fast tracks, and firm turf.

LEG A (Belmont Race 6, 3:40 p.m.)

This six-furlong grass race is for New York-bred 3-year-olds and up, and, indeed, half the field are 3-year-olds. This is the time of year when 3-year-olds start beating their elders consistently.

Belmont's two top jocks -- Prado and Coa -- are at Calder today.

Two interesting 3-year-olds --

Run Warrior Run comes in off the Leatherbury claim at Laurel. First-time grass.

Iron Curtain  was favored last three for Steve Klesaris, who is winning races at a 25 per  clip.

Jockey Castellano chooses Iron Curtain over the 4-year-old Beneath the Crown, who has been knocking at the door.

Captain Backfire has mere one published work for the lovely Linda for his first race in four months, and goes back to Garcia, who probably won't be taking any business trips to California for awhile.

LEG B (Monmouth Race 7, 3:54 p.m.)

Jockey Lezcano chooses Travolta over D'Wild Affair, who chased Canada's best 3-year-old sprinter last time at Woodbine.

Baby Rusch, U R Da Best and Reata's Rocket exit 1-2-3 finish under similar conditions here month back.

Brush On By been racing in hard luck.

Jockey Desormeaux, closing in on 5,000 winners, and in town to ride Z Humor for same owner in the stake, rides Monster Drive for Tony Dutrow, who is a mere 55 per cent at the meet.

LEG C (Delaware Race 8,  4:02 p.m.)

This is the $500,000 Delaware Oaks, and trainer Jones says he will wait to last minute to decide whether to run Proud Spell, who would return in mere two weeks after sustaining bumps and bruises in the Mother of All Gooses.

The DRF chart comment on the Mother Goose is "rough trip." Glad to see someone at the Form has a sense of humor.

When Proud Spell went in, French Kiss went out. She'll run at Ellis Park for 10 per cent of the Oaks purse.

Castro gives up four or five live mounts at Monmouth home base to ride Black Eyed Susan runner-up She's All Eltish.

Weathered is the in-form speed from the fence. African Violet was the 8-5 favorite when second to Weathered (12-1) in the prep for this.

LEG D (Philadelphia Race 9,  4:10 p.m.)

This is for senior-citizen grass claimers. No 3-year-olds in the field, and only one 4-year-old -- Calason.

The key to the race is if the 9-year-old Gran Cesare gets in off the alsos. His last was huge.

Omaha Beach in good form for red-hot trainer Vaders.

LEG E (Monmouth Race 8, 4:20 p.m.)

This is the Bob Harding Stakes, named for the talented turf writer, a good guy, and a good friend.

Trainer Sacco says that Foreverness, at age 9, is better than ever. He was scratched from Belmont stake last Sunday for this.

With a victory, Classic Campaign --from The Boss (George, not Bruce) -- will pass the 500K milestone.

Get Serious on the mend for trainer Forbes. He was 5-1 in the Pennsylvania Derby last Fall.

Headsandtales finished well in Colonial stake. First-time Cotto.

LEG F (Delaware Race 9, 4:31 p.m.)

If you're alive, hope you have Rain Date and Lean, well-bred, fast-working first-starters from the Motion and Tagg barns, respectively.

Sauce Bernaise and Star Emerald exit strong 2-3 finish in similar race. Saez rides Star Emerald for trainer Matz.

Ellerubiniere will not be a maiden forever.

Finally, one note about Wednesday's racing.

At Monmouth, two winners had baseball connections. One winner is owned by ex-Met catcher Paul De Luca, and another winner is owned by Buddy New, who was an all-American first baseman on Roger Clemens' championship teams at the University of Texas.

And, at Belmont, feature-race winner Buffalo Man (a John Piesen Hot Line 888 212 2283 winner at $11.80), is owned by hoops icon Rick Pitino. Bobby Hurley, a two-time basketball all-American at Duke, bred and owned Digger, a winner of an earlier race.

Otherwise, good racing this weekend --

See you Monday.

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