It was one of the most exciting Kentucky Derby races in years, with the favorites finding themselves at the back of the pack early on and working their way up to the front by the finish. Rounding out the top three was Curlin, part-owned by Kendall-Jackson founder Jess Jackson.
As the betting windows shuttered and the field of 20 3-year-olds were led to the gates at the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, Curlin was one of the favorites, going off at 5-1 odds. Only Street Sense, the eventual winner, had better. Both horses, however, had much ground to make up. After the first quarter mile, Street Sense was in 19th position and Curlin was in 14th.
Rallying at the final turn and coming on strong in the last stretch before a roaring crowd that included England's Queen Elizabeth II, Curlin surged into third place, giving Jackson and his stable, Stonestreet Farms, reason to like Curlin's chances in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, to be held in two weeks. "His performance was exceptional," said Jackson. "He had a bad post position and he was blocked by Hard Spun [who finished second] and three other horses ... after the turn, he was the meat in a sandwich. He was blocked in and he had to back off."
"He finally got free on the final turn, and he was even gaining ground on Street Sense down the final stretch. Not to take anything away from Street Sense—that horse is a champion, they both are." Jackson said. "[Curlin's] probably going to run in the Preakness ... It will be a very interesting race."
"For that horse to run that strong of a race in just his fourth career start says a lot about his talent level," said Tom Law, managing editor of Thoroughbred Times, a weekly magazine that covers horseracing. "Street Sense and Hard Spun had a lot more seasoning than Curlin did. But that said, Curlin ran an incredible race considering that he got shuffled back in the early stages. He certainly merits a big chance in the Preakness."
Jackson's Stonestreet Farms both breeds thoroughbreds and purchases promising young horses. After Curlin won his first race by more than 12 lengths this past February, Jackson formed a partnership with venture capitalist George Bolton and Padua Stables owner Satish Sanan and purchased Curlin for an estimated $3.5 million. Curlin went on to win the Grade 3 Rebel Stakes by seven lengths and the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby by more than 10. Despite his lack of experience (Curlin never raced as a 2-year-old), his three dominant wins were enough to make him one of this year's Derby favorites.
Of the $2 million purse at this year's Derby, Curlin earned $200,000 for placing third, according to a Churchill Downs press representative. Some of Curlin's winnings had been earmarked for the Curlin Kids Fund, which was created in the days leading up to the race, through the Blue Grass Community Foundation, which works with Lexington-area children's charities.
As for the remainder of the year for the 3-year-old thoroughbred, Jackson said, "We expect Curlin to be a top competitor through the season, and hopefully compete for the Breeder's Cup."
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