ELMONT, N.Y. - The forgotten horse in this year's Belmont is one who could stun Americans by winning it.
Owned by Godolphin Racing, the Middle East-based thoroughbred empire, Curule has blossomed since finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby. He has also inherited a Hall of Fame jockey, Jerry Bailey, who will ride him for the first time.
In the mornings here at Belmont, as he's trained for the 1 1/2 -mile race, Curule has looked imposing, a hot-blooded thoroughbred ready to jump out of his skin.
"He's been training really well for this race," Bailey said. "He's going to be a long shot, but I think he has a legitimate chance.
"He shipped in from Dubai just a few days before the Derby and didn't have much time to acclimate.
"He ran a pretty good race, and he's going to improve. Whether it's enough or not, I don't know."
Curule earned his way to Kentucky by finishing third in the UAE Derby in March at Dubai's Nad al Sheba race course, a neck behind Bachir. China Visit won the 1 1/8 -mile race; he was Godolphin's top 3-year-old.
Bachir has since won the French and Irish 2000 Guineas, perhaps signaling that the UAE Derby was a tough race and that Curule is a formidable Belmont threat. His sire is Go for Gin, winner of the 1994 Kentucky Derby and runner-up in the Preakness and Belmont.
Opening for Globalize?
Two days before the Derby, Globalize lost his chance to compete in the first leg of the Triple Crown when his pony kicked him, opening a cut on his left hind leg that required six stitches.
The cut healed quickly, and his trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, the all-time leading conditioner in Northern California, brought him back in the Peter Pan Stakes. In that race two weeks ago at Belmont, the son of Summer Squall finished third behind Postponed and Unshaded.
With a couple of early-speed horses expected to fade (Hugh Hefner and Commendable), the Belmont would seem to set up nicely for Globalize.
He will likely stalk the leaders until they falter. Globalize is the leading contender to be in front as the field straightens out for the wire.
"If I didn't think he was fit, I wouldn't run him," Hollendorfer said. "I think my horse will get the mile and a half. He's ready to go."
Asked yesterday about race strategy, Hollendorfer said: "I say nothing. I'll look at the [Daily Racing] Form and talk to Mike [Smith, his jockey] in the morning. Nobody else will know, except maybe the owners at the last minute."
Globalize has won more races, five, than any other horse in the Belmont. His major win was the Grade II Spiral Stakes in March at Turfway Park.
First taste of losing
Two 3-year-old fillies fell from the ranks of the unbeaten yesterday in the Grade I, $200,000 Acorn Stakes at Belmont.
The Shug McGaughey-trained Finder's Fee knocked off the 4-5 favorite Roxelana, who had been 4-for-4, and Dream Supreme, who had been 3-for-3.
Roxelana hit the gate at the start, surged from fourth into second place and took the lead in the stretch. Finder's Fee, at 8-1, and then C'Est L'Amour, ridden by Edgar Prado, passed her near the wire. Roxelana held on for third and Dream Supreme finished fourth.
Finder's Fee paid $18.60 to win. She is owned by 91-year-old Ogden Phipps. Her time for the one-mile, one-turn race was 1 minute, 37.38 seconds. The exacta returned $189, the trifecta $727.
Although the Grade I, $1 million Belmont Stakes headlines today's Belmont card, the day also features the Grade I, $400,000 Manhattan Handicap; Grade II, $150,000 True North Handicap; Grade II, $150,000 Riva Ridge Stakes, and Grade III, $175,000 Just A Game Breeders' Cup Handicap.
In the Manhattan, the Michael Dickinson-trained Cetewayo, 6, will make his first start since May 1999. Dickinson owns Tapeta Farm in Cecil County.
Special Pimlico day
For local fans who want to bet on the races at Belmont and watch them in Maryland, Pimlico has declared today Belmont Stakes Day. As fan appreciation gestures, grandstand admission and a Pimlico program will be free while Pepsi products and hot dogs will be $1.