It was cold, it was wet, and it was dank during the 2007 Breeders' Cup World Championships, held at Monmouth Park. Despite the damp chill in the air, that weekend will not be remembered for its dreariness, but rather the electricity that permeated the air. Race after race, horse after horse, the audience was given performances that made them rise to their feet and stare in awe. While there were many performances that left the crowd in awe none did so more than theBreeders’ Cup Classic.
It was a clash of titans. It was a race that would decide the outcome of Horse of the Year, and not one horse went into the race with a decisive edge. All had shown brilliance, all had shown speed, all had shown stamina, and all had shown their determination and indomitable spirit on several occasions.
Lawyer Ron entered the Classic as the leading older male. He was in the spotlight as a three year old on the Triple Crown trail, but he did not peak until July of 2007. In the Whitney Invitational he quite literally burst onto the scene with a scintillating score, in record shattering time. He followed his Whitney up by thrashing the Woodward field into submission by over eight lengths, before falling just a head short in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
While Lawyer Ron was a dominant older male, it was the three year olds that stole the show. The slight favorite among them was Street Sense. He put his name on the map with a record breaking score by, 10 lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at two. He then became the first horse in history to win the Juvenile at two then take the Kentucky Derby at three. If that wasn’t impressive enough, after a heartbreaker in the Preakness he came back with an impressive score in the Jim Dandy, before prevailing in a desperate, nose to nose stretch duel in the Travers. That win mad him the first horse since 1990 to win the Kentucky Derby and Travers. In his final prep, however, he fell just short one of his three year old rivals, Hard Spun. That loss, however, did not seem to deter the fans.
Curlin, Hard Spun, and Any Given Saturday completed the quartet of brilliant three year olds. Curlin drew attention to himself by taking the Preakness over a dead game Street Sense, in only his fifth start. He also was the horse that nailed Lawyer Ron in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Hard Spun, tough as nails throughout the Triple Crown was coming into the Classic on a two race winning streak. One was a nail biter in the Kings Bishop, while the second was a score over fellow three year old Street Sense in the Kentucky Cup Classic. Any Given Saturday was coming into the Classic off three impressive performances, the Dwyer, the Haskell where he trounced Hard Spun and Curlin, and the Brooklyn where he defeated his elders.
Completing the order were grade two winners Awesome Gem and Diamond Stripes, European love George Washington, and Santa Anita Derby winner Tiago.
As I sat on my couch, eyes glued to the television screen, I couldn’t take my eyes of my favorite, Curlin. I wanted so much for him to win, and get the respect I felt he seemed to be lacking. As they completed loading the star studded field into the gate I edged forward, leaning closer to the screen, then BRINGGGGGG!!!!! The gates flew open and they were off!
My eyes first searched for who had gone to the lead and found that Hard Spun had beaten Lawyer Ron to it, and was intent on setting a blistering pace. I then searched the field for Curlin and found him racing stride for stride with Street Sense, far back off the lead.
The quarter went up in a quick 23 flat, the half in a blistering 45 and four. The positions did not begin to change until shortly after the field passed the half mile marker, as the field completed six furlongs in a scorching 1.10 and three. By then it was obvious that Lawyer Ron, Any Given Saturday and George Washington were unable to keep up, but as they began to falter, Curlin and Street Sense made their runs simultaneously.
Around they turn they came and as they hit the quarter pole both Street Sense and Curlin were coming under a full head of steam with their sights dead locked on Hard Spun. Turning for home Street Sense began to flatten out, leaving Curlin and Hard Spun.
By now I was standing and shouting my encouragement. I can still remember the call. Even now, thinking back I can still feel my heart in my throat, chest tight with excitement. As they turned into the stretch Curlin wrested the lead from Hard Spun and from there as Trevor Denman so aptly put “And Curlin is POWERHOUSING home! In the Race of the Year, for Horse of the Year, it’s all Curlin, in an absolutely STYLISH performance!” Curlin soared under the wire, the winner by over four lengths, proving his dominance.
In the Clash of the Titans, in a rematch that would decide it all, Curlin prevailed. It was supposed to be a desperate finish, but Curlin turned it into a complete runaway. He had gone from maiden to Triple Crown race winner, to Breeders' Cup Champion in 10 months. In a year of brilliance, in a year of greatness he was crowned king.
Photo Courtesy of Alex Evers