Curlin, the big, red, lightly raced son of Smart Strike who finished third in last Saturday's Kentucky Derby, will be at Pimlico Race Course for the Preakness on May 19 for a rematch with Derby winner Street Sense and second-place finisher Hard Spun, his trainer confirmed yesterday.
"The only hesitation was that I wanted to see where he was mentally," trainer Steve Asmussen said, speaking on a conference call. "I wanted to make sure it was still the same horse."
The Derby experience for every horse was unusual, with its overlarge 20-horse field and its 1 1/4 -mile distance, and Asmussen said he could not second-guess the finish.
"You can watch the tape over and over and we still come out third," Asmussen said. "Street Sense and Hard Spun deserved to be first and second. But we beat 17 of the best horses in the country."
Now, he'll get a chance to turn the tables, and Asmussen said the only thing he could ask for is that his horse start a little faster over the first 50 yards.
He'll also have to overcome a lot of telegraphed inspiration from Street Sense's owner James Tafel to his horse.
Tafel said yesterday he and trainer Carl Nafzger had been so focused on their No. 1 goal - winning the Kentucky Derby - that they had given no thought to the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown. But now that the Derby is behind them, all that has changed.
"Yes, we're going on, and I'll tell you why," Tafel said. "It's because I think this horse has captured the hearts of a lot of people. I think we're obligated to go on. Our business needs new heroes, however fleeting they may be, and right now he's the new hero.
"The thinking goes like this: It has been a long, long time since a horse has won the Triple Crown. Our industry is crying for a Triple Crown winner. Barbaro appeared to be our best possibility until he was hurt [at the start of last year's Preakness]. But it has been since Affirmed in 1978. ... Maybe there hasn't been a horse good enough, but I think we're ready for it."
Tafel said if his horse sees daylight at the top of the stretch, "I'm confident in his ability to win."
The Derby's fifth-place finisher, Sedgefield, who had been listed as doubtful for the Preakness, will not be coming to Pimlico, the Daily Racing Form reported.