LOUISVILLE — Nobody was close enough to him, so Curlin played his own kind of numbers game in soaring to victory in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap Saturday at Churchill Downs.
As he sped down the stretch for a 41/4-length victory, Curlin proved again that a horse could win the $6 million Dubai World Cup in late March, take a break, then win the Stephen Foster in his next start. Street Cry did it six years ago.
Curlin showed that the 128 pounds he carried for 11⁄8 miles didn't slow him down a bit. He gave up 10 to 15 pounds to the rest of the field, then left them in the dust.
The 2007 Horse of the Year raised his lifetime earnings to $9,396,800, third on the all-time list but within range of No. 1 Cigar at $9,999,815.
Curlin won his fifth consecutive race, including four Grade Is. He has never been off the board with nine victories, one second and two thirds.
Curlin also has established himself as the focal point of Thoroughbred racing for the rest of the year. He might take his act to international venues in France and/or Japan.
Those around Curlin seem as astounded as anyone about his accomplishments.
“It's such an honor to be involved with this horse,” trainer Steve Asmussen said.
“Kentucky horsemen appreciate this horse,” co-owner Jess Jackson said. “What he stands for is a classic champion.”
“I'm not surprised,” said Pat Cunningham, of Midnight Cry Stables, a minority owner. “Curlin is a great horse.”
“He's showing that he is a superstar,” said jockey Robby Albarado, who won the 2007 Stephen Foster with Flashy Bull.
“(Curlin) has fulfilled a lot for me — taking me across the world and back. I look forward to the rest of the year, and hopefully we can do it again for everyone.”
Barcola set a slow pace for the first 6 furlongs of the Stephen Foster, while Curlin chilled out in fourth place near the rail before hitting another gear.
Albarado went to the whip once, then Curlin took command with a furlong to go. He finished the race in 1:49.68 to claim the $589,000 first prize.
Einstein, running sixth most of the way, nosed out Barcola for second.
Grasshopper was 31/2 lengths back in fourth.
“My horse ran well,” said Einstein's jockey Julien Leparoux. “I wish (the leaders) could have gone in 1:10 (instead of 1:13.41). It's no disgrace to run second to Curlin.”
Einstein's trainer Helen Pitts pointed out that “I said before the race ever ran, I'd be honored to be second to (Curlin).”
Pitts trained Curlin before Midnight Cry Stables sold majority interest in the horse to Stonestreet Stables and other interests.
Pitts saddled Curlin in his racing debut as a 2-year-old. He won by 123/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park.
“I do miss having Curlin in the barn,” Pitts told the Daily Racing Form. “But it's almost an honor to run against him.”