Saturday, November 29, 2008

Salute To A Champion - Curlin

Reigning Horse of the Year Curlin took a final bow in the pretty Kentucky sunshine at Churchill Downs this afternoon.

Confident and happy as ever, he entered the paddock draped in a green cooler and took charge of the crowd.

In a sweetly low-key appearance, Curlin made his last turns before a quiet, almost reverent gathering of fans.

Then the blanket came off, and you could just feel everybody pull in a breath, and savor the sight.

I swear, he looks and moves like some jungle creature.

His trainer, assistant trainer, groom, hotwalker, and all the people who've spent their waking hours near him over the last two years, must be so happy to see him retire perfectly sound. But this also has to be one of the hardest days of their lives.

Curlin's bodyguard, Amy Kearns, cried openly throughout the entire event.

Curlin's regular rider, Robby Albarado, popped into the paddock between races to run his hand down that blaze.

One of his most devoted fans, one who broke out in a cold sweat whenever Curlin stepped onto a racetrack, watched every move and tried to make each moment last.

Then the cooler covered those incredible muscles again and Curlin headed back to Asmussen's barn, where he'll stay until shipping to Lexington tomorrow for what we hope will be many, many years of thundering around the lush pastures at Lane's End.

All photos © 2008 Margo Moon