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Curlin Gets Rocked in Man O’ War

Posted by Pete Mitchell on 4/26/2012 11:01:50 AM

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Curlin’s turf experiment got off to a somewhat rocky start in Saturday’s Man O’ War Stakes at Belmont Park, as 2006 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Red Rocks edged away in the late going for a 2-length victory. Curlin mounted a challenge at the eighth pole, but couldn’t match strides with the winner. After trailing for the first mile, 2004 BC Turf victor Better Talk Now rallied to finish third, a half-length behind Curlin. The early speed duel between Sudan and Mission Approved cost both horses, as they faded to fourth and seventh respectively.

As I mentioned in my preview of the race on Friday, Curlin’s price would be unappealing at 3-5. He was actually sent off at odds of .45-1, making him a clear underlay. Better Talk Now went off at 5.60-1, slightly below his morning-line price of 6-1, and the victorious Red Rocks wound up third choice in the wagering at 6.20-1, a bit higher than his morning-line odds of 5-1. He was clearly the “value play”, and there were several factors that made him appealing at that price. First, he was a proven commodity on turf, with more than $2.5M in earnings on that surface. Second, he was fit, having just run in a Group 1 race in Europe five weeks earlier. Third, his 6th-place finish in that race could be excused, as his trainer made it clear that the horse didn’t care for the Epsom course. Fourth, Red Rocks would be racing with blinkers for the first time, in an effort to keep him focused and closer to the pace. Fifth, he had finished in front of Better Talk Now in both their earlier meetings, and that rival, at 9 years old, wasn’t getting any younger. Finally, Red Rocks was getting the services of the talented Javier Castellano, a rider known for his powerful finishes on the lawn. The plan came together beautifully, and astute Red Rocks backers were rewarded with a $14.40 win mutuel.

Curlin’s travel plans are on hold for a while, as his connections evaluate his performance, and see how he came out of the race. It was certainly no disgrace finishing second to a top-shelf racehorse like Red Rocks, and in the process, besting a tough competitor like Better Talk Now. It would appear that a trip to Longchamp for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe could still be in the works. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Pete Mitchell has been handicapping horses since his teenage years. He has been a professional horse player for many years, and came to betonline.com’s attention through multiple referrals from industry insiders/sportsbook owners. Pete is revered for his horse handicapping opinion and industry experts acknowledge his impressive career winning record. Thoughts or questions?

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