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Curlin cleared to run in Man o' War

7/9/2008

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board will issue a license to the receiver representing the minority ownership interest in Horse of the Year Curlin, clearing the way for the horse to start in Saturday's Man o' War at Belmont Park, the attorney for Curlin's majority owner said late Tuesday.

Richard Getty, who represents Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables, said that regulators in New York told him that they would issue the license to the court-appointed receiver before Friday. Stonestreet, which owns 80 percent of Curlin, is already licensed in New York, but Midnight Cry Stables, which owns the other 20 percent, has faced ongoing legal problems since late last year that have complicated its eligibility for licensing in many jurisdictions.

"The horse has been approved to race in the Man o' War Stakes on Saturday," Getty said.

Dan Toomey, a spokesman for the racing and wagering board, said the board had not yet received an application for a license by the receiver, but he indicated that the board's legal staff had already reviewed the matter.

"All I can say is that we are still waiting on the application," Toomey said.

Steve Asmussen, the trainer of Curlin, also said earlier Tuesday during a teleconference that he had been told that Curlin would be eligible to race in New York.

"Very recently I've been told we've been okayed in New York, and the plan is to ship to New York on Thursday," Asmussen said during a conference call.

Midnight Cry Stables is owned by Lexington lawyers William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr., who are currently in jail as they await a retrial in a case alleging that they defrauded their clients in a 2002 settlement with the manufacturer of the diet-drug combination fen-phen.

Racing rules typically prohibit granting licenses to owners who have been convicted of a felony. Gallion and Cunningham have not been convicted, but a civil-court judgment last year declared that the lawyers had defrauded their clients. As a result of that judgment, earnings from Midnight Cry are being handled by a court-appointed receiver.

On July 2, the judge in the civil case reiterated in a ruling that the receiver was responsible for all management decisions for Midnight Cry. That ruling was a critical document, clearing the way for Curlin to run in New York, Getty said.

The Man o' War would be Curlin's first race on the turf. Asmussen said if Curlin runs and performs well, he will ship to Saratoga before shipping to France for a possible start in the Prix Foy, a Group 2 race on the grass at Longchamp, as a prep for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France on Oct. 5, also at Longchamp.

The Arc, a Group 1, 1 1/2-mile race run the opposite way of races in the United States, is one of the most prestigious races in Europe. Asmussen said that running in the Prix Foy would give Curlin experience in a right-handed race, as well as prepare the horse for the uphill straight at Longchamp.

Curlin won the Breeders' Cup Classic last year in his final start of 2007. This year, Curlin has won the 1 1/4-mile Dubai World Cup and the Stephen Foster Handicap, both on dirt.

Asmussen said that Stonestreet Stable is more intrigued by winning the Arc then trying to win the Breeders' Cup Classic two years in a row. The Classic will be run this year on the synthetic surface at Santa Anita Park in Southern California. Curlin has never run on an artificial track.

"The Classic being run on a synthetic surface was not a factor," Asmussen said. "With what we'd like to get done with Curlin is something nobody's done before. Back-to-back Breeders' Cup wins is pretty amazing in one sense, but it's been done before."

Tiznow is the only horse to win the Classic twice, in 2000 and 2001.