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Racehorses in History

June: Fairy Chant
b. 1937
Why: A champion at 3 and 4, Fairy Chant won the Beldame twice. She was in the money for 26 of her 42 races.

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Much has been made already about the decision to point Curlin toward the Jockey Club Gold Cup rather than what is now a fairly anemic field for the Travers (with the exception of Street Sense, who will presumably be enjoying a paid workout). My sense is that there would be less chatter about it if Steve Asmussen had not come out and said:

“Everybody gets knocked for not running but rewarded for not running,” said Curlin’s trainer Steve Asmussen, who also trained Cuvee. “It has been suggested that they put way too much on the Breeders’ Cup races, but that’s where the emphasis is. So that’s what we’re going to target and do our best with.”

“What’s the difference between the Classic and the Travers? Five million to one (million, in purse money),” Asmussen said. With Curlin in the running for both the 3-year-old and Horse of the Year titles, he said, “the value that puts on a horse of his caliber and my responsibilities to the horse and the people who own him, I’m influenced by that. Running him back in the Travers and then keeping him at that level for another 60 days is unrealistic, as opposed to backing off and targeting it directly.

“The Classic has been the major target the second half of the year, once the Belmont was over, and how do you get there best?” Asmussen said. “Trying to be polite and not eliminating the Travers has kind of put us in this position, but at no point did I ever say Travers (for Curlin).”

Asmussen makes it sound like his hands were tied and that he had no choice but to duck Street Sense go for the JCGC due to overwhelming popular demand — but maybe it’s harder to reach a consensus when some of your horse’s owners are in the pokey. Granted, the Breeders’ Cup is everyone’s goal at this point, but it still sounds like a rather hollow excuse — if Street Sense can run in the Travers and the Breeders’ Cup, why can’t Curlin? Or would another potential loss be so horribly damaging to his breeding prospects? I’d rather see a stallion who ran in many races and lost a few than a carefully-managed winner of five races who made seven lifetime starts.

Rounding up the weekend’s events, The Tin Man put on a good show but was just outrun by Jambalaya at the end — so perhaps he’ll pull a John Henry and take a year off in between Arlington Million wins. I’d like to see a 10 year old do it.

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