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Oct 31, 2008

2008 Horse of the Year down to two

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Things didn't quite go the way they were supposed to in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Curlin was supposed to win the Classic and secure his second Horse of the Year title.

With a quarter-mile to run the pre-written script was being followed to the letter. Jockey Robby Albarado had Curlin moving on the outside and the two took the lead at the top of the stretch. In mid-stretch Curlin was on his way to winning his second $5 million Classic and wrap up Horse of the Year honors.

With 200 yards to go Curlin tired and Raven's Pass, who simply followed the favorite's path into the stretch, took the lead and won by a little under two- lengths. Curlin faded to fourth in the 12 horse field.

"With Curlin, nothing is a consolation," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "We're just proud of who he is. He's the first North American-based horse over $10 million and he's just had a remarkable run.

"Watching the race first time by, I was very concerned. It kind of looked like the Man o' War. He was off the bridle. Very concerned. I think he had to struggle to get where he was, the first time by. When he went under the wire the first time, he was further back and Robby was nudging him forward. He works harder to go over it than he works to go over the dirt."

Because of that fourth place finish by Curlin, the undefeated filly Zenyatta could be voted Horse of the Year. In the final NTRA National Poll, Zenyatta was first with 170 points to 158 for Curlin. The filly received 11 first place votes and Curlin got seven.

"It's quite an accomplishment to go all year undefeated, and to step up each time, four of them in Grade 1, like she did," said trainer John Shirreffs of the four-year-old filly, unbeaten in nine starts, seven of them this year. "In the vote, she would have to be seriously considered for that."

The major problem I have with Zenyatta, as opposed to Curlin, is the fact that the filly has only raced once outside of the southern California region. Curlin has been overseas, Kentucky and New York this year, and was clearly the best thoroughbred, until Saturday.

When the Eclipse Awards are announced in January, Curlin will receive one for champion older male and Zenyatta will be crowned top older female horse. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a tie for Horse of the Year, as long as one of those horses is Curlin.

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