A strong finish at the Kentucky Derby convinced Kendall-Jackson winery founder Jess Jackson to run his horse Curlin in the Preakness on Saturday, May 19. It was the right decision--the latest of many in Jackson's career. The 3-year-old thoroughbred crossed the finish line as this year's champion.
Curlin took a nearly disastrous misstep when the gates opened at the 132nd running of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown. But the early stumble was a mere footnote to the tale of an amazing come-from-behind victory that tied the record for the fastest winning time in Preakness history. Witnessed firsthand by more than 121,000 spectators, it was the largest crowd ever to enter Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course, and the largest ever to witness a sporting event in Maryland.
"[Curlin, who never raced as a 2-year-old,] was not as experienced as some of the other horses he has been competing with," Jackson said in the post-race news conference, "[but] we feel the horse has much more potential than he has even shown today."
It was only the fifth start for Curlin, who has won all of his races except for the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, where he surged from 14th place to finish third. Curlin only led the Preakness for a fraction of a second, but it was the only fraction that counted as the race ended in a photo finish.
"We throw the Derby out in our minds because he was blocked and his momentum lost three times," Jackson continued. "We never lost faith in him. I think today that faith was justified and we are as pleased as we can be that he's won a classic Grade 1 race."
After Curlin won his first race by more than 12 lengths this past February, Jackson, acting with his agent, John Moynihan, formed a partnership with venture capitalist George Bolton and Padua Stables owner Satish Sanan to purchase most of Curlin from his former owners, who kept an interest. Jackson's Stonestreet Stables both breeds thoroughbreds and purchases promising young horses. 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, his three dominant wins and his late surge to finish third at the Kentucky Derby were enough to make him one of the favorites at Pimlico.
And his owners won't be the only beneficiaries of Curlin's winning share of the $1 million Preakness purse. The Curlin for Kids Foundation, set up by Jackson before the Kentucky Derby, benefits numerous charities including Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Smile Train, which provides free surgeries for children with cleft lips and palates.