Curlin nipped Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense by putting his head in front on the final stride, winning the Preakness Stakes in a riveting finish Saturday and ending any chance for a Triple Crown this year.
Street Sense seemed to have the race won after another of his patented rallies, taking the lead in the stretch. But the colt was unable to hold off Curlin's late charge thanks to an incredible ride by Robby Albarado.
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Three races earlier, Albarado was thrown from his mount but walked away unhurt and came back for the ride of his life.
Curlin came into the Preakness with just four career starts, including a third-place finish in the Derby just two weeks ago. Still, trainer Steve Asmussen was confident in his lightly raced colt, and believed the 3-year-old son of Smart Strike would improve after his first defeat.
Did he ever.
Curlin won his first three races by a combined 28 1/2 lengths, and was well back in the field of nine. As Hard Spun swung into the lead with a three-wide move, Street Sense started to roll under Calvin Borel.
Street Sense went to the outside in the stretch and moved into the lead, and the crowd began to cheer in anticipation of a Triple Crown bid in the making.
But Curlin came flying along the far outside, and took dead aim at the Derby winner. He caught him on the final jump and, just like that, Street Sense was a beaten horse.
"I thought I had a different horse the first quarter of mile," Albarado said after his first Preakness victory. "He started a 2-year-old and finished a 5-year-old."
Curlin, who did not race as a 2-year-old, was purchased after his first race — a 12 3/4-length romp at Gulfstream Park in February. The price was a reported $3.5 million by a group that includes Kendall-Jackson Wine owner Jess Jackson, Padua Stables, George Bolton and Midnight Cry Stables.
The colt hit a $650,000 jackpot by winning the 1 3-16th-mile second jewel of the Triple Crown, boosting his career earnings to $1,652,800.
The winning time was a lightning-quick 1:53.46. The record time is listed as 1:53 2/5, which converts to 1:53.40. The record is shared by Louis Quatorze in 1996 and Tank's Prospect in 1985.
Borel, who was so masterful in guiding Street Sense past 19 rivals and a Derby victory by 2 1/4 lengths, thought he had another victory when he broke clear of the field.
"I thought I was home free," Borel said. "He came and got me. No excuses."
Curlin actually stumbled out of the gate, and remained in seventh in the early stages.
"We beat a champion in Street Sense, but Curlin is going to be a champion, too," Jackson said.