Friday, August 29, 2008
Curlin’s Place in the Pantheon of Greats
Coming up Saturday: Curlin in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, along with an important question to think about: how can we know if a horse is one for the ages – or simply one for our generation? I’d like to hear your ideas on where Curlin fits.
Any time an extraordinarily successful Thoroughbred brightens the racing scene for an extended time, this question rises into the realm of Great Sports Barroom Debates. How are we to know if that one horse fits into the pantheon of great race horses? The question came up with Cigar in 1996, when he attempted to break his tie with Citation for the modern record they shared of 16 consecutive winning races.
Cigar had not entirely persuaded all racing fans that he should be included in the top 10 or 15 horses of all time – a situation that frustrated his trainer, Bill Mott. I remember Mott asking, exasperated, “What else does he have to do – run backwards singing the words to Yankee Doodle Dandy?”
Curlin’s place in history also will be debated, more so if he wins the Woodward and whatever races lie ahead for him. There is no debating that he is an exceptional horse. Last year, I began to call him one of the greatest of our generation. Where he ranks on the lists of “great ones” is another matter entirely.
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