The Breeders’ Cup Classic of 2007 was a race for the ages. Loaded with talent, half the field had a shot to win Horse of the Year. The three year olds gunning for the Classic and a chance at glory were Street Sense, Any Given Saturday, Hard Spun, and Curlin. The lone older male in the HoY running was Lawyer Ron, who had dominated his division and all he needed to wear the crown was the Classic. In 2007, The Classic really was the championship deciding race.
The morning line favorite was Lawyer Ron, who had dominated Saratoga’s signature events, shattering the track record in the Whitney and running his opponents off their feet in the Woodward. He ran a bang up race when running second to Curlin, by a head in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. However, Street Sense, who was bidding to make history once again, by becoming the first Breeders Cup Juvenile winner to triumph in the Classic. He had already become the first to break the dreaded 'Juvenile Jinx', by winning the Derby. He also became the first Kentucky Derby winner since 1990 to win the Travers.
Any Given Saturday may not have been a favorite going into the gates, but he sure had his fair share of support, and rightly so. After all, he dominated both the Dwyer and Haskell Invitational and in the latter he beat both Hard Spun and Curlin handily. He then went on to win the Brooklyn Handicap. He was on a roll and looking to continue.
The two horses that people seemed to have forgotten were Hard Spun and Curlin, despite the fact that both were coming into the race off of big wins. Hard Spun had consistently been knocking at the door the entire season, running second in the Derby and third in the Preakness. Entering the Classic he was coming off a gritty win in the grade one King's Bishop and the Kentucky Cup Classic. With those wins, his hat was in the ring but still overshadowed by the “big horses.”
Curlin was an obscure maiden in February that had risen into the spotlight of the Triple Crown. He ran third in the Derby, but rebounded to win the Preakness in his fourth start. In the Belmont he ran an amazing race to finish second to Rags to Riches by only a head, but after a dull third in the Haskell, not even a win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup could push him ahead of the media darling, Street Sense. Entering the Classic, there was no doubt he was a very good horse, but in the midst of the hoopla, he was pushed to the background.
When the gates opened and the field was “sent on their way to a perfect beginning,” It was Hard Spun who grabbed the lead with Lawyer Ron there nipping at his heals. Any Given Saturday was there in fourth, but it was clear he was struggling with the sloppy going. Towards the rear were Curlin and Street Sense, racing in tandem. The opening quarter was a quick 23.11 for the track, and that half was an even quicker 45.85. Clearly, Hard Spun, who was up front setting the testing pace, would not be getting a breather anytime soon.
With a half a mile left to go the time for the first six furlongs flashed up in a jaw dropping 1.10.67, and the complexion of the race began to change. Lawyer Ron, fried by the pace began to wilt as did the struggling Any Given Saturday. At the same time both Curlin and Street Sense began to launch massive bids, both looking as though they had been shot from a cannon.
Around the far turn it was a three horse race between the three colts who had been locked together, battling since the Triple Crown were 1-2-3 turning for home. As the field turned into the straight, Curlin was breathing down Hard Spun’s neck, while Street Sense began to flatten out. Hard Spun fought bravely, but was no match for Curlin, who kicked on the afterburners and began to draw further away with every stride. Trevor Denman was the one who put it best in his stretch call “In the race of the year, for Horse of the Year it's Curlin ... in an absolutely stylish performance!”
It may have not been the biggest of upsets, but in that race Curlin made one of the biggest statements to ever be made during the Breeders Cup. Entering the Classic he had lost the luster he gained during the Triple Crown, but in that race he showed the world just what he was capable of, in one of the most dominating and stunning performances I have ever seen. It was the most thrilling and vindicating upset I remember…that I will ever remember.