Smart Strike, Sheriffs Deputy,
by Deputy Minister


I had the opportunity to photograph Curlin at Saratoga in 2008. He was entered in the Woodward Stakes, held during the meet's final weekend. On two occasions prior to the race he was walked into the paddock, flanked by assistant trainer Scott Blasi and another able-bodied assistant. Each tethered by a leather lead line, they held on with all their strength - for Curlin is no average horse.

Stunning, imposing, or simply grand are but a few words one could use to describe him - though breathtaking says it all.

Curlin was possibly the most physically developed Thoroughbred I can ever remember seeing. All muscle - he resembled a body builder more than a lithe and fleet race horse. As he proudly entered the paddock, he stepped lively and alertly, the 'look of eagles' in his eye, all power, an absolute freight train of a horse.

The mid-afternoon sun hung high above him, and drenched his chestnut coat in pools of copper, yellow, red and brown.

His tail snapped like a whip and tossed off sparks
as he was led toward the shedrow.

The red and white cast of the canvas awning altered the hue and he stood wondering what all the excitement was about. There were at least 30 photographers, and anyone who was anyone jammed into the paddock.

They had all come to get a peek.

Although the Travers Stakes is the signature event during the Saratoga meet, the town was considerably abuzz several days after - it was the Woodward they spoke about - and Curlin. He was now 4 years old, and in this day and age a horse of his stature would have already been sent to stud, but thanks to the wishes of his principal owner Jess Jackson, Curlin would continue to delight fans during his 4-year-old season.

Come Saturday, Curlin would again overpower his handlers as he entered the paddock

A crowd ten-deep surrounded the enclosure.
Curlin looked every bit the Champion, in race day braids.

As they left the gate and entered the first turn, Curlin was in tight quarters. Here he is getting pinballed by Divine Park to his left and Out Of Control to his right.
Yet upon entering the stretch he powered past his tiring rivals. (left) Robbie Albarado atop Curlin, after winning the 2008 Woodward Stakes. (right) Being ponied back to the winner's circle alongside NYRA outrider Natalie Rutigliano and KC.

The following September, Curlin would go on to win his second Jockey Club Gold Cup. In doing so, he surpassed Cigar as the leading North American money winning horse of all time. In his final race, the Breeders' Cup Classic, he would be bested by Ravens Pass. Despite the loss, he would again be voted Horse of the Year.

Hats off to a great competitor, one of the most outstanding Thoroughbreds of our era,
racing's $10,000,000 man, Curlin!

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