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KENTUCKY DERBY: CURLIN IS TALK OF THE TOWN.

Byline: KEVIN MODESTI

Sports Editor

As Kentucky Derby Week begins today at Churchill Downs in Louisville, the inexperienced but eye-catching Curlin is the horse to beat, so anointed by one of the trainers taking multiple shots to beat him.

"He's won by (big) margins and he's just a very impressive horse," said Todd Pletcher, the nation's leading trainer, who hopes to run a record-tying five horses in the 133rd Kentucky Derby. "He's sort of dominated the races he's been in. I would have to classify him as the horse to beat."

Talk before the $2 million race for 3-year-olds will revolve around trainer Steve Asmussen's unbeaten Curlin, whose Arkansas Derby romp in only his third career start recently gave him the favorite's role that had been passed hot-potato style this winter among Street Sense, Nobiz Like Shobiz and Scat Daddy.

Here are other things to watch for this week as horses put in their final workouts; the maximum 20-horse field, post position and morning-line odds are set Wednesday:

History: Curlin tries to be the first horse since Apollo (1882) to not race as a 2-year-old and go on to win the Derby. At the opposite extreme, Street Sense tries to be the first 2-year-old champion since Spectacular Bid (1979) and the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner ever to win the Derby.

Pletcher: He seeks his first win in a Triple Crown race with Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy, Louisiana Derby winner Circular Quay, Illinois Derby Cowtown Cat, Sam P., and Any Given Saturday.

Californians: Tiago (Mike Smith riding), the Santa Anita Derby winner, will try to defy the low expectations for the West Coasters just as his half-brother Giacomo did (2005).

Who'll run? As for Sunday, the 20 hopefuls qualified based on earnings were (from the top down): Street Sense, Scat Daddy, Circular Quay, Curlin, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Great Hunter, Stormello, Dominican, Tiago, Cowtown Cat, Hard Spun, Storm in May, Zanjero, Xhanger, Any Given Saturday, Liquidity, Cobalt Blue, Sam P., Sedgefield, and Bwana Bull.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 30, 2007
Words:341
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