Curlin has the opportunity to break the all-time American earnings record held by Cigar in Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
This year’s Dubai World Cup winner and outstanding dirt performer over the least two seasons took this event 12 months ago and is just a little over 200,000 short of Cigar’s incredible haul of 9,999,815.
Curlin’s connections have misgivings about the new Pro-Ride surface installed at Santa Anita, where the horse would be looking for back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Classics, and his owner Jess Jackson will not be moved for a decision until after the Gold Cup.
The imposing chestnut’s only blemish to a perfect recent record was a defeat to Red Rocks in the Man O’War Stakes when trying out grass and he is expected to be sent off an odds-on favourite back on his favourite surface.
It has been raining in New York State but Scott Blasi, assistant to Curlin’s trainer, Steve Asmussen, has no concerns.
“He’s had experience over a muddy racetrack,” Blasi told the Blood Horse.
“It’s definitely not an issue for him, according to his bankroll.
“He’s awesome. It seems like he always comes around this time of year; gets stronger. Hopefully, we are getting into peak at the end of the year.”
Greg Avioli, the Breeders’ Cup president, is confident of Curlin making it to his meeting at the end of October.
“Hopefully if he has a good race this weekend, he will come,” he said.
“Jess Jackson has not made a decision but I am aware that he would like Curlin to become the Horse Of The Year for the second year in a row.
“That would be difficult to win if he did not go to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Three-year-old Mambo in Seattle is expected to provide the main opposition in the Gold Cup, having finished a nose behind Colonel John in the Travers Stakes.
Handler Neil Howard explained: “What really enticed us was we thought it would give us another opportunity to run a mile and a quarter.
“The way the horse is training, we feel he is ready, hopefully, to run back to a comparable effort he ran in the Travers. There were mostly plusses to running but the only downside, and that is for everyone, is having to take on Curlin. It’s a big undertaking.”