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2008 Man o'War Stakes Preview

Curlin in his barn at Belmont Park on Friday July 11, 2008.

Curlin looks pumped up as he walks the shedrow on Friday morning.

Red Rocks gets a bath at his barn on Friday morning.
  Date: 07/11/2008

Curlin on the track at Belmont on Friday morning.

Red Rocks comes out of the tunnel to the paddock on Friday morning at Belmont Park.

Better Talk Now winning the 2007 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park

One of the most-awaited races in recent memory is the 49th renewal of the $500,000 Man o'War Stakes (G1) to be run at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon. This year the New York Racing Association moved this 1 3/8 mile inner turf event from its traditional spot during the fall meet, to the second last Saturday of the spring meet, in order to improve the spacing of its major turf races. Free past performances for the Man o'War Stakes are available here from Daily Racing Form.

After conquering the Breeders' Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup, Jess Jackson, majority owner of 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, announced that he wants to send Curlin to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He made one last start on the dirt, an easy win in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs, and then a week later, put in his first workout over the Matt Winn Turf Course. Trainer Steve Asmussen mapped out a plan to get him to the Arc, deciding that he will need a start in America on the turf first, and he does well in that race, he will be shipped to Paris where he would race in the Prix Foy at Longchamp as his final prep.

If Asmussen was looking for an acid test for Curlin, he couldn't do much better than the Man o'War, with three Breeders' Cup winners entered. Curlin drew the outside post in the field of 7, and will face 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now who drew the rail, and 2006 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Red Rocks, who will break just to the inside of the champion in post 6. Grand Couturier, winner of last year's Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga, drew the 2 hole.

Asmussen said, "The perfect plan for us, for me, for Curlin and for everybody associated with him, is to first establish his level of quality on the turf in the Man o'War, and not get ahead of ourselves. We have to see if he can compete at the same level. If he can compete at his level on the turf and we get the race that we expect, we will map out how to win the Arc with him. It's another great test for a great horse. It's a big test that we have in front of us in the accomplishments of the field and who they are. It's our first step on the turf and there are so many questions. But I can't say enough about how proud we are to be involved with Curlin."

Graham Motion, trainer of Better Talk Now, isn't ready to concede to the Horse of the Year. He said, "Obviously, this is going to be a much more competitive race than the (United Nations last Saturday). Quite frankly, at this stage in the game we are not going around looking for easy spots for him. He's doing very well. Ramon (Dominguez) gave him an absolutely perfect ride (in the Manhattan last time out). Unfortunately, nothing opened up at the last minute. With my horse, that's the nature of his style. That's unfortunately why he doesn't get to the winner's circle as often as you'd like. We are very excited about this race on Saturday. It is shaping up to be a race for the ages"

The Man o'War will be race 9 of a 10-race card that begins at 1:00PM ET. Post time for the Man o'War will be 5:15PM and the race will be televised live by ESPNews.

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