- The crowds that lined the walking path in the backyard and the paddock which it leads to belied the disappointment of the crowd of 22,572 which showed up at Saratoga to see Curlin.
If Curlin is, as Tom Durkin stated after his hard-earned Woodward win, the "best horse in the world," then maybe, at least based on this performance, the world of racing really needs to stop and assess just where it stands. The presence of the defending Horse of the Year at Saratoga attracted no more than a relative handful of extra fans to the track. And 14 seconds to get the final eighth of a mile with some urging from Robby Albarado, are you kidding me?
Don't blame NYRA for the lackluster crowd. You can't market in a vacuum. Curlin has little buzz and panache beyond those who crowded the paddock or made the effort to view the race on one of the limited TV outlets. He hasn't raced nearly frequently enough - three times in this country in the last ten months - to establish anywhere near the kind of continuity that could generate press coverage and, more importantly, some rivals. He has no meaningful competition. But that said, the only times he's faced real adversity - a scrappy filly at a distance beyond his best capabilities, and a test on an unfamiliar surface - he's failed. He's never spotted 18 pounds to a speedy rival and had to run him down on a track he may not have liked. He's hardly an ambassador for the sport. And for all the notion of "that powerful strut of his" that Durkin promised as he rounded the turn, he hasn't really shown one since last fall, when he ran the two fastest races of his career in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the BC Classic. Given these circumstances, how does anyone think that Curlin is going to generate any mainstream excitement at all? These are the things that make for a true champion racehorse, one that the public wants to see. And it's mostly not the horse's fault, but rather the symptoms of a broken sport.
Of course, one good way to get some attention would be for Curlin to, as one would expect, proceed to the Breeders' Cup Classic. Personally, I think he does have something to prove at this point. Don't get me wrong, he's unbeaten on dirt this year and has won three Grade 1's; that's no small thing to be sure. But in my opinion, he hasn't shown greatness. Maybe we saw yesterday just why Jess Jackson doesn't seem to want to face Big Brown.