"It's a rare occurrence for a Breeders' Cup Classic champion to make the transition to turf," NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward said, "and we are looking forward to watching Curlin in his inaugural effort on grass. We thank Curlins majority owner, Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stable, and trainer Steve Asmussen for bringing Curlin to New York and for their foresight and expertise in managing this outstanding champion."
Curlin will be facing six experienced grass runners in the event. The colt will be ridden by his regular jockey Robby Albarado from the outside post. Should Curlin do well on Saturday his next start could be in the Prix Foy on September 14 as a prep to the Prix de Larc de Triomphe on Sunday, October 5. Both races will be run at Longchamps Racecourse in Paris.
"I think that's the question we want answered this weekend, whether Curlin is of the caliber to be considered for the Arc on the turf," Asmussen said. "Two previous Breeders' Cup Turf winners should definitely give us that measure.
"I think the Arc is one of the greatest races in the world, and we're hoping to prove Curlin is one of the greatest horses in the world. If we can establish a Grade 1 form on him this Saturday at Belmont in the Man o' War, we will make arrangements from there to get him to Chantilly and start our preparations with him to be comfortable going right (clockwise). Liking the turf is one thing, going right-handed is another."
This year Curlin captured the Jaguar Handicap and Dubai World Cup and last month won the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. His current five- race win streak includes the 2007 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic.
Curlin, winner of nine of 12 lifetime starts, is third on the all-time North American earnings list with $9,396,800. Only Cigar with $9,999,815 and Skip Away with $9,616,360 have more career earnings.
Nine-year-old gelding Better Talk Now will attempt to add this year's Man o' War to his 2005 win. He has drawn the inside post with Ramon Dominguez again in the saddle.
Trained by Graham Motion for Bushwood Stable, Better Talk Now won the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf and was second to Red Rocks in that race two years later. Better Talk Now has earned more than $4 million with 14 wins in 44 career starts.
"By now, we pretty much know what makes Better Talk Now tick," Motion said. "So, we map out a schedule and try to stick to it. This year, we felt that the United Nations came up a bit too soon, but the Man o'War was ideal. And, we felt that, if Better Talk Now is up to it, there is proper spacing to races like the Sword Dancer (August 16) and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (Belmont Park, September 27).
"But we are very excited about this race on Saturday. It is shaping up to be a race for the ages."
Red Rocks makes his first United States start in the Man o' War since a third- place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf. The five-year-old will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post six.
Owned by Paul Reedam and trained by Brian Meehan, Red Rocks has won five of 18 lifetime starts for better than $2.5 million.
Here is the complete field for the 49th Man o' War Stakes in post position order: Better Talk Now, Ramon Dominguez; Grand Couturier, Calvin Borel; Mission Approved, David Cohen; True Cause, Rajiv Maragh; Sudan, John Velazquez; Red Rocks, Javier Castellano and Curlin, Robby Albarado.
The Man o' War was moved from Belmont Park's Fall Championship Meet to the spring this year to create better spacing among the Grade 1 turf races in New York through the summer and fall.
Post-time for the Man oWar Stakes is 5:15 p.m. (et) and will be televised on ESPNews.