Horse Racing

Curlin wins horse of the year for second year in a row

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The Canadian Press
1/26/2009 10:36:58 PM
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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Curlin won in Dubai and Big Brown won at Churchill Downs. Now both have won on Miami Beach.

Dubai World Cup winner Curlin was chosen Horse of the Year for the second year in a row Monday night at the Eclipse Awards. Big Brown, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, was chosen three-year-old Male of the Year.

The other nominees for Horse of the Year were Big Brown and undefeated Zenyatta, the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner. Big Brown bested two other nominees for top three-year-old male: Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Raven's Pass.

Curlin, sired by Canadian-bred Smart Strike, was chosen top older male over Commentator and Brazilian-bred Einstein.

"I've always believed he's a true champion," said Curlin's co-owner, Jess Jackson. "He's now one of the greats of the industry. ... This is an honour beyond the dreams of somebody who dreamed that he would someday own a champion race horse when I saw Seabiscuit run in 1938."

Zenyatta was selected top older female over Ginger Punch and Chilean-bred Cocoa Beach.

Proud Spell was selected the top three-year-old filly over Music Note and sentimental choice Eight Belles, who broke both front ankles moments after finishing second to Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby and was euthanized.

Big Brown's racing career ended in October when he injured his right front foot while working out at Aqueduct. He won seven times in eight career starts, but his bid for the Triple Crown ended with a last-place finish in the Belmont.

"Unfortunately, many will remember Big Brown for the only race he didn't win," said Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables, co-owners of Big Brown. "But he was a pleasure to be around, and he was the biggest dream any owner could ever have."

Steve Asmussen, who worked with Curlin, was chosen trainer of the year over Big Brown trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. and Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel.

"Thank you, Curlin," Asmussen said. "What a special horse. ... We simply got out of his way."

Jackson was richly rewarded for delaying Curlin's retirement a year. The horse set a North American record with career earnings of US$10.5 million before being retired in November at age 4.

He's in Versailles, Ky., to begin his stud career.

"Curlin still wants to run," Jackson said. "He's running around the ice-hardened floor of his Lane's End paddock, and when he goes into the stable he gets depressed. He doesn't know what he's up for. I think he's going to be very pleased."

Besides the Dubai race, Curlin's 2008 victories included the Stephen Foster Handicap, the Woodward Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Santa Anita's synthetic surface, the only out-of-the-money finish in his career.

"It's no mean feat to win two Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year," Jackson said. "We took on everyone on all tracks in all conditions, and I think he proved he deserves the honour."

Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman won the award for top two-year-old male over Old Fashioned and Vineyard Haven. Stardom Bound was chosen the best two-year-old filly.

Garrett Gomez, who won four Breeders' Cup events, was chosen jockey of the year over Robby Albarado and Rafael Bejarano. Pascacio Lopez won the award for apprentice jockey.

Other winners were Stronach Stables for owner, Adena Springs for breeder, Benny the Bull for male sprinter, Indian Blessing for female sprinter, Forever Together for female turf horse and Good Night Shirt for steeplechase horse.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by turf writers and racing secretaries at National Thoroughbred Racing Association tracks.

Curlin (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)
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