In a statement distributed to the media late Saturday night, Jess Jackson, majority owner of reigning Horse of the Year Curlin, announced that the 4-year-old colt will be retired to stud in 2009 but could race one more time if the conditions were right. He then goes on to make a case for Curlin’s record being the best ever.
“Curlin has proven himself across two continents with 16 starts, the honor of 2007 Horse of the Year and the greatest North American money-earner in racing history,” Jackson said in the release. “He always gave it his all and has done everything we have asked of him. I am proud to announce that he will start a new career in 2009 and contribute his soundness, stamina, durability and athleticism to the breed. I am looking forward to seeing his foals compete and possibly exceed his unequaled racing record.”
Unequaled racing record? Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Jackson deserves kudos for racing Curlin as a 4-year-old at a time when many owners of valuable racehorses retire their stars after their 3-year-old seasons. That’s good for their wallets, but bad for a sport that needs more equine heroes like Curlin, Big Brown and Zenyatta. Curlin was a very, very good colt, good enough to win the Preakness Stakes when he was still relatively inexperienced, good enough to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup in consecutive years and good enough to travel to Dubai and win the world’s richest race last March.
But unequaled racing record? Yes, he’s North America’s all-time leading money-winner, but is there anyone out there who would argue that horses the likes of Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Forego and others who raced beyond their 3-year-old years could not have won the Dubai World Cup if the race had been around then and would not have earned much more money than they did if the purses had been as large then as they are now? I mean, how much money would the great gelding Forego have won if they had the size purses back in the 1970’s that they have now?
Let’s hear from some of you readers … is Curlin one of the all-time greats, does he deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Secretariat, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, Seattle Slew and other great horses of the past? Or is he just a very good horse whose legacy may or may not be enhanced because he set the all-time earnings record in an age where $500,000 and million-dollar purses are now the norm rather than the exception for some of these prestigious Grade I races like the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Pacific Classic and Jockey Club Gold Cup?
Sorry, but Curlin doesn’t even crack my top-five list of all-time horses, which includes Spectacular Bid, Secretariat, Affirmed, Ruffian and Forego.