Late Friday morning, Thoroughbreds Ashado and Curlin will take their place among the racing legends set to be enshrined with the Class of 2014 in the Racing Hall of Fame. On Thursday, their trainers reflected on the careers which landed them the sport's ultimate honor.
Owned in partnership by Starlight Stables, Paul Saylor and Johns Martin, Ashado won 12 of 21 career starts and banked $3,931,440 in purse earnings from 2003 to 2005, and was voted the 2004 champion three-year-old filly and 2005 champion older mare.
A daughter of Saint Ballado, seven of Ashado's wins came in Grade 1 races, including the Spinaway in 2003 and 2004 editions of the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders' Cup Distaff. She ran third while trying for a title defense in the 2005 Distaff in what would be her final career start for trainer Todd Pletcher.
"It's quite an accomplishment for any horse or person to make it to that level, so we're proud of her for being able to do that," Pletcher praised the 13-year-old mare. "She was second in the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile Fillies) as a two-year-old, so she was one place away from being a champion three years in a row.
"She was very good at two, very good at thre and very good at four, and I'm sure had she raced at five she would have been good then, too. She was very consistent, and for me, she was the first Kentucky Oaks winner, first Breeders' Cup winner, and now first Hall of Fame inductee. It's pretty cool that she's the first one to accomplish all that."
Late wine magnate Jess Jackson purchased Curlin following his impressive 12 3/4-length maiden victory at Gulfstream Park in February 2007 and moved him to the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen. The Smart Strike colt would go on to earn four Eclipse Awards in two years, including back-to-back Horse of the Year titles in 2007 and 2008.
Part of one of the best three-year-old crops in recent memory, Curlin was third in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness and was second in the Belmont Stakes in 2007 before reeling off wins in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic over older horses. In 2008, he captured the Dubai World Cup, Stephen Foster Handicap, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup -- all Grade/Group 1s -- and was second in the Man o' War on turf and fourth in the first Breeders' Cup Classic run on a synthetic surface.
Curlin retired as North America's all-time leading earner with $10,501,800 in purses, winning 11 of 16 starts.
"I think how he responded to difficult situations is what separated him from anything I've ever been associated with," Asmussen stated. "For him to get done what he did in the year that he did, against a very fast group of horses that put up tremendous numbers; to have only started your career in February, run in all three Triple Crown races and then beat older horses with everybody still being around in the Classic at the end of the year, you just don't do it.
"Not only did he do that, but he goes to Dubai the following year, wins the World Cup and then was one of the few horses to come back and still maintain a Grade 1 level. He built on what he did instead of chipping away at what he did."