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Curlin is led to the winner's circle by assistant trainer Scott Blasi and owner Jess Jackson.
Outside of Kentucky Derby weekend, the most important race day at Churchill Downs is Stephen Foster Handicap day which featured six graded stakes races on Saturday afternoon. The main event is the $1 million Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), the purse increased from its original $750,000 if a Grade 1 winner entered. Contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, it consistently features the top older horses in the country and this year was no exception. 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, making his first U.S. start after winning the Dubai World Cup in March, was sent off as the 2-5 choice, despite carrying the top weight of 128 pounds and spotting the field 10-15 pounds. In to challenge the Steve Asmussen stable star were 6-1 second choice Einstein at 118 pounds, switching back to the main track after winning the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby day, and 7-1 third choice Grasshopper at 117 pounds, fifth in the Pimlico Special last time out.
Down the stretch with Curlin starting to draw off from Einstein (outside) and Barcola.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Curlin Albarado 2.80 2.20 2.10 4 Einstein Leparoux 3.80 3.20 9 Barcola Castanon 6.00 Winning Time: 1:49.68 $2 Exacta 1-4 12.80 $2 Trifecta 1-4-9 97.80 $2 Superfecta 1-4-9-5 290.40
Left: Curlin in the winner's circle. Winning owner Jess Jackson (white hair, on left) said, "Kentucky horsemen appreciate this horse. What he stands for is a classic champion and we'll see how great he is because he is not fully defined."
Right: Curlin circles after the race. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "It's such an honor to be involved with this horse - he is such a beautiful animal. I'm so thankful to (owners) Mr. Jackson and the whole Stonestreet group and Midnight Cry to bring him back as a 4 year-old and just letting us enjoy him." Asked about what it is like to train Curlin, he added, "A dream of a lifetime. You know, you are very fortunate to be involved with this sport to begin with, let alone to have an animal as special as he is."
Curlin in the paddock before the race. Winning jockey Robby Albarado said, "Great, phenomenal, he's an amazing horse. Again with his routine brilliance, he is in textbook form. He's showing that he is a superstar. He prevailed for the fans and I'm proud of him, he's an amazing horse, an amazing athlete." Asked what it is like to ride Curlin, he added, "A stepping stone of every jockey's dream and he fulfilled a lot for me, taking me across the world and back. And I just look forward to the rest of the year and hopefully we can do it again for everyone."
Second place finisher Einstein in the paddock. His trainer Helen Pitts said, "It's a victory for us, I think. It really is. I thought we'd been nosed out for second, but I was still tickled to death with the way he finished. I didn't think we had the best of trips with the pace that there was early. Like Julien said, with no pace he kind of got shuffled around early and ended up back where he didn't want to be, but he adapted to it." Pitts said Einstein would return to the turf with the Arlington Million as a target.
His jockey Julien Leparoux said, "The outside horses broke quick and then they took back and there was no pace out there. I wish they would have gone in 1:10. But my horse ran well; it's no disgrace to run second to Curlin."
Third place finisher Barcola leads first time by. His jockey Jesus Castanon said, "I was able to slow the pace down. Nobody would go with me, so I took advantage of it. When I asked him to go he picked it up real nice, but Curlin went around me. He just ran past my horse and he was trying to catch up with him, but that's a different thing. Down the lane I thought I was going to be able to finish up for second, but he couldn't hang on."
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